“Oh noooooo!’ groaned the sleekly bobbed woman in the shop aisle beside me.
I turned in shock to see what was causing her immense pain. She was staring at her phone with a mixture of horror and disbelief and gave another pitiful groan. It was heartbreaking. Had someone died? Fallen gravely ill? Was it her electricity bill? I glanced at her with a half panicked, half sympathetic smile, ready to offer dodgy CPR should she need revival.
She glanced up briefly, smiled wryly while gazing, transfixed at her iPhone screen. In a daze of post-unauthorised Facebook traumatic stress disorder, she uttered a distraught explanation: “It’s my birthday, and a friend has just published the most awful photograph of me drunk at 19 on Facebook. It’s been up for three hours, why didn’t I check my phone!” she wailed.
I wanted to tell her she looked lovely and her hair was fabulous and really, who cared about Facebook anyway. It was so last year. But at a glance, I realised it was far too late for any feel-good comments. Her birthday was already irrevocably ruined. I dared not ask how old.
She’s lucky it wasn’t worse. Careers have been ruined by one ill-timed selfie. Celebs are particularly vulnerable. One can only hope newly crowned royal, Meghan doesn’t have too many forgotten photographic gems waiting to be unearthed by unscrupulous ‘friends.’ And her estranged family could be the toxic gift that keeps giving … to the tabloids.
Sometimes it’s pure innocence that lands us in hot water. Posing for a picture can, as many have discovered, come back to bite us. I’ll bet the likes of Oprah and Meryl Streep aren’t too happy about their happy snaps with Weinstein. Trigger happy friends are also prone to posting with wanton abandon. What they don’t realise is that not everyone is a fan of the selfie or particularly proficient at it.
A friend and I recently attended a rather large women’s conference which was incredibly inspiring and left a lasting impression. However, one thing struck me: What’s with all the ‘selfies’?
When last was an occasion enjoyed without immediately sharing the experience with everyone who wasn’t there? Note the poster always posts the most flattering picture of themselves with not a thought given to the poor soul on her right caught mid-blink. The most intriguing aspect of the conference selfies was that the most prolific selfie-snappers were grown women like me who possibly should know better. Personally, I’d rather avoid such extreme close-ups but there again, there are filters to soften defects now too.
Way back the selfie equivalent was using up an entire roll of film to photograph ourselves pulling funny faces or striking slightly dodgy Abba poses. It was pure indulgence because we knew we were paying for each print, no matter how botched they were. We’d then have to wait until we’d saved enough money to actually develop the film at our local pharmacy or camera shop. In our country town, you were lucky if you could retrieve your prized photographs one week later. And even then, out of one roll of film, there were maybe two prints in focus or which didn’t include someone squinting into the camera or blocking the prettiest friend from view. And we could choose the photographs we wanted to end up in our photo albums. Yes, that was actually a physical thing.
My late uncle was renowned for cutting off his subjects’ legs, torso or heads – usually managing to snap either body, legs, and feet or lots of sky and just your head. How he would have loved a smartphone. With a smartphone, that endearing eccentricity would be a ghost of the past. These days, almost anyone blessed with sight can be a photographic genius.
The selfie? Now that requires a little more practice. My friend and I are clearly dismal at it. Noting the ease at which all the women around us at the said conference were pouting and posing, we decided we too could perform. The outcome was not made in selfie heaven. My friend blames her new phone when on later observation, we were, quite literally, a merged blur. A smudge of two faces which could have been anyone at all. We could have tried again but honestly? This was a gem.
And selfie fail aside, it’s perhaps my favourite photograph ever. It almost, but not quite, pips my dear uncle’s memorable shot featuring a vast swath of blue sky and the top of my head. I say almost as his photographic fail was at least in focus.