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WTF, Internet? Taking selfies where other people mourn means you’re doing it wrong

WTF Internet Selfies

It’s incredibly easy to hate on the selfie. It’s a ridiculous, narcissistic, attention-seeking display of self-adoration and America completely loves it. An upsettingly high number of the photos we’re taking and sharing via mobile devices are – surprise – of our dumb faces.

Now the occasional selfie indulgence is to be expected: You got a new haircut or new glasses or your Snapchat artistry couldn’t go unnoticed. But we’re quickly devolving into territory where everything is selfie-worthy: The “I’m in the driver’s seat!” selfie. The “I’m eating something!” selfie. The “it’s a Tuesday and I’m at my desk!” selfie.

There’s a damn time and a damn place, people. It’s not every waking moment, or even every fairly interesting waking moment.

And it’s certainly not at memorials.

An entire genre of “I’m at the memorial of an upsetting event that occurred in world history!” was unearthed this week and here’s hoping that we as humans will be shamed enough by these images to just stop it already.

A duckface at the Vietnam Memorial and throwing it up at Pearl Harbor are not by any stretch of the imagination OK. It’s like any sense of respect we had went out the window when we were handed phones with front-facing cameras.

“Wait… what’s this camera for?”

“That one’s so you can take pictures of yourself.”

“Wait… and what’s this app?”

“That’s called Instagram. It makes pictures look cool and people comment on them.”

And then suddenly, just like that, we became oblivious little monsters who need to document our faces in front of every-damn-thing – apparently including the Holocaust Memorial and Chernobyl. Or your grandma’s funeral. With your grandma – in her casket – in the back of the photo.


Not to get all TIME on you guys, but the level of depravity here is pretty astronomical. And it’s not just the fact that we’re (apparently) taking these selfies at wildly inappropriate places – that’s naturally going to happen when the percentage of photos we’re taking are of our faces is so high.  It’s that we’re not even registering the meaning of these places or events – that’s all just the background to the main event! Those monuments and memorials and (seriously, gasp) caskets just happen to be there. Anne Frank who? This was her home? You don’t say – sorry I was busy trying to get a picture here, my face game is just really on today.

I don’t even think it’s that we’re at these incredibly important, historic places that motivates us to capture a selfie. Nope, it’s just your everyday, commonplace self-portrait. It was going to happen wherever you were, whether that was Starbucks or the Jefferson Memorial. Does it really matter?

Just go take a quick look at your Instagram profile. When you give it a once-over or glance at those changing tiles in the cover photo, do you just see yourself staring back? Does it look anything like this?

blurred selfies finalThis makes it look like you never go anywhere worth taking a picture of, that you don’t know anyone you’d want a photo of or with. What you’re essentially saying is “yes, yes my mug is more important than the Vietnam Memorial or my sister’s wedding.”

Because, I promise you, there was a meeting. We talked about it, and you just… you just need to stop.  

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Molly McHugh
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Before coming to Digital Trends, Molly worked as a freelance writer, occasional photographer, and general technical lackey…
WTF Internet? If you need an app to tell you when to have sex, it’s over
WTF Internet 08_11_2013 header

I hope this is one of those weeks where everyone I know is too busy to read this column, because it’s about to get real – real personal and real awkward.
So let’s talk about the intersection of sex and technology. More like the interSEXion, right? Sorry.
There’s been a lot of talk about “gamifying” relationships recently. A slew of apps are out there, trying to penetrate (insert penis joke here) the addiction to our digital lives and the effects this has on our real world relationships. We ignore our partners for our phones, we text during sex, we sext during sex, we Facebook cheat. Clearly there’s something here – but maybe it’s just something bad.
... just go bump uglies like a normal couple: Listen to some K-Ci and JoJo or light some weird candles or oil each other up...
Enter, Kahnoodle. The new app wants to “reinvent date night” with curated packages (not to mention subscription fees). It also wants to act like a digital automation system for relationships, so that you remember to, you know … interact with the human you share some part of your life with.
Kahnoodle will help you remember things like movie nights and anniversaries; maybe it will let you know it’s been awhile since you texted your significant other back. But most horrifyingly of all, it will remind you that it’s sexy time.
I imagine using Kahnoodle might go a little something like…
[Cue baby-making music.]
Ah, hello, sex partner. I have just received a push notification alerting me that we have not banged in four days. I’ve also been warned you will be menstruating next week, thus we may want to consider using this evening – or the next, depending on your schedule – for lovemaking purposes.
Talk about a boner killer.

