I was in one of those Five Below stores today because that’s the place to go to find all the stuff you need for your smartphone for just 5 bucks. Stuff like cases, cables and chargers. I go there just about every week because I’m a cheapskate and I never know if I’ll get a sudden urge to pick up a cut-rate lavender backpack or playground ball that glows in the dark.
But today, right by the smartphone cables I wanted to purchase were rows and rows of selfie sticks. Hard to resist at just 5 bucks apiece, and I have been known to take a selfie or two, especially when I’m in my kayak or need to prove to my boss I wasn’t sitting in a bar instead of a conference room. I did resist the temptation, but shortly after arriving home I came across this story in the New York Times about what selfies say about a person. It’s not good. According to the story, “Much of the research on selfies reveals that (surprise!) people who take a lot of them tend to have narcissistic, psychopathic and Machiavellian personality traits.”
It reminded me of the time last year when I was outside the New York Stock Exchange the day our company was listed on the Big Board. Being brought up in NYC, I was used to tourists standing across Broad Street and taking photos of the NYSE or having someone take a shot of them and their friends or family in front of the historic building. But on this day almost every tourist turned their back to the seat of capitalism, whipped out a selfie stick the size of Babe Ruth’s bat and snapped off several shots of themselves with the stock exchange in the background. They didn’t even make eye contact with the great building!
Further down in the story I found the quote that helped me make sense of this, where it quoted an expert surmising, “People forget that narcissism is not just about being an egomaniac — it’s also driven by underlying insecurity,” said Jesse Fox, an assistant professor at Ohio State University’s School of Communication who studies the personalities of selfie takers.
Of course! Those who suffer from insecurity would not be expected to relate to the institution dealing in securities!
What really brought it home for me about how stupid we look taking photos of ourselves happened earlier this year in San Francisco. I attempted to take a selfie that included two work colleagues with the Oakland Bay Bridge in the background. Properly composing the shot was almost hopeless prompting a man standing nearby taking in our idiocy to kindly offer to take the shot for us. We gratefully accepted his offer and after snapping the group photo he smiled and reminded us, “you know, all you had to do was ask.” You know…just like people used to do when photos were taken with cameras.