Selfies are Bad, Selfies are Good, and Why We Ruin Everything Cool

First there was this (I’m posting the Simpsons version ’cause it’s way funnier):


And now, to no one’s surprise, it is a full fledged meme:



No doubt, at your next staff meeting, business function, or wedding reception, you will be gathered in front of someone’s phone to assert your coolness too. If you are sensing exasperation in my voice, you are very perceptive. I’m not feeling this way because I have any general problem with selfies. In fact, I’ve taken many selfies myself, and am essentially a fan of the way I’ve seen youth (namely, my students) use them to spread joy and express intimacy with one another. I’ve believed for a long time that we spend far too much energy with our time-honoured hand wringing over elements of youth culture like this. Today, though, after seeing Kimmel and the Clintons ‘spontaneously remix’ the Ellen selfie, I am distinctly¬†#SMH. I apologize in advance for the sarcasm, but I have some questions to ask.

How do you think that Oscar selfie would have been received if a group of ‘gangsta rappers’ had snapped it?

So, the youth of today aren’t going to hell in a hand basket anymore?

How come we never see dominant cultures take something, once demonized and labelled as immature, innapropriate, and classless, and reappropriate it for their own benefit? Oh wait..

Are we basically ok with anything as long as the people doing it represent our own sensibilities?


spice up your inbox

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to receive new posts right into your inbox!


  1. says

    This is how culture works. There are certain dominant cultural values embedded in anything mainstream culture produces. Anyone who doesn’t subscribe to those values produces something else, something new, which challenges those values. In music we can go all the way from the birth of rock and roll to rap and so on. Slowly mainstream culture appropriates those forms and changes what they mean. Digital remix culture is no exception to this. Selfies are no longer cool. We can now start taking ironic seflies to mock how passe they are. Next please.

    • royanlee says

      I feel like the turnover rate of adults ruining stuff for kids is a lot faster these days:) For instance, I just read that some teens are choosing to have conversations in random blog post comments just to get privacy!

      • says

        Just look at the use of Facebook confession pages and more recently platforms like YikYak, Whisper & Rumour. All about trying to carve out “private” online spaces. As online culture goes mainstream where are the spaces for teens and young adults to engage in self-creation without fear of consequences or appropriation? Nothing makes something lame faster than your parents liking it. At least MSM hasn’t discover 4chan yet.

  2. says

    Seriously, I am giving you a standing ovation of one in my dining room right now. To me, it is exactly as you put it in your closing sentence. I actually got cranky at the Kimmel/Jon Hamm photo bombing, because I was trying to figure out how I would explain it to my in-laws, who have minimal knowledge of celebrity culture. ” so, there’s this rude thing that kids like to do, where the jump into a picture someone else is taking, and ruin it. And so these two famous guys decided it would be really funny to do that to a bunch of people’s pictures, and film it”. And we turned it into a viral sensation? Because those people meet our (twisted) criteria for role models, it’s okay to do what they’re doing.

    I think it’s worth having the conversation with our students, and looking at the fact that this always happens, and seeing what they think. Do they think it’s cool when Cumberbatch emulates them by photobombing U2 on the Oscar red carpet, or is it just embarrassing watching old people try and be cool.

    And for the record, I had no idea what 4chan was until I read Danah’s book. :)

  3. Briley Lovett says

    I really enjoyed reading about this because selfies are big today. I honestly think that there is a time and play that it is appropriate for people to take selfies. I enjoyed reading the comment above me from Lisa. I also do believe that it is rude for people to jump into your pictures especially in a professional environment.

Leave a Comment!