The Selfie is the symbol of our time. It is universal and ubiquitous. It is international and pandemic. It represents the narcissism of our Age. What is the Selfie trying to capture? It is trying to capture the moment. What is that moment? The Self in the Selfie thinks it is a quintessential moment. I would suggest that the Selfie is trying to capture that elusive moment of self-Authenticity. That moment you think represents the True You. The technology that provided everyone with the instant ability to take a picture, unleashed the latent need and wish to capture that fleeting instant in the flowing river of time. It is a stop-time effort. It is a effort to capture time in a lens. We have all tried it, and equally we have all mostly failed. Why are we so often disappointed?
It is because the Selfie is the dreaded simulacrum. The Selfie rarely satisfies. It is a replica, not the thing itself. It is a copy of the magical moment not the moment so treasured. Most pictures fail to capture what was sought. Even professional photographers will admit to that. The moment sought is evanescent. It only exists in a nano-second, if at all. What the camera is seeking to capture, what the Selfie seeks is the emotional moment. The physical moment can be captured, but the emotion is a more difficult subject. It frequently fails to show itself. The wedding photographer knows this dilemma.
The issue of the false echo, the simulacrum, is broadly examined in my book.
“see my book”
Here, in short form, it is fair to say the simulacrum is the copy without an original. Looking for that elusive true image, rather than the false replica, is a maddening quest. The pervasive and repeated Selfie is that quest. Our cameras and phones are filled with simulacra. Over time, we admit to that and delete most of our efforts. It is possible that the very act of taking the picture erases the authenticity. Do we in fact lose contact with the very thing we seek to capture at the moment of pushing the button? Does the camera itself come between the Self and the moment of authenticity we seek to capture? Is authenticity only to be felt when we linger in the moment itself, rather than interpose the lens? Is the Selfie the very defeat of the moment of authenticity?
For decades, physicists and scientists have sought the elusive Higg’s boson. To find it would prove the authenticity of a host of scientific theories related to the Universe itself. The bosun was imputed to exist, but none had been “seen”. So the scientific community erected a giant underground electronic “camera”, the CERN Collider, in Switzerland. The “lens” was miles in diameter. It cost millions of dollars. It took years to build. Once completed, the job was to wait and see if the moment of a bosun could be registered, i.e., “seen” by this unusual “lens”. After many long months of watching…..finally the phantom boson passed through the lens and was photographed and its existence proven. This was perhaps the Ultimate Selfie!
It was Mankind’s own Grand Selfie! A moment that truly captured the elusive piece of authentication. The boson particle filled in many links in the Standard Model of the Universe, the Grand Design we postulate. It was a proof that our vision of the Universe might, in fact, be authentic. That’s what we all seek….the elusive moment of authentication. We are all seeking our own “boson”…..that particle in the Universe that authenticates our existence. Perhaps after a thousand Selfies, a million, we will find the one quark that is us, truly us. It is that quest we are on.
The Selfie craze is a manifestation of that intrinsic need to identify ourselves in this vast Universe. We each seek our own “Higg’s Boson” that proves our moment in the Universe is authentic. Don’t stop looking. The scientists at the CERN Collider theorized and waited for forty years, and then finally snapped a picture of the elusive boson. You may not find your authentic self in your next Selfie. You may only discover it by looking inward. Maybe it’s not in the camera. But it is there. Somewhere. Be patient. Keep up the good fight. Structure your own internal “lens”. Refine and watch. Refine and watch. Be diligent. It will appear. It will appear. Maybe only for a nano-second. But it will appear and authenticate. You will be redeemed. You will be found. Good luck!