Echoes 40: The Still and the Moving Selfies
BY Asrar Chowdhury
The Oxford English Dictionary classified ‘selfie’ as the word of 2013. A selfie is a photograph taken of one’s self; uploaded and shared in social media. Today, selfies have proliferated to such an extent that what started off as a craze of young people has now become an obsession. If there isn’t a photo to show in social media, it didn’t happen. Much as elders show their dislike, they too have started to hop on the bandwagon. The tendency to like one’s own image or show one’s own image to others isn’t new.
Nemesis learned that Narcissus refused the love of Echo. To punish him, she tricked Narcissus to a pool of water where for the first time he saw his own image as a reflection. Narcissus fell so much in love with his own image that he fell into the water and drowned. Centuries before photographs came and selfies weren’t around, self-portraits were the selfies of the time. The rich and the powerful spent endless sums to have their portraits done. In the middle ages, those who could afford would see themselves in a mirror like Narcissus did in the water. After cameras came, self-portraits soon became a past-time for those who couldn’t afford to commission expensive oil paintings. Robert Cornelius from Philadelphia, USA is credited for taking the first ever selfie. On the back of the photo he wrote, “The first light Picture ever taken, 1839.”
Self portrait, self photograph, selfie whatever term we use, it has to have the stamp of the person in the frame. There’s a bit of narcissism in all of us. What’s behind the person in the frame? Is it a famous landmark; a wild animal? Isn’t that why we take photos? To freeze time that was special in our lives at that very moment?
In the 21st century, selfies have changed the definition of our self and self-photographs forever. The smart phone has made it possible to take a selfie wherever, whenever, and how many times ever we like. Selfies can tell where we are and what we’re doing; where we’re going on vacation and how we’re traveling; and much more. Once we express ourselves and disclose this on social media, companies use our ‘cookies’ in strategic marketing. That’s still not a problem. The problem is the exuberance youth brings. Youth is the time of our lives when the difference between danger and safety isn’t always well defined.
There are selfies and there are ‘moving’ selfies. The moving selfies can be very dangerous. In May 2015, an 18-year-old Anna Ursu from Romania set out to take the ultimate selfie. She lay on top of a train. As she was about to take that ultimate selfie her legs touched the overhead cables. Within seconds Anna became a human fireball from the high voltage. This is one of the many instances a selfie has lead to death.
As Narcissus drowned, he became a beautiful Narcissus flower. In the real world, when we’re playing with moving selfies it may be a good idea to listen to the ‘echoes’ of Echo. It would be better to remember, there is something called a moving selfie.
Asrar Chowdhury teaches economic theory and game theory in the classroom. Outside he listens to music and BBC Radio; follows Test Cricket; and plays the flute. He can be reached at: email@example.com
PP 13 in Print