This month, Dana Filek-Gibson cordially invites you to never take another selfie again.
Sometimes, when I’m feeling sad because I’ve run out of clean clothes and my cable doesn’t work and the delivery man isn’t here yet, I yearn for the past. For 20 minutes ago, when I was staging a vigorous mental debate over paninis versus burritos. For last year, when I was gainfully unemployed and my sole responsibility in life was breathing. For my childhood, before acne hit, when it was still referred to as ‘baby fat’. Give me an afternoon and I’ll run down everything I’ve ever loved and lost, from high school boyfriends to the pair of purple stretchpants in which I spent most of age 12. Nostalgia is by no means becoming, but it is an extraordinary distraction.
Which is why I’ve been thinking about car phones. Judge me all you want, but with every third person Instagramming their breakfast and teens and act-like-teens still up in arms over Flappy Bird, I’m trying to remember a simpler time. When Tamagochis were the height of technology. When laptops were the size of small children. When you could exact revenge on a sibling by picking up the telephone while he or she used the internet. Nothing, after all, says the Stone Ages like a phone that weighs 30 pounds and comes with a shoulder strap.
It was back in those glorious days, you see, that phones made phone calls and then did NOTHING. ELSE. There were no games or cameras or text messages. Single-function devices were all around us because we hadn’t yet figured out how to multitask ourselves into oblivion. Today, however, thanks to the advancements of the digital age, people can listen to Taylor Swift, ask Siri for directions, text, drive and get into an accident all at the same time. The future is bright. Or maybe that’s just the atmosphere on fire.
For as much good as technology has done, these gadgets have gotten out of hand – kids are talking trash on Facebook, nobody remembers what eye contact is and people keep calling BuzzFeed a news site. There are humans in the world who refer to FarmVille as though it’s an actual place. Despite the wonders of the internet, I’m beginning to yearn for a reverse in our technological achievements. In the old days, we might have spent our whole adolescence trying to commit the text of an NSYNC CD insert to memory, but we’d also be less startled when we met our friends and realised what they look like without Instagram filters.
Remember MySpace? That obscure corner of the internet reserved for attention-seeking tweens and forty-something men pretending to be twenty-something girls. Like any club on Bui Vien, it was the kind of seedy, darkened place that made you feel the need to shower immediately after visiting. It was the scourge of the internet, and on everyone’s profile page was some low-budget bathroom selfie, taken half-naked in front of a mirror. Along with shoulder pads, perms and the Kardashians, this weird online enclave was created by somebody with poor judgment. But in a more reasonable era, people understood that standing by yourself in a public bathroom with a camera phone was the arena of sex offenders. Nowadays, it seems, this is everyone’s turf. Forget drugs and drag racing: you want a social evil, look no further than the girl on a date with herself at the Coffee Bean, snapping selfies and Instagramming her latte for the world to see. I don’t know where we went wrong, but I would give anything to get the social stigma around selfies back.
Which is why I’m taking matters into my own hands. In an effort to stem the growing spate of autophotography, I’m going to handle this selfie epidemic like any adult would and start a gang. Before you roll your eyes or close this magazine, you’re free to refer to us in any other way – a collective, perhaps, or an outreach organization – but whatever we’re called, our aim is clear: to stop humans from photographing themselves by slapping the cell phones out of their hands. With deft strikes and a complete intolerance for duckface, we will rescue society. No more will food go cold while people decide which filter to use and how to hashtag it. No more will you have to watch that tween in the corner agonise over finding the right camera angle. When people realise how much time they’ve saved NOT self-directing a photo shoot next to the women’s toilet, we’ll be heroes. So join me in this crusade and put an end to selfies before they start.
Dana Filek-Gibson is a Canadian expat living in Ho Chi Minh City.