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Leigh Clark Headshot

The Year of the Selfie - The Demise of Humankind

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The inclusion of the word 'selfie' in the English Dictionary marks more than just the arrival of a new word, it marks the dawning of an unfortunate new era in narcissism. Einstein famously said, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious." But he's a dead dude who didn't have an iPhone, let alone Snapchat. Now, there is no mystery and that is kind of thanks to the selfie and the many formats on which it is published. 

There was once a time that when you felt yourself attracted to someone, you would adore them from afar, make every effort to get to know them and in private perhaps fantasise about what they looked like in their underwear. Nowadays, it's not like that. Everything you want to know is available online from what music, films and food that person likes to what they look like when they're fresh out of the bath and most social media users are willingly putting it out there for all to see. 

The narcissism lies in the presumption that your self-portrait is of interest to the public at large. It isn't. Look at Instagram - there are countless celebrities posting pictures of their every move, presumably in a bid to take hold of their output from the paparazzi. These people are of public interest because they are famous for a reason. Rihanna, though, presumes her fans want to see her from every possible angle. It's only a matter of time before she invites her followers up the crack of her arse. Such is the tragic state of the music industry where women feel forced into channelling fucked-up porn stars to attract maximum publicity and sell their records. Soon the only place left for Miley Cyrus to go will be performing at the MTV awards with nothing more than a tampon string dangling out of her tuppence. The over exposure of these famous figures is having a detrimental affect on the followers who proceed to mimic them. The thing is, a schoolgirl or a woman who works at the local authority is NOT of public interest. A revealing selfie will only generate deep rooted hatred from your "friends" and perhaps five minutes of sticky fun from the dirty old winking man who lives down your street and follows your every move online. I said winking! Put a lock on your privacy settings for the sake of your parents/children and reduce the shame you'll feel in five years time.  

Men are just as bad with their selfies taken whilst tensing at the gym, or posting "hilarious" anatomical selfies on Snapchat of their knob between two pieces of bread. It's all thanks to the Geordie Shore/TOWIE syndrome, where looking buff and having perfect hair is de rigueur. It's a desperate fight for attention, for popularity, for acceptance and a tragic bid to become a "celebrity" for no apparent reason.

Do these selfie-accompanying statements look familiar?
Like for like.
Rates?
Follow me PLEEEEEEEEEASE!!! 
Follow me, I Follow back.
Follow me or I'll drown a bag of kittens.

Where is the shame in all of this? In the bygone days of Super Snaps, you would recoil in horror at the thought of the lady behind the counter coming across that candid holiday photo of your white bits, you certainly wouldn't allow thousands of strangers into your house to flick through your family album or leaf through the pages of your secret diary. Yet now, you're giving people access to the far end of every filthy orifice and begging them to give you two thumbs up.

Where did it all go wrong? I blame the 'like' button and its demented ego feeding effect. There's nobody there to say, "I get it, you think you look great and you want me to validate that" or "What's with the constant pouting? Your mouth looks like a dog's prolapsed anus". Perhaps if we had a "dislike" button or a "you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself" button or even an "exterminate" button, then this madness would come to its rightful end. 
 
Sadly, thanks to the endless rise of "reality" TV and publications where pictures take precedence over wordcount, we're rapidly losing interest in what goes on inside a person's head. Selfie being voted as 'Word of the Year' shows exactly how narcissistic and vain we have become. A recent example of this can be seen on ITV at the moment. I'm a Celebrity Get Me out of Here features Olympic Champion, Rebecca Adlington OBE, that's right OBE and yes, she's an Olympic Champion. It also features this beauty queen, whose name I can't remember. Every time I've seen the programme, Adlington has been in tears because she's "not as pretty" as the beauty queen. Why should that matter when you're an Olympic Champion and you've got an OBE? It matters because we live in a self obsessed, shallow society where a pretty face is much more important than a long list of achievements.

Dating apps are now encouraging people to up their game by enabling strangers to rate them on their profile picture, encouraging folk to reveal more flesh, apply more airbrush and pay more attention to their shell, rather than what's going on inside of it. We are judging books by their covers, when we've been repeatedly warned against that. We have become a nation of people so self-infatuated and egotistical that we are failing to look beyond our own reflection. We are too busy documenting an often embellished life and trying to look physically perfect instead of philosophising over the meaning of it or doing good for others.

I'll finish this with a quote from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray:

"I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvelous to us. The commonest thing is delightful, if only one hides it." 

These dead dudes know the score. In our image obsessed, narcissistic society there really is nothing more beautiful than mystery and one who keeps oneself to oneself. Beauty fades and if you've got it flaunt it (within reason Grandma), but overexposing it or smearing jam all over it to send round Snapchat is ultimately only going to have negative consequences.  

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