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Love and selfie loathing: How The Selfie eased my social media snark

“A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” This is how the Oxford English Dictionary defines “selfie,” going on to even offer the example: “Occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself everyday isn’t necessary.”

Oh, how the masses would disagree! For all-too-many, the selfie is a daily – perhaps, hourly – activity. We are vast, we contain multitudes – all of which must be documented.

But just like hours sitting at computers clicking mouses and rapping away on keyboards have caused carpal tunnel, and smartphones and tablets have turned us into constantly tripping hunchbacks incapable of eye contact, the selfie brings with it its own physical limitations and curses.

Finding that elusive angle – just high enough to capture your entire face (at a flatting height, to boot), without the light washing you out but creating enough contrast. Is your arm long enough? Your fingers nimble enough? Is the lens straight, centered, partially concealed? Are you forced into using that terribly grainy front-facing mess of a VGA camera?

Worry no longer – because there is a device ready to alleviate all of this; it’s appropriately called The Seflie. And I hate that I’ve come to love it.

Love, hate, and selfie-deprecation

the sefie 2When I was first pitched The Selfie, the large portion of my brain dedicated to making fun of people/places/things lit up like the Christmas tree of your over-zealous aunt the day after Thanksgiving. “You are horrible,” I thought. “And you shall be mine to ridicule!”

I am not a selfie enthusiast. To me, they’re like a bastard child of the entire social Web. It’s not that my profiles are absolutely devoid of them – so I suppose what I mean is that I hate the over-indulgence in them; the superfluous selfies. There should be a check box you’re required to fill out before being allowed to post a selfie:

  • Have you posted a selfie within the last 48 hours? 
  • Did you recently get a new haircut, new glasses, face piercing, and/or any other new, significant change to your facial aesthetics? 
  • Look at your most recent selfies; are you making the exact same face? Is there anything quantitatively different about this photo from the scores you’ve already uploaded?
  • How many “plastic surgery” apps are you running that thing through first before posting it?
  • Are you trying to humblebrag and/or fish for compliments with a caption; i.e. “Someone said I look like Kate Upton! No way! What do you guys think!?”

If people were able to be honest with themselves, perhaps the overflow of selfies could be contained to a respectable level, and the entire “selfie genre” (gagging) wouldn’t be so easy to snark over. But they don’t, so it is, and we do.

Admittedly, I have a very easy snark trigger, and the low hanging fruit that is the selfie is just too ripe for me to ignore. And thus, when that email asking if I’d like to try out The Selfie rolled in, I practically turned into a hand-wringing Gollum. It shall be mine! My preciousssss! Cue lightning, evil laugh.

Then it showed up.

A lesson in selfie respect

When The Selfie arrived, I cackled a little at the packaging and promo materials. “The age of the awkward selfie is over.” Are awkward selfies an epidemic? I likened it to those infomercials selling weird pancake molds that alerted us to pancake-making problems we never knew we suffered from.

It turns out, however, that The Selfie is actually a very useful product – because it’s just an iPhone remote shutter release. And a comparably affordable one at that.

The Selfie is only about $20, and it’s being featured on a handful of sites for sale, like Urban Outfitters and Amazon. Its cord is 4.5 feet long, which isn’t the longest remote shutter out there, but certainly long enough to general use. There’s no software, startup mode, or app. There’s zero learning curve: You plug this thing into the audio jack, boot up your camera, and start taking pictures.

A lot of the cheaper ones out there are much shorter, or come with complaints of a sticky button – and those with multiple options and longer cords obviously come with a higher price tag. The Selfie isn’t all that competitively priced, but it’s certainly not expensive.

I’m not an overly serious iPhone photographer, not the insufferable kinds who liken their panoramas to serious art. But I do enjoy a short shooting sesh when I happen upon something unexpectedly beautiful. And the human hand simply cannot be trusted to stay perfectly still, whereas the remote shutter can.

And as I learned, there’s something about some wire and a clicker that will bring out the iPhone photographer in all of us.

Hands on with The Selfie (and selfies)

After taking some low blows at the device’s expense out of the way, I packed it up and took it to Thanksgiving and my alma mater’s football game. “OK, so I’m testing this thing called The Selfie and I’m sorry but you’re going to help me use it,” I explained to my equally selfie-hating sister (actually, she hates them far more).

So we attached it to the iPhone, stood in the same frame, and clicked. And just like that, I had a fairly crisp image of us.

Here’s the thing about selfies: There’s a certain shame you should have in taking them and setting them up. Organizing everyone into your camera’s frame, wondering if anyone behind you will photo bomb the picture, knowing that passerbys will mock your narcissism.

For some reason, The Selfie took that away. Look! What I have here is a semi-professional device for semi-better self picture-taking! It made it different, more technical … and tempting.

Suffice it to say that, give someone a few beers, the celebratory aura of a tailgate, and access to The Selfie, and it shall be used. My friends used it, my family used, a handful of people I’d never met before wanted in on the action.

I’m constantly chided for taking pictures of three things: landscapes, dogs, and beer. You can scroll through my Instagram feed for quite some time without coming across a human face. My embarassment level at taking these photos was, for whatever reason, eased by the thumb click of The Selfie. And as a result, I actually have some photos with people in them from that day – some really great photos that I can honestly say I would never have had the guts to take on my own.

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