Selfies – turning identity into a multiple choice question.

snow white selfie shirtI recently saw a young woman walking through Liverpool One wearing the t-shirt on the left.

“Selfie, selfie on my wall,
who has the most likes of them all?”

I smiled, admiring her sardonic sense of humour. I assumed she’d created the image herself and had it printed up.

I wondered briefly what Disney would say when they saw Snow White presented as a shallow, self-obsessed narcissist, using her Smart Phone to populate her Facebook Wall with images of herself and getting her self-esteem from the number of strangers who clicked on the “like” icon. Remembering the North Face vs South Butt saga, I imagined litigation with an outraged Disney defending the honour of the pure-of-heart Snow White (and their own copyright). So I looked it up and found that the shirt is produced by Disney.

25de109edb9cac236f5d8656c59d10ddIt seems that Disney accepts  that selfies are the new normal rather than a symptom of an incipient psychosis amongst the young and sometimes the not so young, to live vicariously through photoshopped avatars of themselves that they use to sustain their status on social media and to assess their self-worth and are happy to have Snow White endorse them with a smile.

Perhaps it’s because I have a face made for radio, or because I’m too old to be touched by the craze, or because my narcissism is fed by my words rather than by images of me but I’d assumed the selfie thing was a temporary cultural cross-over from the Japanese and would have withered and died by now. It seems I was wrong. Very wrong.

narcissistickSelfies haven’t faded away, they’ve spawned their own paraphernalia to expand the limits of selfie making.

Once selfies could only be taken at arm’s length, limiting shot angles and the ability to capture your surroundings.

Not anymore. Now we have the selfie stick. This allows you extra reach, a remote trigger and a preview of the shot. When I was in Spain earlier this year, selfie sticks were almost as common as sunglasses.

As the technology has advanced, standards have risen. A selfie requires more than just pointing a phone at yourself and taking a picture. The picture has to look like the you you want to be on Facebook: the pose has to be right, you have to look your best, and your facial expression has to send an appropriate message. It often takes many photographs to produce one selfie.

dark-vador-selfie-instagram captionEven then, only the very brave or the very naive will risk uploading a photograph that hasn’t been through Photoshop, or at least Picassa, to remove anything in the photograph that is less than ideal. Highlights have to be optimized, skin tone corrected and colour-temperature adjusted, before the picture qualifies as a selfie.

But a well-constructed selfie by itself no longer guarantees a high number of likes. To be noticed, a selfie has to have a good caption, or at least a reasonably witty quote.

The selfie is now almost a personal brand, an integral part of our online identity and is as distinctive as the scents of the liquids that dogs and cats spray against objects to mark territory and remind the world that they were there.

The message to the young seems to be that they can be whoever they want to be, or at least, whoever they can photoshop themselves to be, on Facebook.

To me, this sounds like a warning. I believe the young see it as an opportunity.

always_be_yourself_batman_t_tee_shirt_tshirts_mens I had difficulty understanding why treating identity like a multiple-choice question is an opportunity until I saw the t-shirt on the left

ALWAYS be yourself.
Unless you can be Batman
Then ALWAYS be Batman

I could understand that.

I was also happy that they’d rather be Batman, battling against evil on the mean streets of Gotham City, than Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy.

It did make me wonder what the t-shirt for the 50+ fan might be:

ALWAYS be yourself.
Unless you can be Albert
Then ALWAYS be Albert

Perhaps not.

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