WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Let’s call them ‘self-ish-ies’

By on December 2, 2014


Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Last Friday, I attended the Second Annual Locals’ Film Festival at the Pink Garter. Thirty films were shown, all clocking in at around two minutes each. Many of the films were trailers or promotional shorts that advertised a larger project, but others were made by aspiring filmmakers looking to showcase their creative visions to the masses.

However, I only managed to stomach 26 of the films due to the fact that I was sick of standing for two hours, plus I couldn’t understand 50 percent of the dialogue thanks to a limited sound system and a room full of conversations.

But the event format wasn’t what had me rolling my eyes through a few of the films. There was definitely a handful of excellent shorts that night, but what bothered me was that the other films were self-promotional, with stories centered around the filmmakers themselves, often filmed with a GoPro helmet or helicopter cam.

Our 21st century culture is one where we all feel the need to matter. We’re desperate for outlets where we can express ourselves. Even with the publication of this column, I’m aware that I have a rare chance to make my perspective known and to promote my own writing and opinions. There is so much pressure on our generation to somehow stand above the rest, to showcase our faces in perfect light or document the time we skied the perfect line. From Instagram posts to our friends’ unending ski movie showings — “Is this the one? Yeah this is the one” — we have a multitude of opportunities to control the way we are perceived. We edit and promote the life we want our friends to think we lead — the ultimate filter.

My current Facebook profile picture is a selfie. I woke up one morning, looked outside the window through my blinds, and realized how cool it would be to snap this moment. It took probably eight or nine tries to get the photo that I wanted, but eventually, I pulled the blinds toward my face, made sure my eyes, nose and mouth were visible and snapped the photo. Satisfied, I immediately posted it on Facebook and Instagram where I currently have 78 and 33 likes, respectively. One of my friends even said, “If there was a TV show about your day-to-day life, I’d buy a TV so I could watch it.” Success.

We live in a world where we value evidence over experience, where the proof of living the event is more important than just putting your damn phone away and enjoying the event. How many live concert videos have people recorded that have never been watched again? Though we may not realize it, our intention in taking these videos is so that people understand that, “Hey, Andrew Munz was at that show.”

History will show that selfies are the ultimate version of attention-whoring. By inserting ourselves into the photos we take, we divert the subject of the photo away from what we’re photographing, and, instead, shove our face into the frame so our friends believe that we were there.

While I was working as a whale-watching guide in Iceland, I saw this on nearly every trip. A humpback could be 10 feet away from the boat, and some people would have their backs to the rail, trying to capture a picture of their face next to the whale. “THERE IS A FUCKING 30-FOOT HUMPBACK NEXT TO YOU,” I wanted to yell. “STOP LOOKING AT IT THROUGH A FOUR-INCH SCREEN!”

Director Matthew Frost released an incredibly thought-provoking short film in September called Aspirational. In it, Kirsten Dunst (playing herself) waits outside her home for an Uber car, when suddenly a duo of 20-something girls rushes over and takes selfies with her.

“Do you want to talk or anything?” Dunst asks. She awkwardly waits as the girls silently upload their photos. “I mean you can ask me a question, or are you curious about anything or … ”

“Can you tag me?” asks one of the girls.

At 2.5 minutes, Aspirational is both humorous and depressing. In truth, no one will believe a celebrity run-in, unless we document it and post it online. And think of how many likes we can get! It’s an awful reality when, despite living in a world packed with untold stories, we all have a selfish tendency to think that the most interesting subjects are ourselves.

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