On a recent trip with my wife to Atlantis in the Bahamas, we encountered some interesting characters swimming in the large main pool. There was the woman and her significant other, wading slowly in the shallow end with while holding an iPhone. After some attempts by him to photograph her while she posed in her thong bikini, she gave up on his ability to get "the shot" and did it herself. A likely disciple of Kim Kardashian's forthcoming literary work, she spent the next 20 minutes - 20 minutes! - taking selfies in a variety of positions.
Meanwhile, in another section of the pool, there was an Eastern European man in a Speedo holding what appeared to be a GoPro camera attached to the end of a foot-long stick. It was exactly that. Apparently there is a new thing, called a camera "pole" (or in one case, a "Smartphone Selfie Pole") that are growing in popularity. Here expand=1] it is in action. The man's selife pole and GoPro camera were waterproof, so as he swam around underwater he held the pole out for minutes at a time and just stared at it, occasionally waving into the emptiness.
For a moment, I wanted this selfie video stick, but in that same moment, a small piece of my soul shook its head disapprovingly and died in shame.
This is an international crisis, and we need to band together and correct this societal fault. We must take a stand and put an end to this vain, narcissistic, "pic or it didn't happen" path to self-idolatry.
The uptick in selfies is different, and far worse than the uptick in "takes" which has recently been put under the microscope. There's a certain vacuousness, a detachment from actually living that happens when your sole thought while experiencing life is, "How can this moment of me be captured and shared?"
And if we're being real about it, images don't even really exist anymore. Where do the selfies go to gather dust? No one has the chance to stumble on a shoebox full of snapshots and think, "That was a fun trip but what the hell was I wearing?"
These images are not physical objects - they exist in the ether, in the great cyberspace. They live in 140 characters and are gone for good, begging for barely friends and coworkers to give a thumbs up or heart of approval, then are deleted or forgotten.
There was a moment last week when Facebook was down for a few minutes where I turned to our social media manager Sara Johnson and said, "What if this is it? What if Facebook never comes back, disappearing in a Departure like on 'The Leftovers'?" For a few seconds, I felt fear, and a small sense of relief. But it became quickly clear that some other social media platform would take its place and the selfie-ing would commence unabated.
But if somehow all of social media was outlawed, would selfies cease to exist too? It's likely that the rise in selfie culture can be traced to the rise in social sharing opportunities. In that sense selfies are not really about self at all - it's really about others. A life receipt, a stamp in the passport.
Which brings us back to the dude with the GoPro on a stick, swimming slowly in a shallow pool, recording a video of himself staring at a small camera that no one will want to watch, which will go on to garner a few scattered sympathy likes, at most. What is the endgame here?
I kissed a dolphin last weekend on that trip to Atlantis, and no one will ever see a picture of it. Phones weren't allowed, and the pictures were $70 for a set of 5, and that's just insane. Baby steps.