We need to get rid of selfies – and I say that as someone who can't stop taking them

I almost got chucked by a boyfriend a few Glastonburys ago when the Dalai Lama got up on stage with Patti Smith and, instead of enjoying that glorious, unique moment, I tried to take a selfie with the Dalai Lama

Shaparak Khorsandi
Friday 17 November 2017 11:36 GMT
Even Theresa May gets stopped by fans for selfies
Even Theresa May gets stopped by fans for selfies

I'm waging a war against selfies; they are photos of people looking self-consciously at an image of themselves instead of into the lens.

Selfies are different to photographs. Photos capture a “moment” – a glimpse of a person caught in a second of animation or emotion. They take a risk. They can be out of focus and can, in the wrong light or angle, make you look like Quasimodo. That’s just something you have to accept.

Selfies, on the other hand, are not proper photographs: they tell no story. They are pointless images taken by yourself or a friend with long arms. They look exactly the same wherever you are because unless you get a selfie stick and look like a total banana, there's only room in the frame for grinning or pouting heads. You could be outside the Taj Mahal in India, or the Taj Mahal on Watford High Street.

I've got boxes full of old photos at my home. They distract me whenever I go rummaging around for something exotic and rarely used in my home – like the iron – and I'll lose myself looking through them for the hundredth time in my life.

There are scenes from 1970s parties: my parents and their friends photographed unaware as they drink, laugh, dance and flirt. Pictures taken by a casual, tipsy observer who clearly had very little idea of framing, yet produced a gorgeous snapshot for me to look at years later as my clothes remain crumpled in the laundry basket.

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I have a picture of my father as a young journalist walking down a corridor in a Tehran hotel. Jackie Onassis strides beside him, elegantly towering over my small but purposeful father.

In the picture, Onassis is smiling as she walks, looking straight ahead. My father briefly catches the camera’s eye; he looks thoughtful, knowing that this was a huge coup – but still with a twinkle in his eye which shows he is not intimidated by his task.

Today, such an encounter might have been reduced to a selfie. A cold, meaningless snap where none of the atmosphere of the first exists. “Here's me with Jackie Onassis! I'll pop it on Facebook along with the selfie of me and Bobby Davro.”

I have some photos from my days as a baby standup at the Edinburgh Festival. They are dark, taken in badly lit bars. If you look closely, you see comics who now fill stadiums lurking shyly in the background.

But with selfies, people struggle to even take them next to massive landmarks: “Get in, let's see if I can get us and the Eiffel Tower in the shot!” The result is a photo of a couple with a bit of scaffolding behind them. We have little enough contact with strangers nowadays and forget we can do the old fashioned, “Excuse me, would you mind taking a picture of us?” to a passing person who looks the least likely to run off with our camera or take a picture of our feet.

Social media has a lot to answer for. Selfies aren’t photos designed to create precious memories but are, instead, merely a way to get on Facebook and say: “LOOK WHAT I DID TODAY!” to people you don't know.

I’m the first to admit that I’m the worst for it. I own up to total hypocrisy. I almost got chucked by a boyfriend a few Glastonburys ago when the Dalai Lama got up on stage with Patti Smith and, instead of enjoying that glorious, unique moment, I tried to take a selfie with the Dalai Lama. He was giving a beautiful speech about being “in the moment”, but I missed most of it because it was very fiddly getting the selfie. I put it on Facebook. It got 17 “likes”.

I even lost my mind in Bake Off mania, and clamoured to get a selfie with Nadia Hussein a few weeks after her win. She was mobbed by a load of woman at an event, and I managed to grab her for a selfie amid the throng. It's not a picture I'll bother my grandchildren with: “This is me with a poor woman who won a baking contest and was suddenly mobbed at a charity do. See that ‘I have no idea who you are and I want to get away from you’ look on her face? It's on every one of the 15 pictures I took in my ‘burst!’”

I got stopped in the street at the Edinburgh festival one year by someone who wanted a selfie with me, even though he didn't know who I was. “You just look familiar. I want to put it on Facebook to see if any of my pals know who you are.” I imagine this sort of thing happens to Beyoncé a lot too.

So please, people, it's time for the hideous selfie to be confined to The Museum Of Everything That Was Awful About Mobile Phones. Can we just take photos of each other at parties with our faces at odd angles again? They are the loveliest memories.

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