It was love at first sight. He saw fireworks, felt butterflies, and was completely head over heels. There was no turning back, no looking away … the guy had fallen in love, hard, and he knew that no one else could ever compare.
While that may seem like something out of a cheesy romance novel, I’m actually referencing the Greek myth of Narcissus, which tells of a handsome youth who fell so in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water that he ultimately died of starvation.
Fast-forward a few thousand years and you’ll actually find that Narcissus is alive and well. With the rapid spread of the smartphone, selfie pictures—self-portraits taken using a mirror or a phone’s reverse camera—have become a cultural phenomenon and, essentially, the resurrection of Narcissus. "Selfie" was even integrated into the Oxford dictionary as an official word (and Word of the Year for 2013): “A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” So now, everywhere you look people are posting pictures they have taken of themselves... including some at funerals.
A big uproar recently ignited when a website titled Selfies at Funerals sprang up, bringing light to a growing, troubling trend. The site is a collection of cell phone self-portraits snapped before, during or post-memorial service by the young and seemingly clueless, who are turning funerals into personal photo shoots. The collection was built by Fast Company editor Jason Feifer from images uploaded to Twitter and Instagram and has quickly made selfies a fiercely debated topic.
Then again, selfies aren't a new phenomenon. The root word, "self-portrait," has existed for thousands of years, gaining immense popularity during the renaissance when artists would look into mirrors and often depict themselves as either the main subject or as important characters in their work. What was once only intended for the elite or very talented has now become an activity for all and has taken over the digital world.
Don’t get me wrong—I flat out hate selfies, especially ones with duck face. To me, selfies make a person look like they have no friends to take a picture for them. While I admittedly have taken some I have never post them online. Typically, they are to see how my hair looks, if my clothes look sharp, or if that "Eye of Sauron" zit on my nose is noticeable. The difference is, I grew up on the frontier of the technology revolution, experiencing the boom during my mid-teenage years, allowing me to understand both sides.
Technology is increasingly blurring the lines of appropriateness to the point that many people check their phones while others talk to them or are texting while driving, yet neither action surprises anyone anymore. As rude or dangerous as those actions are and as wrong as they may be, they have become cultural norms. So is it any surprise that many teenagers and children, whom have never known life without cell phones or smart devices, are using the devices for everything they do, much to the dismay of older generations.
It is becoming increasingly clear that younger generations are having a difficult time distinguishing when to put away their devices. Figuring out appropriate behavior for some situations can be tricky, especially if a person has not previously experienced it. Like talking on a phone during a movie, there are some things you just don’t do. Unfortunately, some people will still answer the phone and yak away regardless.
While funeral selfies are troubling, the movement isn’t surprising. It underscores a deeper issue. Smartphones have made it easier than ever to stay connected 24/7 and also to take pictures at a moment’s notice. They allow people to instantly capture an unlimited number of images showcasing the things they are doing, the foods they are eating, the clothes they are wearing, etc. This has positioned our society to become extremely voyeuristic and judgmental. For many people, if they aren’t constantly posting statuses and pictures for others to see, like, comment on or be jealous of, they feel like they don’t “exist.” In the process, some people have lost sight of what constitutes acceptable behavior, leading to questionable use of smartphones.
Regardless of your feelings on the trend, it's big and could be a key part of your next marketing campaign. Brands all across the world are taking advantage of the phenomenon by integrating it into their campaigns, such as Jamba Juice encouraging fans to upload “Smoothie Selfies” to Instagram for a shot at a gift card. Then you have others flipping the script like #GivingTuesday pushing the "UNselfie" movement, part of a national day of giving highlighting worthy causes and nonprofits, that encourages people to participate in charitable activities and posting an "#UNselfie" pic on social media -- an image highlighting the cause they support. Click here to read more about how some other marketers are syncing up with ‘selfies.’
Smartphones are a tool designed to enhance our lives by making things easier; yet these tools can complicate life at times. One of the most important things for any generation to remember is that the online world can be superficial, often overly critical and, ultimately, not real. So you don’t always need to have your device out to document everything you’re doing. Selfies are a product of the times, and while not wrong, they represent the pond into which so many modern Narcissuses first look.
How could your business connect with the phenomenon like Jamba Juice and #GivingTuesday? Tweet us @herofarm with how you're using selfies to further your marketing. We'd love to hear from you!