Writer’s block Society

Happy 2017! But why do you pout?

Tourists pose for a risky selfie near at the Avalanchi dam near Udhagamandalam, Tamil Nadu. — FILE Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy

Tourists pose for a risky selfie near at the Avalanchi dam near Udhagamandalam, Tamil Nadu. — FILE Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy   | Photo Credit: M. Sathyamoorthy

I took my first selfie 11 years ago when I had just created my blog and needed a profile picture to go with it. It was taken with a webcam that was slightly bigger than a ping-pong ball, and whose resolution was poorer than the camera of the cheapest phone you get today. But the fact that you could take your own picture at the click of the mouse was mighty exciting, and so, purely in memory of those happy days, I have retained that picture on my blog, even though I barely resemble the man in it.

Thereafter, I took countless other selfies with the conventional camera, especially when wife and I would travel: I would put one arm around her and hold the camera with the other, pointing the lens in our direction and — with some mental calculation — making sure we were in the frame. Since we couldn’t see ourselves on the display screen, we did not adjust our hair or alter our expressions to look our best: we merely smiled and looked at the lens. Some of our happiest pictures — whether spontaneously happy or happily spontaneous, I am not sure — were self-clicked in this fashion.

So, what the kids are doing today, I have been doing for more than a decade now; only that I did not know back then that such a self-clicked photograph would soon acquire a name, recognised by even the Oxford dictionary: selfie. Needless to say, the venerated dictionary, in keeping with the changing times, defines the ‘selfie stick’ as well, that too with great clarity: ‘A device in the form of a rod on which a camera or a smartphone may be mounted, enabling the person holding it to take a photograph of themselves from a wider angle than if holding the camera or smartphone in their hand.’

Selfies are a way of life today. Many of us aren’t even sure whether we live to selfie — or selfie to live? I have taken the liberty to use selfie as a verb because that’s how it is, isn’t it? I mean, the smartphone-owning society is split into two these days: people who live healthy so that they look naturally good when selfies are taken, and people who feel healthy when their selfies earn widespread admiration on social media.

I don’t know which category I belong to, but I would certainly find it very worrisome if I appeared to be ‘smart’ and ‘fit’ — even if not so in real life — with the help of the lens. The lens is capable of lying through its teeth, provided you know in which angle to hold the phone: a tubby man, therefore, can look trim — and once the ‘likes’ start pouring in, he actually begins to believe that he is in great shape when he isn’t.

We now live in a world of illusions — or maya — something that the sages had always cautioned us against: a protruding tummy looks flat, whereas a perfect pair of feminine lips protrudes. Tonight, when you go partying, no matter where you go, look around: you will find countless pairs of lips protruding as the cameras are turned into the selfie mode — that is, if you are already not among those who like to pout.

The practice has become so common that no one any longer bats an eyelid when they find a young woman suddenly stopping in the middle of anywhere and aiming the phone at herself to pout at the screen. As for the woman, during those few moments she spends clicking selfies, she becomes so oblivious to the people around her, as if she were in front of the restroom mirror.

But: why pout when clicking a selfie? That, to me, shall remain the unanswered question from 2016, even as I wish you a Happy 2017.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 11:21:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/Happy-2017-But-why-do-you-pout/article16963594.ece

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