Ana Veciana-Suarez

What do selfies say about us?

In this Jan. 23, 2015, file photo, tourists use a 'selfie stick' in London. A French palace and a British museum have joined the growing list of global tourist attractions that have banned “selfie sticks” _ devices visitors use to improve snapshots, but which critics say are obnoxious and potentially dangerous.
In this Jan. 23, 2015, file photo, tourists use a 'selfie stick' in London. A French palace and a British museum have joined the growing list of global tourist attractions that have banned “selfie sticks” _ devices visitors use to improve snapshots, but which critics say are obnoxious and potentially dangerous. AP

There’s a skill to it. Trust me, there is.

Hold your smartphone at an angle. No, not there. Higher.

Strike a pose, but don’t block the background.

Now smile like you mean it.

Click.

You’ve got a selfie. So share, share, share.

I’m one of the millions of people who have shot and shared the bijillion selfies now living in perpetuity on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I’ve taken them at museums and graduations, with friends and just because I want to. It’s a way of declaring to the world: “Look! Look! I’m doing this now.’’

Granted, I’m taking fewer selfies these days, but this recent apathy has nothing to do with technology. It’s vanity. Quite simply I don’t look quite how I think I should. Which is to say I appear exactly as I am: my age. Droopy eyelids, sagging jowls, pleated forehead.

Nevertheless I remain fascinated by the concept of selfies, by the culture that encourages us to upload images wherever we go, regardless of importance or appropriateness. For some, if an event is not posted on social media, it might as well not have happened. A virtual audience, however small, has become essential to every milestone.

I wonder what this says about those of us who live in Miami. The Magic City can lay claim to being the third selfiest city in the world, with 155 selfie-takers per 100,000 people, according to a study of Instagram pictures by Time magazine. Only Manila (Makati City, specifically) and Manhattan beat us out. Maybe we’re prompted by our year-round good weather. Or by our enviable beach bods. Or … or … I don’t want to consider the alternative.

Think of the selfie as the self-portrait of our age. A self-portrait with the power of pixels and the force of the internet. We are, hands down, the most photographed and videotaped generation to ever live. And while I admit this is a boon for grandparents, the ability to share anything and everything with a virtual audience has elicited considerable teeth-gnashing. Some worry that we run the danger of collective narcissism.

That may not be too far from the truth. It’s one thing to record memories for private use and quite another to share, share, share. And then share some more. We seem to need approval more than ever these days.

Intentionally or not, selfies have been making news. Last week, Disney banned selfie-sticks — those arm-extending poles — from its parks, citing safety concerns. Then tourists in Tunisia came under fire after posing for selfies at the beach where an ISIS gunman had massacred 38 people. In Washington, the White House, recognizing the unlimited number of photo ops, lifted its prohibition of selfies and videos. And MasterCard announced a pilot program that will allow online shoppers to take photos of themselves for authentication to reduce fraud.

Everybody, you see, takes selfies. You. Me. Michelle Obama and her daughters. Hillary and Chelsea (no last name needed.) Astronauts in space. Dwayne “The Rock’’ Johnson, who set a Guinness World Record for the most self-portraits in May. And the sovereign of selfies, Kim Kardashian, who has a new book of selfies, appropriately titled Selfish.

In other words, selfies are here to stay. They’ve become scrapbook, chronicle and semi-official record of our times. Not a bad thing for future historians who may be amused — and alarmed — by the rampant exhibitionism of the digital age.

Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.

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