The Selfie: the style of photo widely criticized for being the prime example of this generation’s narcissistic compulsion to document every self-indulgent, insignificant activity that fills their daily existence. I must admit, I was one of many whom condemned the selfie and saw it as nothing more than a drone-like ritual practiced by vapid Instagrammers: bros named Chad who needed to catalogue the day’s “pump”, or Starbuck’s-soaked Staceys who, try as they might, could not “even”. But maybe, just maybe, some substance and cultural significance can be attributed to the modern day version of commissioning a painting of oneself; perhaps the selfie will give those who practice it a self-awareness that our ancestors never dreamed of.
Recently conducted research revealed today’s youth will be the most documented generation of all time. History classes in subsequent decades will understand every facet of our existence by studying our Tweets, status updates, and Snap stories. It’s a little disconcerting to think that, “So amped to be waiting for the 196A in the rain #not #TTC #blessed” will be one of the most realistic examples future pupils will have of not only the Toronto Transit system in the 2010s, but our generation’s frivolous employment of sarcasm. It gives a level of importance to how we catalogue our lives that could be both dangerous and beneficial, depending on how you choose to see it. Adding value to the incessant activity on social media could either encourage users to put more consideration into how they paint modern day society, or inflate their seemingly rampant egotism.
Regardless of how one may choose to view social media or define the purpose it serves, it has dominant cultural significance, allowing individuals the opportunity to feel connected to others. Such an invisible bond has become invaluable to many who feel isolated in their existence. There is a chance selfies are the best way for individuals to observe the role they play in relation to the world around them. Using the front-facing camera could be so much more than an opportunity to exhaust every predetermined filter on Instagram. Photos of the Rockies can give one an idea of the majesty of the mountains, but taking a selfie in the heart of the range could give the subject the opportunity to recognize the contrast between themselves and land which has existed for thousands of years. It is my hope that not all sense of global citizenship will be lost with the selfie phenomenon. Maybe a simple adjustment of focus can give people the perspective needed to comprehend our responsibility as citizens to one another, as well as to the preservation of our planet. If we take a photo of ourselves leaning against the Great Wall of China, maybe we’ll be more inclined to care if it were to crumble? If we snap our smile amidst a sea of faces in Rio, is it possible we would feel a moral obligation to donate either our time or resources to solving Brazil’s poverty epidemic? They are small questions, yes, but when has size ever directly indicated the impact something can have? Need I insert a ripple metaphor?
So, considering the theory I’ve put forth that the selfie could maybe, just maybe, resurrect a sense of moral obligation to our global community, I have set out on a quest. I will venture into the world and document my adventures. The plan is to take 80 selfies, at least ten on each continent, of which I say there are seven (North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica). I will take photos of myself and my travel companions in various cities, towns, hamlets, and hovels; essentially wherever I end up. Each photograph will be accompanied with a summary, analysis, or story I feel most appropriately encompasses the place pictured in each respective selfie.
Challenging? Absolutely. Impossible? Absolutely not. Thanks to modern technology and ambition, it will take nothing more than positivity, a credit card, and anti-nausea medication, before I have successfully travelled around the world in 80 selfies.