When Humans Became Vanity Smurf


Now haven’t we all become super busy photographers in recent years?

Not only that, we also all seem to have a real knack for it, taking state of the art pictures of everything and anything, from our food on our plate to the car we just polished outside on a sunny day, taking photos of the sun and blue sky in the process.
Since the invention of digital photography and good smartphones, most of us appear to have a desire to document our life without pause.  For some, doing this proves to their friends and family that they are living-it-right-now. Even if that means, popping down the shop to get a pint of milk. 
Without pictures there is simply no evidence it ever happened.
I know, as I do it too. I can’t imagine myself going somewhere interesting without taking loads of pictures. There are just so many beautiful things to capture, perhaps I never saw it so much before.
Most of the pictures I take though, are of my cat.  I must add though, that she does not appear to take a keen interest in my newfound hobby as she usually turns around, sulking, whenever I point my iPhone at her.
But of course, like almost everyone else, I upload them as soon as I have sharpened or blurred them (depending on age and skin quality), added a few effects to them and cut out anything displeasing to the eye. The process taking no more than a minute per photo.
At the moment, I am seeing a lot of pictures of food crawling up my newsfeed, some pretty dishes, others looking like a landslide. There are also the obligatory cats and dogs and of course, you can always find a glamorous self-portrait where lips are pouting, boobs and biceps are getting a prime position and eyes are of the come-hither type.
A lot of these pictures are amazing but there are many more that smack of self-adoring. And what is it with that unflattering flabby arm thing that crops up in a lot of these photos? Even the skinny ones appear to get sausage-arm-syndrome when the picture is taken at a wrong angle. But credit where credit is due, a lot of people appear to be so much better looking these days. Sometimes I am genuinely surprised.
The ‘selfie’ as it’s now commonly known, is something we have learned to accept. As it was not so long ago, that we would snigger at people for profiling themselves as the sons and daughters of the original self-lover Narcissius. Yet now, most of us have embraced the power of the self-portrait.
We know not to trust anyone in taking a picture of ourselves. After all, we know our face and body best, we know what works. And, you wouldn’t ask a friend to take 50 pictures of you until you’ve got a good one. It would just be, well weird.
Of course, you don’t mind doing this yourself. Then if it’s still not quite there, you open up one of the many photo apps stored on your phone with the eye on transforming an okay picture into a fabulous model shot. At times, that picture may no longer give an accurate reflection of the real you but that is okay, as it got you 45 likes.
Last year I took a selfie on my 40th birthday. Obviously, I’ve taken many more but this one was without a doubt one of these: ‘look at me’ shout outs.
I had just come back from the hairdresser and thought I had to show the world I still looked okay for my newly acquired middle-aged status. It’s the thing we all do at some point and there is no harm in it.
We know it is going to make us feel better and we realise that some of our friends may know why we do it, but still they will like what they see. And that’s what matters.
Sometimes though, the self-imagery goes way too far and particularly so with the younger generation.
Not so long ago, my husband and I were eating in a restaurant when a young couple sitting at the table next to us, were constantly playing with their phones. Then when he left the table for a few minutes, the girl picked up her phone and started taking, what must have been a hundred pictures of herself.
She puckered her lips, turned her face to the left, then the right, became doe-eyed for one second, then a vixen with lips slightly parted and her tongue touching the corner of her mouth (that made her look deranged, but hey). Then she fluffed up her hair, fixed her bra and looked into the camera, all sullen looks and exaggerated desire. When the guy came back, she continued for a while and then showed him the many, many pictures she had taken. He seemed interested and then showed her his phone. It looked like he had been doing the same in the bathroom. A match made in heaven.
Then there was the girl we saw in Beijing, waiting in line to buy a train ticket. To be fair, we had to wait a fair bit. The girl nevertheless thought of this as the perfect opportunity to organise her own model shoot and started snapping away on her phone. But first she carefully applied her make up on top of the considerable amount that was already in place on her face. In between the tons of pictures, she plastered another layer and at some point, she tried to take a picture of herself, applying lipstick. She failed.
I then saw her bringing up some sort of social site on her phone and started uploading the trillion of pictures she had taken. I wondered what the caption was going to be.
‘Waiting to buy a ticket, still glam as always! Yay’
It just seems odd.
You do see it everywhere though kids who should be having fun but spend time taking self-portraits instead. Preferably with background to prove they have been there.
‘Selfie-ism’, is only going to get even more pronounced over the years I think. We’ve lost our embarrassment about this already and readily admit that we are not shying away from a little photoshopping here and there.
I nevertheless wonder whether such amour-propre will turn some generations into Vanity Smurf; the one walking around with a mirror in his little blue hands, proclaiming all the time how beautiful he is.
I believe it will only get a lot worse and there may come a time where the hours of staring at our own reflection may start tormenting us. We’ve all got imperfections and they are usually not visible to the other person’s eyes. That said, looking at it for hours and hours on end, may turn the prettiest face into Quasimodo.
And let’s not forget, there is a risk attached to having all this technology in your pocket. As we know, the selfie appears to be disrobing more and more. Adults can strip off all they want for all I care. If they want to message each other pictures of their expanding torsos and nether regions exposed and decorated, it’s their responsibility after all. Let them have fun.
People needs laughs and bodies can be comedy.
Kids however, do not have the full perception of what is good and right yet and if someone asks them to expose themselves, they may just do it without considering the consequences. Who knows where these pictures will end.
But the thing is, we may also get totally fed up with the art of capturing one at its best. As if you think about it, a lot of the selfies are remarkably similar to one another. Different shape and face but the pose, is usually the same.
The angle and contorted arm, the give-away.
It would be interesting to see people going back to basics, where the best picture you have of yourself, is one with one eye closed and your hair blown into your mouth.  And like with anything else from the past that was buried and then ressurected, it may become another vintage trend to post pictures, taken by another, without the need for manipulation.
It’s probably not going to be glamorous but it’s not exactly like you and I are really glamorous, is it?