Now new research is indicating what seems like a pretty obvious conclusion: people who take selfies are more likely to undergo plastic surgery. The connection is even stronger if the selfies are taken with filters, or if the posters regularly take down selfie postings that they later conclude aren’t very flattering. Cosmetic surgeons are reporting that members of the selfie crowd are coming to their offices with selfies where the features have been digitally altered and asked the doctor to change their appearance to match the altered image.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, I suppose, that people who take selfies are narcissistic and are interested in changing their appearance to try to reach their own definition of personal perfection. After all, if you spend your time constantly looking at your own pouting face, you’re bound to notice a few imperfections to be cleaned up. The selfie-obsessed also tend to compare their selfies with the countless other selfies that appear on social media feeds and find their looks wanting.
As one of the plastic surgeons quoted in the article linked above notes, that’s not healthy behavior. It’s the kind of behavior that those of us who don’t take selfies, and indeed don’t particularly like to have their photos taken at all, just can’t understand.
But we’ll have to, because the selfie epidemic seems to be getting worse, not better. Researchers estimate that 650 million selfies are posted every day on social media. That’s a lot of potential plastic surgery.
In northern Italy, a tragedy happened at a train station. A Canadian woman was struck and badly hurt by a train. Rescuers and station personnel went to help her, and ultimately the injured woman was taken to a hospital, where her leg was amputated.
But while the helpless, injured woman lay prostrate on the track bed and rescue workers assisted her, a guy in white shorts and a white shirt positioned himself on the adjacent platform so that the woman and the workers appeared in the background behind him, flashed a hand gesture and no doubt a facial expression . . . and then used his cell phone to take a “selfie” of himself and the tragic scene. The man’s act of cold-hearted callousness was captured by a news photographer in the photograph published above. Police noticed the man in white shorts, too, and briefly detained him. Although he was found to have committed no crime, they required him to delete the selfie — so we’ll never see the photo that he thought was so important to take.
The above photograph of the heartless selfie-taker has caused shock and outrage in Italy. The photographer said the scene caused him to think that “we have completely lost a sense of ethics.” A commentary in a popular newspaper spoke of a “cancer that corrodes the internet” and said that the man in white shorts had lost his soul and his personality; a popular radio said the scene showed that the human race is “galloping towards extinction.”
But should anyone really be surprised by the man in white shorts who thought a scene of personal tragedy would be an interesting and fitting backdrop for yet another photo of his face? We’ve seen stories of people risking life and limb — and sometimes losing the bet — to take selfies, and we all know people whose first thought, wherever they may be, apparently is to take a selfie and publish it to their friends. The selfie zealots have allowed their narcissism to overwhelm their common sense, and the guy in white shorts has allowed his basic sense of decency to be overwhelmed, too.
For the selfistas, the real world is just an abstraction, and nothing more than background for their self-absorbed grins and gestures. For the sake of the guy in white shorts, let’s hope that if he ever is injured or needs help, there are people nearby whose first reaction will be to help him — rather than step back and take a selfie.
When I first heard there was a “goat yoga” fad, I thought it probably involved yoga fiends doing poses that were . . . goat-like. Just like, for example, yoga features the classic “downward facing dog” pose, or the camel pose, or the cat pose.
Perhaps goat yoga involves poses that involve standing on all fours, or shaking your head and twitching your ears, or eating a tin can, or making the goatish maaaaa sound?
Why do yoga fans like doing their poses with goats, as opposed to sheep or some other moderately sized farm animal? For that matter, why an animal at all, as opposed to, say, “cabbage head” yoga, or “abandoned sofa” yoga? Apparently it’s just because people think goats are cute and look good in the inevitable social media selfies. And they’re willing to part with 36 bucks for the privilege.
This says something about modern society, but I’m not sure what.
The primary cause of “selfie” deaths appears to be the “adventurous” selfie. That’s the selfie the person takes against some dramatic backdrop, like a selfie taken at the edge of a cliff or in front of an oncoming train. (No kidding! People really do this stuff!) The paper breaks selfie deaths down into categories like “height related,” “water related,” “train related,” and “weapons related” — where the death is caused by the accidental firing of a weapon that was to be prominently featured in the selfie. There are even categories for “animal related” and “electricity related” selfie deaths, which sound especially grisly.
The paper attempts to quantify what makes particular “adventurous” selfies especially dangerous, in the hopes of making the world a safer place by making people more aware.
It’s a laudable goal — but what makes the authors think that anyone stupid enough to go shuffling backward toward the edge of a cliff, or to move nearer to that tiger, to try to frame the perfect selfie shot is going to read a scholarly paper? Selfie deaths seem to be Darwinism in action.
When Kish and I were up at Glacier National Park, we took a boat ride with some young people who spent the entire time ignoring the fabulous scenery we were cruising past, and taking “selfies” of themselves instead.
I groaned at their lack of appreciation for the abundant natural beauty surrounding us, but they did look like they were having a lot of fun. Intrigued, I decided to try to take my first selfie — and I realized the framing, distance, etc. that are crucial parts of the selfie experience are not exactly easy to master. My effort at a selfie, above, was a dismal failure . . . although it does communicate a certain pathetic ineptitude with modern technology that is easily mastered by an eight-year-old.
Then I realized that I not only suck at selfies, I have no desire to look at a selfie with me in the picture. If I want to gaze at that grizzled mug, a mirror will do just fine.
Let’s suppose you were still on a plane that had been hijacked by a guy wearing what appeared to be an explosive suicide belt and been diverted to a different airport, where authorities were negotiating with the hijacker and passengers on the plane were gradually being released.
Would you (a) sit quietly in your seat, hoping that authorities resolved the situation, (b) send your loved ones a message so they knew you were OK, and hoping for the best, or (c) get your picture taken with the hijacker and then text it to your roommate, telling him that you don’t “fuck about” and to turn on the news?
So Innes has had his five minutes of fame, and everybody got off the plane safely. But let’s suppose the suicide belt wasn’t a fake, and Innes’ decision to approach the hijacker for a picture made the hijacker feel threatened and decide to change course from the “negotiate, then release” approach he had been taking. What Innes did was an unbelievably reckless and stupid stunt that could easily have endangered his fellow passengers when the authorities had the situation under control.
Apparently some people are so self-absorbed and so hungry for attention these days, from their own circle of friends and from others, that they will intervene in a hijacking to take their own picture. It’s mind-boggling. The modern world just grows weirder by the day.
Here’s another modern cultural development that falls squarely into the “ugh” category: the Savannah airport has a designated “selfie spot” where you can take a “selfie” in front of an autumnal display of hay bales, mums, and pumpkins.
It’s bad enough that we have to put up with people taking “selfies” at every opportunity. Now we’re encouraging them to do so on airport concourses?