I’m not sure what’s less sexy: That your S.O. doesn’t instinctually remember or think to have sex with you or that he or she has downloaded an app in order to amend the problem. No wait … I do – it’s the one where somebody’s looking at their phone and going “Right! It’s sex time!”
I get it, we’re all very busy people. So busy – just, crazy busy. You can try and imagine how busy we are, but you probably can’t quite understand it; that’s how busy. And the stress! Yikes! Man do we love to talk about how crazy-busy-stressed we are. We should all be wearing shirts that say “Ask me about how stressed out I am!” And we’ve just got to have our Evernotes and GCals and Eventbrites and Hootsuites - all these apps that help us manage said overwhelming, soul-crushing, fun-deflating busy-ness.
But seriously, if your life has gotten to the point where sex requires a push notification, it’s time for some personal reflection. This personal reflection should either end with, “Wow I am being incredibly douchey” or “I am President Obama and yes I am quite busy.”
The idea of using an app to make a romantic relationship better is like trying to focus while writing your thesis and deciding to look through a puppy-theme GIF blog. Trust me, it is not going to help unless your goal is to get sucked into an adorable-yet-mind-numbing cycle of this:

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WTF, Internet? Being the first to do something stupid doesn’t make it less stupid

Instagram has done a bang-up job of revolutionizing the way we create and share photos and video. All that talk about "democratizing" photography and videography is not just talk; people who didn't have the means or the desire to make media are - at unstoppable rates.
That, of course, is the sunny side of these apps. But it's not all unicorns and rainbows and kittens. Oh no. Apparently, humans have zero self-restraint. Giving us apps that greedily demand more, more, more and telling us that everything we share and post is important has killed any sense of "enough" we may have had.
Sometimes we confuse 'new and different' with 'new and better.' 
This week someone decided to go out and upload Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope to Instagram. Yes, 15 seconds at a time. His motivation? "Just thought about it one day driving to work and started that night." 
OK, look, I might take Star Wars fandom a little more seriously than I should, but I think we can all agree this is just a straight-up perversion of the movie and that we would rather rewatch every scene with Jar Jar Binks on an endless cycle than this noise.
That was an emotional reaction. I'm sorry ... I don't mean that. Nor do I wish it on anyone. 
As you can probably guess, this all was done by simply opening Instagram, pointing it at a screen playing the movie, and uploading. What need is there for this? Does it make Star Wars better? No, because that's impossible. Does anyone want to watch it in 15-second clips? If you do, please never invite me to a viewing party.
Of course this strange take on fan art isn't the only misuse of the app. The Steve Jobs movie trailer also debuted on Instagram this week. Who needs fancy TVs and computers when you've got a smartphone and an app that limits you to 15 seconds? It joins the first Vine trailer and will go down in the history books as a thing no one really cared about or was all that impressed with. 
I understand that nothing is immune to an interesting marketing scheme; that's the world we live in and the consumer and business sectors are wildly overlapping. But what if you're taking steps backward? Yes, I get it, disruption is happening, technologies like TV are being challenged and innovating ... but sometimes we confuse "new and different" with "new and better." What's thought of as old-school and traditional can absolutely stand to step its game up, but I'm not so sure that Instagram reappropriations of movies and Instagram-specific trailers are really upping the ante here.

Just because you can doesn't mean you should; but it's not your fault. We've been trained that if you can upload it to a social site, well then hot damn, you should! The whole point of Instagram and apps like it were to create tools people didn't have so they could make things they formerly couldn't. But as far as I know, trailers worked out just fine before Instagram video, and we were also able to make crappy, copyright-infringing copies of Star Wars. Just make something new! Be interesting! Not everything becomes innovative just because you threw it up on Instagram or Twitter or Vine. 
So let's all just stop trying to out-invent the next person. I would rather see a feed filled with photos of babies and dogs and sunsets and coffee art than one more attempt at reinventing how the platform. Because just because someone else hasn't done it doesn't make it good or better ... it just means we were all smart enough to think "nah, who would actually want to see that?" 
Instagram was already a game-changer for digital photography - let's not overextend, OK?

