Kilroy’s brothers in arms & our selfie urge

Kilroy’s brothers in arms & our selfie urge
February 12, 2016 Heather Penn
Obama selfie GIF

Is this GIF real? Selfie history in the making? It’s borrowed  from the web. Make up your own back story about technology’s contribution to center-stage awareness in these self-focused times. 

Could we say that selfies are the new photograph? Or would that be stretching too far?

After all, the selfie stick was invented to make taking an arm’s length snap just a little bit easier. With that little contraception in hand, a whole scene can be captured, as always, and clearly the main point, preserving a “selfie” of one’s own head taking center stage.

Positive proof that you, collector of the historic image, were there.

With the invention of this nifty little gadget, “the séance with the self is only going to grow,” observed David Carr, author of  Selfies on a Stick, and the Social-Content Challenge for the Media.” “Narissistick” is the term he applies to the device used framing our new self-important documentation.

Have we become a society so obsessed with our looks and vanity that a selfie stick was the next inevitable step?

For myself, I like taking selfies.  I am able to find that spot that truly makes me look the best, in terms of my own narcissistic ideals.  But am I really so different from others?  For those wanting to take a picture to commemorate a time something amazing happened, a selfie makes a statement, certifying the life’s historic accomplishments.

Who wouldn’t want a picture of themselves and a celebrity? After all, celebrities are the new gods and who takes more selfies than a star. I know I would love a selfie with me and Johnny Depp. Just saying.

Reflecting on that selfie with me and Mr. Depp not only brings continuing delight, it’s proof  I did what I said.  No words were necessary when that picture of us showed up on Facebook.

Long before selfies, people found other ways to share their thoughts and ideas.  In WWII some soldiers used the underside of their bunks to signify their presence.  For some, this would be the last thing they ever wrote.

One such ill-fated soldier parting message took the form of a poem written in Morse Code on the underside of a bunk.

“You’re the one who
must decide who’s
to live and who’s to die.
You’re the one who gives his
body as a weapon of the
war—and without you all
this killing can’t go on.”

–Radio operator Robert Simpson, on his way to Vietnam.

“In a Smithsonian magazine article titled “Killroy was here,” Owen Edwards used the wartime graffiti as an example of how big an impact a blurb or picture could be. The “Killroy” character, drawn by one of the many soldiers stationed overseas, depicted a long-nosed cartoon face peeking over a fence with the inscription “Killroy was here.” This cartoon, as Edwards pointed out, “appeared almost everywhere American soldiers went.’

A heavy US Army truck suitably adorned at Shoreham airsho

A heavy US Army truck suitably adorned.

When I was in Iraq, everywhere I went I noticed graffiti depicting two cherries attached by a stem. The image, or symbols, were emblazoned on walls, cement pilings and guard rails. No one knew what they meant, but their sheer number of similar inscriptions had to mean something.  Some said it signified a convoy route. Others claimed it was a sign for Iraqis to back off.

Though I never did uncover the real reason behind the fruit-styled graffiti, far-ranging stories about its origin and meaning will always be a part of my war experience.

What is it about that cartoon, or a particular selfie, that perks the interest of others. Is it the locale, the company a person may be with, or one’s own obsession with self that continues this arguably narcissistic trend?

Heather Penn
Heather Penn is a senior journalism student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She has written for the Sunstar a student run paper, the local military paper and worked as an early morning correspondent for KUAC. Heather is an avid outdoors woman who seeks stories in everyday Alaskan living. She is a mother and wife who enjoys spending time with her family and writing.


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