Daily Dose: Mona Lisa's selfie

Kacper Niburski
January 11, 2014
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

I have rarely taken a good picture.

More often than not, one can find me with a smile that hangs like a broken swing set, a lazy eye that would scare a zombie, or a disarray of hair that even a natural disaster wouldn’t be able to produce. Even when I was ejected into the world at what was supposed to be my climax of cuteness, the photographs show I looked more like a dolphin whose nose was battered in than a human being. My skin is salmon pink. My eyelids are unformed. And I’m sure that all the other babies, now grown and living happily, still wake up screaming when they think about me lying next to them in an incubator.

Though I have good reason – and perhaps a duty – not to participate, I have not been immune to the selfie bug. Far too many times I’ve found myself at the helm of the camera with my arm hyperextended away from my body. Whether it is in Paris or in Hamilton, Amsterdam or Peterborough, Toronto or Warsaw, I’ve taken my camera and posed for, well, me.

In second year while on a European backpacking trip with a friend, this was no different. In the Red Light district, I flashed myself. In Berlin, I broke down walls with my imposed portraits. In front of the Mona Lisa, I was hiding a smile that would woo Leonardo da Vinci. In each self-directed photoshoot, I was happy. Here I was alongside the world – and I had the pictures to prove it.

Yet months later when I was showing these pictures to a colleague, I was told that selfies such as mine were inherently narcissistic. I was not partaking in the splendor of whatever I was looking at; I was ruining it by being with it and more importantly, getting in its the way.

Recently, I’ve heard a lot of similar arguments. As a generation, we’ve supposedly become infatuated with our own reflection. We try to magnify ourselves. Our lives take on this importance because it can be captured and spread. Our styles, our ideas, our entire being can be cherished in a moment. And before when no one would notice what we were saying or what we looked like, now they can. Now, everyone can.

But selfies are not meant as praise. They are instead a much bigger problem of this generation, a generation which has been force fed what to think, feel, and dream. We have no culture of our own making, and so we grab on to everything. We do not have a Catcher and the Rye or a Slaughter House Five to get us through. We do not have the Beatles. We have world views reduced to 140 characters. We have brilliantly manipulated bands and singers convincing us that they love us. We have television shows that numb us and tell us to rush home and watch an imitation of life on a flickering screen.

We have desperate attempts at connecting to the world in hopes of belonging one day, and instead we have seen all its horrors. Everyday we have observed war after war with no end. We see atrocity and complexity all around us. We see frustration. We see pain. We see a life that is beyond our control, that can’t be controlled, that never will be controlled.

And the moment we try to capture ourselves in the chaos to have one thing solid in a world that is changing faster than we can grasp, that doesn’t seem in our grasp in the first place, we are told we are being egotistical.

“That’s where the word came from, you know? Selfie is just shorthand for selfish.”

What my friend failed to understand is that selfies, at least so far as I see it, isn’t so much about me, me, me as it is look, look, look where I’ve been, what I’m doing, and where I might be going. It is a hope to connect with others and where they have been. London? I’ve been there too. Hamilton? Pssh – I live there, see?

It is a hope that – as Kurt Vonnegut said – together we can get through this, whatever this may be, but first you need to get to know me. And here, look, I've already done the busy work. There I am at the bottom of this page. I hope I look friendly enough (did I say I look bad in pictures yet?) because I’m sure you are nice enough for the both of us, dear reader.

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