Friday, November 22, 2013

Is it a Good Thing that "selfie" is the Word of the Year?

I have a First Person column in today's Leicester Mercury.

That's enough about me for one lifetime...

Selfie has been named word of the year by the editors at Oxford Dictionaries, who say its use increased 17,000 per cent over the past 12 months. In winning the title it saw off "twerk", "bitcoin" and "bedroom tax". If you are down with the kids like me, you will know a selfie is "a photograph one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website".

Everyone is taking them and, as usual when narcissism is in play, celebrities have led the way.

And it's worse than that, because a whole litter of spin-offs has emerged. A welfie is a workout selfie, a helfie is a hairstyle selfie and a belfie… don't ask.

All of which is grim for keen bloggers and tweeters like me. Because ever since these activities came in, people who do not share our enthusiasm have put us down with "I don't want to read what other people had for breakfast."

As it happens, there is a good blog called the London Review of Breakfasts. It's invaluable if you find yourself at a loose end in the capital early one morning.

But blogging, like any other kind of writing, can be about anything you want it to be. I read blogs on politics, history, architecture and a host of other things. Many have really good photographs – and there is not a plate of bacon and eggs in sight.

There are also plenty of engaging people to follow on Twitter who never, ever tell you what they are eating.

You can forgive youngsters for wanting to photograph themselves: they will never look so good again. But they should be careful.

A few years ago, if you went on a social media course, you would be told that any ideas you had about privacy were hopelessly old-fashioned. Young people put their whole lives online and that was what the future was going to be like.

Those same young people, now they are looking for jobs, know better. They are fighting a losing battle to wipe their youthful indiscretions from the net.

Meanwhile, those of us who are older understand that what you present online is a carefully edited version of yourself – preferably without breakfasts or selfies.

You can make too much of this: Rembrandt painted lots of self-portraits and no-one thought the worse of him. But I prefer to write about other people – they are usually so much more interesting.

Jonathan Calder blogs at Liberal England. He did not take the photograph above.

1 comment:

Phil Beesley said...

When you are 15 years old, you believe that your life is interesting. By the age of 50, most of us have concluded that we have met a limit; we aren't going to be interesting in best seller fashion, but we can try to be affable and interested.

I caught an interview with John Le Carre on BBC4 the other night. He learned at an early age that to become interesting, you have to become interested in other lives.