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Our Selfie-Obsessed Culture Has Gone Too Far

Our Selfie-Obsessed Culture Has Gone Too Far

So shallow it’s deep

We live in a culture obsessed with digital presence.

When I joined Facebook in 2003, I never imagined that over a decade later I’d use the platform to network with bosses and clients, connect with family, and participate in discussions and debates with people half a world away. I definitely never anticipated having to scrub seemingly-innocent pictures and status updates from that platform before I applied to law school, and again from Twitter before I began my job hunt.

Single life. Job. Marriage. Kids. Death. Online is everything; it can prop us up, take us down, and turn into an obsession if we’re not careful. Appearances are everything, and in a time when the smallest step out of line (never mind something actually scandalous) can draw fire that ruins careers, marriages, and lives, paranoia isn’t just justified—it’s expected.

Enter the “selfie arm.” (Scroll up to the featured image and soak it in.)

This little slice of horror is a piece of social commentary on the “selfie stick,” which you’ve seen if you’ve gone anywhere near a tourist trap in the past six months. (It allows the holder to hold their phone farther out from the subject of the selfie, ensuring a photo that is apparently 150% more badass than a normal selfie. Or something. Don’t ask me—I don’t get it.)

GQ wallows in the weird:

Attach your phone, snap a selfie, upload to Instagram, and voila: ersatz human intimacy! Perfect for stunting on the lonely hearts club that is your follower list.

The Selfie Arm project was created by two artists, Aric Snee and Justin Crowe, who wanted to explore the idea of connectedness through digital media. (In other words: It’s a one-off and you can’t buy the thing.) “The Selfie Arm is a sarcastic Band-Aid for a doomed process that everyone takes part in, and everyone laughs at,” Crowe explained to me in an email. “If we want a better way to see in the dark, we invent a flashlight. If we want a better way to take pictures by ourselves, we invent a camera on a stick. In retrospect, this was inevitable.”

Just be sure to slap on a filter so that it doesn’t look like you’re dating a zombie. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.

They’re right…it looks like a dead hand. A dead hand to hold while you take a picture of yourself in front of a beautiful sculpture/beach/stadium/inappropriate piece of street art.

To be clear, this wretched thing is social commentary—but should we be worried that our society draws that kind of commentary? It’s amazing what a difference a decade makes. Less than a decade ago, it was acceptable to be single and go places alone and enjoy life without being coupled off or accompanied by a battalion of friends. Has our digitally-obsessed culture ruined that? Has the exposure of interconnectedness turned us all into socially anxious freaks?

I think these artists know something we haven’t admitted to ourselves yet: that who we are, and what we want, is quickly becoming contingent not on our own goals, but on the expectations of an online audience that has been given free reign to comment and question each other’s lives to death.

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Comments

Henry Hawkins | May 5, 2015 at 4:52 pm

“I think these artists know something we haven’t admitted to ourselves yet: that who we are, and what we want, is quickly becoming contingent not on our own goals, but on the expectations of an online audience that has been given free reign to comment and question each other’s lives to death.”

Who I am is contingent on others on the internet? Huh?

What I want is also contingent on others on the internet? Huh?

My own goals have been subjugated to people online? Huh?

I recognize none of this, even during the 10 yr period I owned an interactive website.

What am I missing here?

So has the gay community discovered that “selfie hand” yet?

legacyrepublican | May 5, 2015 at 5:41 pm

Does it come with a “trigger warning?”

As much as I hate the selfie-stick as well as the larger selfie culture… the device does serve one purpose most don’t think of… maintaining copyright.

If you are out with some friends at the bar or at a tourist location and ask some random passerby to take a photo of the group, even though you requested it and they used your phone… because it was them who actually took the photo, they own the copyright… and unless you are in the habit of having such people sign over all rights to you (harder to do with moral rights to the creation in places like Europe), a selfie-stick allows you to retain fully copyrights to the image and gives you full control over what you choose to do with it later.

    platypus in reply to dahat. | May 5, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    Your comment is absolute proof that there are too many lawyers.

    amwick in reply to dahat. | May 6, 2015 at 6:48 am

    I will file that under whodathunkit. I am happy to know I own the copyrights of many pictures of nice Asian families on cruises.

sjf_control | May 5, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Looks like something Howard Wolowitz would want…

I’m thinking the ‘selfie stick’ all these Facebook and Twitter clowns would really enjoy could be made by strapping a dildo onto a back-scratcher.

buckeyeminuteman | May 6, 2015 at 1:14 pm

“You’re so vain…” – Carly Simon (I figured I should quote her on that one seeing she has copyright on it)

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