A Selfie Too Far?

Selfie-fever has reached its pitch and now even Obama and Dave are getting involved. Two days ago, the pair took a much-commented-on shot with the Danish PM. Why all the attention? Because they were attending Nelson Mandela’s memorial service at the time.

David Cameron, Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Barack Obama taking a selfie at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg, 10 December 2013.
David Cameron, Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Barack Obama taking a selfie at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg, 10 December 2013.
http://cbsnewyork.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/obama-selfie.jpg?w=625&h=352&crop=1

Many people have reacted strongly, declaring the selfie entirely inappropriate and disrespectful. Others have come to the leaders’ defence, claiming that a memorial service should be a time for celebration and that there’s nothing wrong with a good dose of joy.

This is just the latest in a series of headlines made by the selfie phenomenon. It has been named as ‘Word of the Year 2013’ by Oxford Dictionaries and The Guardian have just offered up their ‘selfie awards’ for the year (read more here). Selfies at funerals are apparently now in fact their own trend, and this blog has tasked itself with collecting them for public viewing.

Back in the day, a self-portrait was a time-consuming creation. Think of the hours that introspective Van Gogh must have dedicated to the dozens that he produced. But no longer. Now, everyone is an artist thanks to the wonder of camera phones and their myriad of apps.

Image from: ponderabout.com
Image from: ponderabout.com

Is this ability to constantly document our activities and look-of-the-day an entertaining way to record memories and to be creative? Or is it encouraging an onslaught of narcissism and detracting from the value of a carefully-crafted self-portrait? Perhaps Mandela would have liked to know that the attendees of his memorial service were enjoying the chance to get together and having some fun doing so. After all, he wasn’t averse to an artistic pose or two himself, it seems…

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

G.A.

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