June 28, 2013
Last week I was showing a visiting friend around Budapest’s Castle District which over looks the Danube. From the lofty viewing platform, my Portuguese pal Amelia snapped the stupendous panorama of the city. Beside us, a Japanese girl sat on steps and busied herself taking ‘selfies’ – resting her camera on a height, and posing for close ups of her face. It seemed a most peculiar thing to do. These are kind of pictures you could take at home sitting on your sofa (if you were so inclined) why on earth would you come to one of the most beautiful spots in Europe for such poses. The girl and the photos her camera took were oblivious to her awe-inspiring surroundings, beyond the effect the light may have had on her visage.
The view she was missing
I was intrigued if somewhat taken aback by this vanity, so I took pictures of her posing. Later that evening this her self focus became a topic of conversation over dinner with friends. Is the ‘selfie’ is a symptom of the self-absorption of modern kids? Not at all said a friend, it is simply that the Internet has become the new ‘ballroom’ where young people market their physical wares in the hopes of finding a mate – and for this end, you’ve got to have the best shots and the most interesting pictures of yourself. Therefore ‘here’s me’ is not as good as ‘here’s me in Budapest’ – even if you don’t see any of Budapest.
Then it struck me that I’m already a key player in this new ‘ballroom’, I too have set out my wares – even if mating is not the goal. I have this blog, a Facebook and Twitter account – and they’re all shouting about me. We’re all self-promoting. We’re all shouting. But are we missing out on what’s around us by doing so? Are we forgetting to live because we’re too busy blogging, tweeting, FBing etc… Hmmm…
Which leads me to my new radio play, ‘The Daffodil’ about a self-obsessed narcissist intent on winning the Eurovision. Oh, but that is another story…
From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Lincoln. Her book on theatre literary management is published by Routledge, December 2022.
Sue is an award-winning writer for stage, TV, and prose writer.
Her current project, a 6x60minute TV series, is under option. She is under commission with Lone Wolf Media, producers behind PBS’ “Mercy Street”, to co-write the pilot and treatment for a six-part TV series.
Her most recent stage-play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Sue’s short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts).
Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm.
Sue has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy.
An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus.
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June 28th, 2013 at 19:53
This is an interesting concept. There’s a commercial here advertizing a phone and every person in it is taking a photo of them self, ending with a little girl in her bedroom with a bunny suit I think, and then she looks at it and cracks up. It’s rather cute. I see kids doing this everywhere. What is behind her in the photos of her sitting sideways on the steps? Someone else is taking a photo in that direction. Hopefully she at least had a great background.
June 28th, 2013 at 20:31
Thanks for this Sue, I’ve been seeing these selfies a lot recently – obviously a youth thing. I like your opening portrait of the girl with her camera – that’s a beautiful shot. It also caught my eye because she’s using my camera – she obviously borrowed it from my drawer while I wasn’t looking! I rarely photograph myself. I’d look stupid anywhere, even Budapest.
You raise an interesting point – there’s a danger that in self promoting we’re not leaving enough time to be doing anything worth talking about – except of course your new Radio play (and good luck with that). I’m a great fan the Eurovision thing.
June 28th, 2013 at 21:52
She was missing that view?! Is this the new ballroom? Perhaps, but it is also a way impossible before of holding hands across the world with strangers and learning we really are all not so different.
June 29th, 2013 at 00:03
Her hat is cute. I thought your post would be about the hat. Maybe she is a crafty type modeling her new crochet creation to sell on her webpage.
June 29th, 2013 at 03:02
I worry about the increasing narcissism encouraged by the internet and the various facets of “social media.:
June 29th, 2013 at 16:59
I can’t remember where I heard it. It might have been from a literature professor years and years ago, but he suggested learning to be unselfconscious as an important key to happiness. I couldn’t agree more. Being self-absorbed, we miss so much of the good stuff all around us.
July 4th, 2013 at 21:53
Just stumbled on your blog, here, and loved this post. I think all selfies are, by their nature, a little bit anal (with the exception perhaps of those sent to one’s mother to show her a pretty hat), but it’s a bit like nose-picking, it’s a rare person that doesn’t try it once/twice, and an unfortunate soul who gets papped and published in the process (enjoys evil cackle). As for blogging, tweeting etc, I suppose it depends — does it detract from our “real life” time or is it a prompt to observe real life more mindfully, a valuable time of reflection and sharing? I have no idea, but it’s probably healthier than smoking.
September 1st, 2013 at 12:31
The worst example of this I’ve (yet) seen was in May at the Grand Canyon, a place of such mind-blowing beauty, peace and silence. A woman and her husband/partner spent the entire sunset posing, using the GC and its changing light and color as a backdrop (!) for her inane posing with a scarf whipping in the wind. Excuse the language, but WTF? I found this almost obscene.
I think selfies are fun, but never at the expense of just being somewhere.