Look at Me! (the Sociology of Selfies)

Really, they should be called backgroundies. Because the "selfie" itself is always the same. By now, everyone knows his or her most attractive angle, their perfect facial pose, etc. So the individual in the picture always looks the same. Rather, the only difference- from one selfie to the next- is the background. That's a nice smiling picture of you standing in front of... is that a plane crash?

In a way, there's a psychological truth to the selfie craze; technology finally gives society the opportunity to act on its narcissism. Regardless of the reaction it may evoke, we want other people to look at us. And that trumps any concern for how posting our selfies might be received. I mean, we know that our selfieism is a little bit shallow and self-absorbed... unless the selfier is overweight, in which case we all agree that it's a wonderful way to empower yourself and be proud of the way you look. But, even though we know that selfies are all style over substance, we don't care. To be noticed is a form of validation. This is what separates us from animals- at least the non-photogenic ones. (Yes, I'm talking to you, wildebeests.)

In June, Disney World banned selfie sticks from its park. Apparently, swinging around a three-foot metal stick in a crowd of people has the potential for danger. Who knew? Nevertheless, I'm proud to introduce my latest invention, the Selfie Sword.

Americans are constantly looking for creative new ways to be looked at. Google "driving selfie" and you'll discover thousands of images- idiots taking selfies while operating a moving vehicle. You'll find even more if you follow the Kardashians on Twitter.

All parents need to have a serious talk with their high-school aged children, and explain to them that taking their own picture while driving a car can lead to blurry selfies.

We're moving in a dangerous direction. Selfie sticks. Driving selfies. What's next- skydiving selfies? At some point, we need to agr... wait, you mean people are taking selfies while skydiving?! This is common?! Yeah, okay. I get it. Nothing matters anymore.

Republican Presidential candidate Ben Carson (currently thirty-eighth in the polls, trailing former reality TV star Brooke Hogan, but right ahead of George Pataki), has publicly condemned the selfie epidemic. And in fairness, it must be very annoying as he travels from town to town meeting voters. Rather than speaking to the controversial conservative about political issues, people in their teens and twenties would rather just take selfies with him. And this is an irritating obligation for all candidates on the campaign trail. But personally, I don't think this is such a bad trend. In fact, it's a great way to get young people involved in politics of posting even more pictures of themselves on-line.

Statistically, ninety-nine percent of all the world's photographs were taken during the past twenty minutes.

My only issue with the absurd number of pictures being taken is the fear that this will diminish the value of actual photographs. There was a time when we'd literally run into a burning house in a desperate attempt to retrieve old family albums. Now we do a weekly scan of our Facebook page in order to delete the pics where our eyes "look weird."

I hope that future generations and their robot enslavers are able to distinguish between the photographs of significance- shots that tell a story of time and place- and the current garbage that an average American's camera phone barfs up on a daily basis. As I watched that guy at the Olive Garden taking a picture of his entrée, I thought, "If your cell phone had hands, it would strangle you."

Nevertheless, I'm confident that a hundred years from now, real photographs with real heart- everything from black and white to color, from historical to personal, from horrific images of children toiling in 19th century factories to your family vacation pictures circa 1975- will be preserved for their cultural importance. Meanwhile, in the search for viable new forms of energy, we'll figure out a way to reconfigure every worthless selfie taken this decade into non-toxic burnable fuel chips.

I'm less optimistic, though, about what selfies are doing to our sense of fun and adventure. Or, to be more specific, we're no longer living in the moment. We're documenting our lives, rather than living them. Whether you're hanging out with friends, attending a political rally, or parachuting to the ground, not living in the moment makes it a lot harder to live in the moment. It's kind of like spending your entire Caribbean vacation thinking about whether or not you left the oven on. Taking a selfie is like an oven that's still on.

At some point, the selfie craze will probably diminish, but only because new technology will enable people to self-exploit at an even greater degree. Perhaps Apple will come out with a phone that you swallow and people will start posting innies.

Or maybe it won't be so much about technology, but of a change in social standards. Heck, maybe in the near-future people will just take pics of their genitalia and post them publicly. Wait- you mean people are doing that? This is common?! Yeah, okay. I get it. Nothing matters anymore.