The selfie

Jill Pertler

My husband and I recently went on vacation. He served as trip photographer because his phone was smarter than mine. I’m in a number of the pictures. You can see me smiling by the pool, standing on the beach, eating lunch on our condo balcony. We took lots of shots. He took care not to put his finger in front of the camera lens. Hardly any of our pictures are blurry.

We felt our trip was a photographic success – until we returned home and realized our blatant oversight. We’d neglected to take the most important photo of all: a selfie of ourselves. How in the world were we going to explain this blunder to our 572 cumulative friends on Facebook?

Despite our attempts to get the trendy and hip shots (we took photos of meals at restaurants as well as our feet on the beach), my husband and I aren’t of the selfie era. We grew up during a time when cameras were cameras and phones were phones and neither tried to pass itself off as the other. When you loaded your camera with film, you pointed the lens outward and aimed at the world beyond yourself.

Times have changed. Our view of the world, through a camera lens at least, has shifted 180 degrees. The focus of our attention – the subject matter of our photos – has become none other than ourselves. Look. At. Me!

According to my computer’s spellcheck, selfie isn’t even a word. Autocorrect wants to make it selfish. LOL.

We’ve turned our cameras on ourselves and morphed into a culture that believes it is all about me. Despite my inexperience taking selfies, I often think it’s about me. I’m convinced of it. It’s hard not to be – if we are honest.

I’ve come to suspect “about me” must be the human default setting. Like when a friend makes a random and obscure negative comment on Facebook and you wonder, “Is that about me?” Or when a co-worker complains about a certain character trait and you think, “Are they talking about me?” Or your spouse comes home from work in a sour mood and you are sure it must be because of you.

Rest assured, most of the time it has nothing to do with you (or me).

While this should bring us comfort, it often does the opposite. If something isn’t about me, who is it about and doesn’t that demean the meaning of me? This creates a conundrum, because in addition to believing things are supposed to be about us, we sort of want them to be – most of the time.

Embracing the idea that it isn’t about me (or any of us, really) requires acknowledging that I am not at the center of things. Heck, sometimes I’m barely in the periphery. The spotlight isn’t mine and now is definitely not the time for my close-up. (Unless it’s a selfie.)

This is difficult to swallow and hold on to – to maintain – because of the default setting. It is contrary to our nature.

The popularity of selfies shouldn’t surprise us, then. We might even question what took us so long to invent the newest form of creative expression.

Bathroom mirror selfies, group selfies, selfie with food, selfie with beverage (in front of a pool or beach), selfie with a pet, selfie in a car while driving, funny face selfie, my new tattoo selfie, duck face selfie, selfie with a famous person, selfie with your spouse – the possibilities are practically endless.

Next time we go on vacation, I’m going to make sure my husband and I remember to take one.

I just hope our arms are long enough.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. You can read more and follow her column on the Slices of Life page on Facebook.