「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


Selfie? Sure, but not all the time

By Tan Ying Zhen


I confess: I enjoy the occasional selfie.

"Selfie," Oxford Dictionaries' Word of the Year 2013, refers to a self-portrait usually taken with a smart phone. It may be uploaded to a social media app such as Facebook or Instagram. At this year's Oscars, popular host Ellen DeGeneres tweeted a selfie with Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt and other actors and actresses. It instantly went viral.

The publicity buzz generated shows how much people identify with selfies. Selfies have become increasingly common, especially among the young. Open the photo gallery in any young person's phone, and you will probably find selfies taken every other day.

Taken to the extreme, selfies may become an addiction. A British teenager, Danny Bowman, apparently spent 10 hours a day taking up to 200 selfies on his phone. He became so obsessed with taking the perfect selfie that he even dropped out of school and became aggressive when his parents tried to stop him.

Fortunately, this is an isolated case rather than the norm. However, some mental health experts have speculated on a link between selfies and mental illness such as body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD. A person with BDD is overly concerned with body image and the perceived flaws in his or her looks.

Perhaps all this talk about addiction and obsession is why I feel a little sheepish about taking selfies. I did not grow up with a smart phone or digital camera, and I started taking selfies only in my university years. My friends and I rely on selfies only when no one is available to take a photo of us. It is also a sign of intimacy, as I only take selfies with people I'm happy to allow into my personal space.

However, the more selfies I take, the more I see the value in other types of photographs. Candid shots, for instance, are great for capturing people in their most natural state. They may not be as flattering as selfies, but there is something innately charming about preserving such unadorned moments.

Even for posed shots, there is value in having someone else take a photograph of you. I remember a man in Tofukuji in Kyoto, who parked himself beside a particular stunning maple tree, and offered to take photographs for other people enjoying the autumn foliage. I also recall a holiday in Madrid, when an American tourist asked me to take a photograph of her family. We enjoyed a short chat afterwards. The interaction between the photographed and photographer becomes a part of the picture and memory.

Will I continue to take selfies? Of course. But I will enjoy taking other types of photographs too, for a variety is surely needed to put together a beautiful tapestry of memories.



The Japan Times ST: May 16, 2014

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2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版