20/20

Changing the Game

With the 2014 Winter Olympics fast approaching, curling athletes are vigorously busy with last minute training, countless celebrities are vilifying Russia’s anti-gay laws from the safety of their Twitter accounts, and the #SelfieOlympics have taken over the internet. The new selfie game encourages Twitter and Instagram users to compete in creating elaborate, bizarre bathroom selfies. The prize is ephemeral internet popularity.

The game can be divided into two distinct categories. The first requires participants to contort themselves into complex, extremely uncomfortable positions in a bathroom. The true challenge of this category lies not in achieving the pose itself, but rather in the careful placement of the phone in an attempt to perfectly capture the crucial moment. A slip of the hand could send one’s phone crashing to the floor or into the toilet. Yet like any Olympic athlete, one must make sacrifices.

While the second category may require less body strength, it almost certainly demands more creativity. Using household props, one must carefully craft a scene within the bathroom for the mirror selfie. Cramming as many random props into the bathroom won’t earn anyone Selfie Olympics prestige. Rather, there should be a distinguishable mise-en-scène. Props should help craft a narrative.

We could easily criticize the selfie trend as the latest and greatest devolution of mankind. After all, we’re still recovering from tOxford English Dictionary’s selection of “selfie” as its word of the year in 2013.

Have we really reached such a point of desperation that we must resort to taking photos of ourselves “kayaking” in the bathroom to get attention? Do we really believe someone performs the splits between the bathroom counter and door as they brush their teeth?

Alternatively, the Selfie Olympics provide unintentional commentary on selfie culture and the superficiality of “candid” photos. Arguably, selfies are taken as casual presentations of ourselves. As I snap a photo of myself in the mirror and share it, I’m attempting to create a sense of spontaneity and intimacy with my audience. I’m sharing a brief moment—a snippet of what I see in my everyday life—and showing it to you.

Of course, the intention of a selfie is different from its execution. We see Kim Kardashian’s latest selfie and understand that it’s not actually spontaneous or intimate. The latest photo she posted of herself on Instagram is a product of tedious layers of makeup, a carefully planned pose in the right lighting, and the most fitting filter.

Viewing her selfie requires a suspension of disbelief. We accept the illusion of familiarity with Kim Kardashian when we follow her on Instagram and like her selfies, though, in reality, the distance between us and Kardashian remains the same.

The Selfie Olympics rejects the plausibility of a spontaneous and casual moment. The most outstanding competitors confront the illusion of selfie culture through a celebration of forced absurdity.

The most popular participants aren’t attracting thousands of likes for their attractiveness or fame—but rather for creative use of space, attention to detail, and dexterity. The Selfie Olympics is an art form, and I applaud the competitors for challenging the limits of a superficial social construct. They are #winning the selfie game. 

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