Barry Saunders

Selfies are spawning a society of dummies

Barry Saunders does The Electric Slide

News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders dances The Electric Side for charity in front of the N&O building on Christmas Eve 2010.
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News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders dances The Electric Side for charity in front of the N&O building on Christmas Eve 2010.

First, the bad news. Taking selfies with your besties increases your chances of getting pesties.

Second, the worse news: it’s still impossible to take a selfie without looking like a self-absorbed schmendrick.

Third, the even worse news: more people have died this year from taking selfies than from being attacked by sharks.

Several news sources, citing the assiduously reported number of shark deaths – for awhile this summer, one couldn’t read a newspaper without thinking we were being besieged by sharks in our bathtubs – have reported that eight people around the world died from shark attacks. At least 12 deaths have been attributed to accidents occurring while taking selfies. Consider:

▪ A 66-year-old man died after falling while snapping a selfie at the Taj Mahal. He apparently felt that no picture of one of the Seven Wonders of the World was complete without him in the foreground.

▪ A Colorado park shut down because people wouldn’t stop taking selfies with bears.

▪ A 32-year-old selfie-snapping man in Spain was killed by a bull during an annual bull-running festival.

All of the fatalities involved selfie sticks.

Some doctors have blamed the “lets-put-our-heads-together” group selfies for what they say is an increase in head lice being spread among young people. I asked Dr. Sharon Rink, a Wisconsin pediatrician, if group selfies could be the culprit behind the increase in the pests.

“Touching heads, lying on the floor near someone, exchanging hats, combs, etc., can all transmit” lice, Rink told me. “The selfies are a newer phenomenon with teens, so yes, I do believe it is possible to transmit lice with selfies. That’s why she came up with the term “social media lice.” (That would also be a good term for the people who feel compelled to document their every activity on Facebook.)

Contrary to what many of us were taught growing up, lice don’t leap, she said, “so (there) has to be contact to transmit lice.” Rink said there is also a mutant strain of lice that is resistant to the typical treatments. If that won’t quell the group selfies, nothing will.

The irony is that the obsessive self-absorption that has made selfies so popular used to be the one sure way to ensure that you did not end up passing along or acquiring cooties. Also, didn’t taking pictures of one’s self used to be God’s way of telling you that you need more friends?

As a person of modest accomplishments, I make few claims to distinction: I’m the only columnist to have never mentioned a certain orange-haired presidential contender, the only person who has never done the Electric Slide – OK, there was that one time in the middle of downtown, but that was for charity – and the only person in the world who has never taken a selfie.

Other than thinning the gene pool, selfie sticks – yes, that’s a real thing that you can actually go into a store and purchase – have one redeeming quality: those of us who came of age during the 1970s no longer lay claim to the title of most gullible generation. We are, remember, the same group that bought pet rocks and those duck-billed podiatric monstrosities called earth shoes.

This current generation, though, may prove to be the most gullible of all.

Think about it: some diabolical business executives sat in an office and, probably after a 17-martini lunch, began joking and decided to see just how lame the American public can be.

Throckmorton: “Hey, J.B. I’ll bet I can make people buy a rock for a pet.”

J.B.: “That’s been done.”

Throckmorton: “OK, I’ll bet I can come up with an ad campaign that’ll make people buy the ugliest shoes on earth?”

J.B.: “Did you sleep through the ’70s?”

Throckmorton: “No, sir. I wasn’t born in the ’70s. But I’ll bet I can convince people to pay real money for a stick that will let them take a picture of themselves.”

J.B. “Hmmph. Nobody is that stupid.”

As we’ve seen, somebody – millions of somebodies – are that stupid.

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