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WTF, Internet? Social-media Luddites, you don’t get to live vicariously through me
WTF, Internet? Social-media Luddites, you don't get to live vicariously through me

Disclaimer: I really love you, mom, please don’t be mad at me for the following anecdote. You’re probably cursing the gods for giving you a kid who decided to be a writer/is sort of a jerk. How about this makes us even for that time you told the bartender I was “pretty much 30” a week before my 25th birthday?
I was at dinner with my parents the other night. They both have iPhones (which they so rudely left sitting on the table the entire time we were eating – even I know better, guys) but my mom would check my dad’s phone every so often even though her own was easily accessible.
She was doing this because she doesn’t have a Facebook profile. Or an Instagram account.
Except that she totally does: They just don’t belong to her. They belong to my dad, or me, or my sisters. She just vicariously lives through our feeds, accruing all the information she needs about our family and friends and seeing all the photos and links posted via our accounts instead of creating her own.
I cannot tell you how many times we’ve, as a family, had the following conversation:
“Mom, seriously, just get your own Facebook account. It’s weird when you post as dad with a note that says ‘this is your mom.’”
“I don’t need one, I just have your dad’s.”
“It’s not the same. Just get one.”
She absolutely refuses, sometimes maddeningly referring to my dad’s account as “their” account (which is a sin on so many different levels - I'm looking at you, couples who share an email inbox). She likely doesn't want her own because she thinks so many things about Facebook are narcissistic, self-indulgent, annoying, and gross – and she’s damn right. She's hardly alone, of course.
If you're fighting the good fight for privacy issues, then carry on - but do not ask me to be your social media surrogate.

I once dated someone who refused to get a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, anything account … but of course, his interest would be piqued when I mentioned I saw an interesting link or news about our friends on Facebook. And then sometimes he’d ask me to show him … which resulted in the exhausting “just get your own” conversation recounted above. To which he’d answer he doesn’t “do that stuff,” implying he sort of existed above the trivial, silliness of social media and “all that.”
And therein lies the problem: It’s not that you don’t want a Facebook – not that many people really want a Facebook account anymore, it’s just sort of a function you have to engage with if you want to talk to your friends, and get invited to things, and know when people are getting married, or having kids, or working somewhere you want to get a job … the examples go on and on and on. No one is going to call your ass up and tell you these things. It’s just not going to happen, so you rely on kind souls like me to do your dirty work.
Really, it’s not that you don’t have a Facebook, it’s that you act like you’re so damn special for not having one. If you're fighting the good fight for privacy issues, then carry on - but do not ask me to be your social media surrogate, and regardless of your reasons, don't be elitist about it. There are two types of people in this world not worth being friends with, and it’s anyone who says with a smug look, “Oh, ha, no I don’t have a television!” and “Oh, ha, no I don’t have a Facebook!” God, no! Never! You’re just so removed from that whole Internet thing, we should all be as ambivalent as you are! By the way, that pocket watch you carry ironically is really bringing your whole look together. You probably love taking Polaroids, don’t you?
When any of these social media-luddites dare choose to forgo a Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or whatever account and then ask to see yours, it’s infuriating. It’s like a vegan making me feel bad for eating meat and then asking if she can lick my chicken. Or guys that make fun of girls for carrying giant purses and then being all “Oh hey, can you put all of my crap in your bag?” This is my purse, slacker, get your own!
I don’t use social services because I think they are the be-all, end-all of interaction and communication. I hate them in many ways, and yes, they’ve certainly ruined some things. But for everything Facebook has made worse, there are a handful of things that are better, or at least easier or more convenient. It's not all selfies and #YOLOs and Tumblrspeak; there are many, many benefits to being connected and using the social tools at our disposal. Just rise above all the horrors of social sites and find the efficiency in curating an online social life for yourself. Only get updates from your kids on Facebook. Only follow people who are landscape photographers on Instagram. Only read tweets from NBA analysts. You can - very literally - do almost anything you want. 
Just give in, everybody. Give up this futile fight. The Internet won this round, and there’s nothing cool about being a hold out just to say you’re a hold out. And if you swipe my phone just to "see what's on Instagram" one more time, I swear...
Image courtesy of Robert Rozbora/Shutterstock

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