I AM A SELFIE
By Tim Wintermute
“I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.” From Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories published in 1945.
Let’s face it, if you aren’t sharing a selfie do you really exist? Unlike selfhood, which is the state of having an individual identity, selfiehood is achieved by distributing a recording of your likeness. While you can doubt your self who can doubt your selfie? Unlike selfhood, which is influenced by the way you are viewed by others, selfiehood is actually created and sustained through “views” by others on smartphones and computers through text, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, or some other platform in our social media zeitgeist. The more “views” the greater one’s state of selfiehood. In other words, selfiehood exists outside one’s self, primarily in a digital form, residing on numerous smartphones, computers and in the “cloud”.
It’s not enough, of course, to reach the state of selfiehood, it has to be maintained. Since it is dependent on being shared and viewed by others it, like fame, can be fleeting. The greater the selfiehood the more it requires constant attention to the exclusion of almost everything else. Notice how many times all you see is the “self” in a selfie? Instead of the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower or the Grand Canyon all that fills the frame is a grinning face. It seems that more often than not we see more of the person’s teeth than the place where the selfie was taken. Even when something else is in the picture it is more than likely another person taking a selfie. Since everything else has been excluded all that is communicated is that the person who took the selfie existed at the time it was taken. Tragically, it may be the last moment of their existence since an increasing number of deaths occur while people are taking selfies. Ironically, the number one cause of death is drowning. This could be the selfie equivalent of the Greek Myth of Narcissus only in this case rather than falling in love with their reflection in a pool of water the person falls into the water while gazing at their reflection on the screen of their smartphone.
Can a person be so selfie absorbed that they wipe out their self? Like the character in Christopher Isherwood’s novella, can we stop thinking and just record? And if we can, does this mean, to paraphrase the philosopher Rene Descartes, that if I do not think therefore, I am not? If so, in achieving selfiehood we sacrifice our selfhood - we become a selfie.