In Greek mythology, Narcissus fell in love with himself when looking at his own image reflected in the water. It was, of course, all Nemesis’ fault, who had noticed Narcissus’s fondness for himself, and took him to a pool of water where Narcissus discovered how beautiful he really was. He died, admiring himself, stuck looking at that pool.
That was when the Selfie was born, but, of course, neither Narcissus, nor Nemesis had had a chance to patent this new concept. Narcissus did not have a smartphone to take a picture of himself, just the water as a high resolution camera.
Never in history has humankind had the opportunity to be more self-centred. The instant broadcasting of ‘Me’, plus the colossal interconnectedness between individuals, coupled with ‘the end of distance’, ‘the end of time’, and the ubiquitous social media, makes Narcissus’ possibilities unlimited. The new digital world is a Narcissus pool of water of pan-galactic dimensions.
What is the point of posting that you’ve just arrived at Frankfurt airport and it’s raining? Or posting a picture of your bowl of cereals on the breakfast table? Perhaps pictures of yourself looking at yourself via your iPhone? Downloading an entire Dictionary of Quotations, one quote an hour on Twitter? Checking in with yourself? The point? To reaffirm your own existence, I suppose.
(Nothing as irritating as David Cameron, UK Prime Minister congratulating the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their new-born baby, via a posting in … LinkedIN!).
‘Come on!’, my Jiminy Cricket/ Pepe Grillo says, tapping on my shoulder. And, as with the conscience of the Disney character, Pinocchio, I must pay attention to him. ‘Ease up! – he says – it’s all good. It’s all sharing. You use social media too Leandro (yes I do, modestly, but not on the cereals side) and you write and broadcast a Daily Thoughts (yes, until I stop making sense)’. OK, I’ll ease up now.
I still worry about the self-centrism that we are generating. I must confess I worry less about adults taking picture of themselves ‘because they can’ than kids learning that the centre of the Universe is that image that they can see in their smartphone screen.
As I flip screens on my MacBook Air on a quiet Saturday morning, I see the world around me. One Facebook screen shows three selfies of ‘friends’ last night after a few drinks. Next screen is BBC’s news on Ebola and some dantesque pictures in Africa. A twitter feed has just popped up with somebody I don’t know telling me that ‘He has absolutely zero motivation this morning’. Another screen on The Guardian online shows me an article entitled ‘Big pharma has an interest in rich people being sick’. An alien just landed would say: ‘what kind of mad world is this?’
OK, this is my world this morning. Mad. Perhaps taking pictures of oneself is not so bad after all.
But, of me? Don’t even think about it.