SPOT.ph blogger Lourd de Veyra on the selfie generation’s most defining question: What does your profile picture say about you?
(SPOT.ph) Is the selfie a purely Now phenomenon?
But of course. Twenty to thirty years ago, it would have been unthinkable. It would be deemed a waste of precious Fujicolor or Kodak Chrome film. Certain generations remember how they would weep upon seeing a number of damaged/useless/out-of-focus-blurry frames at the photo shop (which back then did not mean the favorite software of Jinkee Pacquiao).
But now things have changed.
We can now make mindless snapshots of anything. Take pictures of your lunch plate, your shoes, your toes and cuticle, and your dog. Back then, if my mom caught me taking pictures of the dog and the ginisang munggo for lunch, she would've whacked me on the head.
You can say many things about the Selfie, a.k.a auto-portraiture, or better yet, ego-photography: that it is the ultimate symbol of Narcissism. You assume that people are so desperate to see your face. Well, unless you resemble Anne Curtis or Solenn Heusaff. Or are actually Anne Curtis and Solenn Heusaff. That this part of the history of mankind will forever be marked by the singular image: a face in the center, and an outstretched arm amputated only by the edges of the frame. That, and the perennially awkward gesture of pointing your camera/cell phone at a mirror.
Ah, but humans have been practicing it since time immemorial. Artists, especially. Da Vinci, Van Gogh to Warhol - all felt the urge to make self-portraits. Now, everyone's an artist. Everyone's a photographer. In the same way that everyone's a filmmaker, everyone's a chef, everyone's a goddamned food critic or movie reviewer. Everyone's doing selfies, from Justin Bieber to the Obamas. We're all guilty of it.
The selfie. You, your phone, and the mirror. You and a piece of your arm, with occasional bad lighting and movement blur. Whatever happened to the good old studio shot? The one where they offer you different packages (one 8x10, five wallet sizes, etc) and shoot you against your choice of backdrop (mostly clouds and blue sky). They'll even do your hair and makeup. Now all you need for smooth glowing skin is Instagram.
The profile pic - in the social-media universe, the profile pic is the visual construct by which we are all judged. Moral circumstance, wit, and intellectual depth may or may not be projected via pictures of Einstein or Heidegger.
Here is what your profile pic says about you:
âÂ€¢ A pure black square - "Oooooh, how nihilistic and existential."
âÂ€¢ Cropped pic usually revealing only one facial part - "Very ugly and even more insecure."
âÂ€¢ Your pic as a five-year-old - "How witty and cute. ’Cause now you're just old and ugly."
âÂ€¢ Staring at the sunset - "How deep."
âÂ€¢ Snapshot of a page off some other postmodern criticism book containing words like "image" "representation" "reality"? - "You're so intelligent lemme suck your balls!"
âÂ€¢ Suspiciously gorgeous Korean/ Japanese hearthrobs - According to the theories of the philosopher Ramon Bautista, you're "a sad and ugly teenage girl."
âÂ€¢ Overweight in bikini - You need to drink more coffee. ("Para nerbiyosin ka naman.")
âÂ€¢ Food- I just hope you're one skinny bitch. Otherwise, why commit this cruelty to yourself?
âÂ€¢ Duck face - "Suddenly I got embarrassed at the thought of a serious selfie."
âÂ€¢ People who keep changing their profile pics everyday - Vain, and more desperately insecure, with too much time on their hands
âÂ€¢ Posing with boyfriend/girlfriend looking very much in love - "Still not over your ex."
âÂ€¢ You desperately squeezing cleavage - "Slut."
âÂ€¢ Vampires - Undeniably gay
You don't want to come across as trying too hard. But as Marcus Aurelius once advised: "Cover your tracks." Never let them see you sweat. But there is nothing more ridiculous than a selfie where one pretends to be not looking, with the "I'm-so-busy-and-cool-I-can't-be-bothered" expression.
Bottom line: everyone just wants to be seen. Everyone just wants to be heard. We just want to be loved. We want a hundred little thumbs-up signs under our big beautiful potraits. Susan Sontag pointed to the modern world's "dependence on images" and it's a phrase of increasing relevance. "Dependence" is too weak a word. So is "addiction." It is something infinitely scarier.
Or maybe it's an act of survival.
One of the reasons why it's so easy to produce lengthy documentaries on Jose Rizal is that he has left behind so much- not only writings but also photographs. See, Rizal, by today's standards, is a veritable cam-whore. Bonifacio, on the other hand, left only one photograph, which was taken on his wedding day. Here he wears a suit - not the white camisa chino with the red scarf commonly seen in Botong Francisco paintings. People don't usually realize this, but it's the only Bonifacio photograph we still use to this day.
But here's one thing that needs to be said about old portraits: at least they were dignified.
They were solemn. They were decent. They had class and style. They were something that looked good on a wall, on a page of a history book, or on top of a casket. Something tells me an entire generation is gonna get sodomized by the long prongs of regret.
Now imagine the presidents and senators of the future. Imagine them flashing kawaii-'V' signs. Imagine them flashing devil-horn signs with tongues outstretched. Imagine them making duck faces. Now imagine that appearing in a history book.
I am reminded of that meme showing Neil Armstrong ("WENT TO THE MOON... TOOK 5 PHOTOS) AND SOME BLONDE GIRL ("WENT TO THE BATHROOM.... TOOK 37 PHOTOS).
That, right there, is the metaphor for the modern world. Humanity has gone on from the industrial to the digital revolution. Now we ordinary human beings have the ability to search for virtually any piece of information conceivable, from philosophy to literature, to the great works of art to astrophysics.
Now explain to me why the most Googled person in history is Justin Fucking Bieber.