Selfies are in no way new, but advancements in technology continually give people new ways to expand upon their narcissistic habits. With selfie sticks, social media, photo apps, and newly updated iPhone cameras, people have the tools and resources they need to document their faces, and where their faces are, at all times.
Our culture has only encouraged us to unveil our natural affinity towards vanity, according to the late David Carr, New York Times renowned media critic.
“The urge to stare at oneself predates mirrors — you could imagine a Neanderthal fussing with his hair, his image reflected in a pool of water — but it has some pretty modern dimensions. In the forest of billboards in Times Square,” he wrote, “the one with a camera that captures the people looking at the billboard always draws a big crowd.”
This has always been a predisposition among cultures across the world. Even before photography, artists such as Vincent van Gogh were painting self-portraits.
Digital natives aren’t the first generation determined to leave their mark on the world in whatever form was available. During World War II, sketches of a goofy guy with beady eyes and a long nose, peering over the words “Kilroy was here” became an expression of unity among American soldiers. This simply drawn cartoon could be found almost anywhere in the world, sketched on a wall, scratched onto boards boxes, wherever American GIs passed. More recently, Kilroy’s mug showed up everywhere from Mount Everest to the dust on the moon, according to Washington Times article.
Since the beginning of social media and easily accessible cameras, the selfie addiction seems to have grown out of control. A need to present oneself, in often a false light, to the world, has become almost an addiction.
Shahak Shapira created Yolocaust, a inspired after he found images on social media of people at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. To him, the images failed to convey the respect that the memorial deserved. In one of the photos a girl was standing on top of the memorial in a yoga pose. The caption of the photo was “Yoga is a connection with everything around us.” In another photo a young man is jumping between concrete slabs, with the caption “Jumping on dead Jews @ Holocaust Memorial.”
Shapira took the selfies he found and used Photoshop to replace the memorial backgrounds of the pictures with real images from Nazi concentration camps.
“The caption said ‘jumping on dead Jews’ so I thought ‘yeah fine, I can help you with that,’” said Shapira. In the altered image, the young man appears to be jumping over a pile of deceased Jews.
Shapira’s images were seen by many, including the original posters themselves, all of whom took the photos off their social media.
Selfies are not bad. It’s pursuit of ‘likes” that begs attention. Society’s rush to document every aspect of our lives for those likes, to the point of jumping on dead people, shows how far we have come and how little we have learned.