“Get over yourself. Not everyone wants to be you.”
“When the center of the universe is discovered, a lot of people are going to be surprised it’s not them.”
“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized that they seldom do.”
Those are just a few of the withering quotes I found regarding self. That last one was from Eleanor Roosevelt. I wonder what she would think about the exponential speed in which a relatively new form of human self-admiration is growing.
In just the time it takes you to finish reading this sentence—approximately a gazillion phone photos will be taken in the Puget Sound. Some of them will be of family gatherings. Some will be of kittens, puppies—and maybe a horned toad or two. Far too many will be of restaurant food—from Canlis to Dick’s.
But most will be taken by a person…of their self.
If so-called selfie photography were an epidemic right now, we would be in the midst of a worldwide black plague. Where did this all start?
Maybe the first self-portrait was drawn on a cavern wall by a prehistoric cave dweller. To protect his 200,000 year-old identity, let’s call him Trog.
UNKNOWN KNUCKLE-DRAGGER:“Hey, Trog! This drawing you did looks exactly like you!”
TROG: “Actually, that is supposed to be a water buffalo.”
UNKNOWN: “That’s what I’m saying!”
Through the centuries—long before the invention of photography—human faces were best captured by artists, some of whom pioneered the selfie by sculpting or painting himself or herself. Van Gogh did over thirty self-portraits. Rembrandt topped him with more than forty. El Greco also knocked out a few of himself.
Picasso did self-portraits both during his blue period—and black period. (Plus there’s a little known painting done after he fell down a flight of stairs—representing his black and blue period.)
Meanwhile, there exist no photographs of Genghis Kahn, Alexander the Great, Moses, Charlemagne or Michelangelo—but far too many of Kardashians.
The first U.S. president to jump into a picture may have been John Quincy Adams in 1843. He was no longer president by then, so had the time on his hands to sit for a snapshot—which in the days of early photography could be a very long wait—comparable to time spent at the DMV.
People being photographed in those days were encouraged to sit very still, not breathe much—and hold a countenance that was easy to maintain for several moments. That’s why in so many old photo portraits the subject looks unhappy. Or constipated. Or both.
Self-photos didn’t begin with camera phones, but it sure made them easier—and unending. Gone are the days of shooting a roll of film, dropping it off to be developed into prints—and waiting perhaps days to see the final product. Now the gratification happens in nearly real time.
Of course, most selfies are intended to make the individual look good. But according to a study done at U of T (University of Toronto—nee’ University of Trump)—people who take their own photo—a lot—are more likely to “over-estimate how good-looking they are.”
Members of the public were asked to rate the selfie takers’ pics against photos of people who don’t take nearly so many selfies. Turns out the more frequent selfie takers were judged to look far less gorgeous than they thought they were.
In another part of the study, people who said they hate selfies of others—rather fancied those of themselves. Who would have guessed the study would reveal that? Except everybody.
I remember a friend who used to say that he hated being photographed because he just “never took a good picture.” Apparently it was the camera’s fault. “And besides,” my friend would insist, “I don’t care what other people think.”
The late and wonderful George Carlin may have expressed it best in that regard:
“People who say they don’t care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don’t care what people think.”
If only sunsets, bald eagles and waterfalls were able to take pictures of themselves.
Those would be worth a longer look.