Opinion Columns & Blogs

This is the age of the selfie

Sonny Harmon
Sonny Harmon

My wife told me years ago that a picture is no good unless someone is in it. Well, take the lid off the pot, Hannah, look what we have now!

I have to give her credit, along with Al Gore for inventing the Internet (the actual worth is still a matter of conjecture) for influencing the development of the narcissist’s dream, aka the selfie. What is it about the “selfie” that makes me want to see how far my finger will go down my throat? We’re not supposed to get all that excited about taking a picture of ourselves.

The thought that should be rolling around in a head that has plenty of room for an entire bag of marbles should be, “No, please, I’m not ready, it’s not a good time, I’m embarrassed, my hair’s a mess” or whatever. Not, “I look fine as sparkling wine and should save this moment for all eternity because I am so great and need to remember just how great I was at this very moment in time!”

Pictures are supposed to be made by people who want to save a likeness of someone or something they want to see again, a friend, loved one, ex-cellmate, brother or sister. The phrase, “May I take your picture?” is used to get permission and let the person know you want to save their likeness. Instead what we have going on now is, “Look, there’s me, ol’ Marblehead, taking another picture of myself so I can remind myself how wonderful I looked and where, I was when I took the picture!”

If we need to see ourselves every five minutes there are mirrors and car windows. The car window is very flattering if the sun is in the right spot. If not, you look bloated. But, I digress. I suppose one reason folks may want to take pictures of themselves is because no one else wants a picture of them.

Most people will go to a lot of trouble finding pictures that have been stored in a shoebox in order to put them back on display when a “loved one” comes to visit. This can be tricky if more than one relative is visiting and they know a picture has been taken of them and expect to see it displayed in a prominent place. Honestly, some people don’t want a picture of Uncle Jack or Aunt Maud watching them eat. But, if you have relatives and friends visiting at the same time, better get some more tables out or run the risk of offending someone who may be worth a lot of money.

I was at the beach the other day and along came a selfie-taker who decided to stand between me and the water and — you guessed it — take a selfie. With their back to the beach and staring into the phone and the sun, the selfie-taker snapped a picture of themselves, omitting a stretch of water so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes watching what was being missed until the selfie-taker realized they had taken a picture of an old man in a beach chair. A re-do was taken with a face only a mother could love in front of a stretch of beach anyone could love.

I hate to say it, but the selfie (a better word could not exist to describe this behavior) originated with a generation too absorbed in itself. Writing generally here for fear of losing the vote, the fact is, some in the current generation obsessed with selfies, do so because they have been told their entire short lives, how wonderful they are, how beautiful they are and how smart they is.

I suppose the most ridiculous aspect of the selfie is the length of time spent admiring oneself after having taken a picture of oneself, with the perpetrator insisting that everyone within earshot take a gander at the picture they just took. It’s as if those people were not aware of the selfie-taker’s most fantastic face until the selfie was taken.

I can hear my late father’s reaction upon seeing me take a picture of myself. “Hey, Marblehead, have you lost your mind? I’ve had to look at that face for over 60 years and you want to hit the “save” button? Let me see that phone. You spell delete with one e or two?”

Sonny Harmon is a professor emeritus at Georgia Military College. Visit his blog at http://sharmon09.blogspot.com.