04/29/2014 09:11 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why Selfies Have Taken Over the World


We live in our own little worlds. That is an unfortunate byproduct of a societal narcissism that has found its ultimate form in the single form that best exemplifies this era: the selfie.

There is a very recognizable selfie pose, one full of both self-congratulation and a brash "look at me" quality. You know the selfie pose the moment you see it. Everybody does it -- even the president.

Most often, the selfie subject is looking up (because it is accepted wisdom that higher angles are flattering), the camera (or, more often, smartphone) clasped between two to four preferably strongish and longish fingers, while another digit seeks out the shutter. If there are people in the background, they are often leaning in, as if part of a crowd trying to see something through a porthole. (Remember the Ellen selfie at the Oscars?)

I understand the selfie urge. That "look at me" cry for attention is something that is stifled in us from childhood. It's considered unseemly, untoward, to be so desperate for attention. There is an institution for people who can't keep it under control: It's called "show business."

In the past, when we had interesting or unusual experiences out in the world by ourselves -- away from friends or family -- all we had to show for it was what we could carry back in our memory and summon with our words.

This commentary continues on my website.