George Kourounis is the most recent person to have taken “but first, let me take a selfie” a little too far. This Canadian adventurer extraordinaire and Angry Planet documentary series host descended into a boiling lava lake within Vanuatu’s Ambrym volcano called the Marum Crater with his producer Sam Cossman and a GoPro camera. He documented his descent via Twitter on Aug. 27, and shared a panorama shot from 1,200 feet above the lava lake before taking his (literally) smoking-hot selfie.
What this man did is nothing short of courageous (some would even say this was downright insane), but let’s give him some credit here: the whole event itself is pretty unreal. I mean, when was the last time you were able to say that you got so close to a volcano that your GoPro camera melted due to the heat radiating from within? However, after stripping away the spectacular scenery, his bravery, and possibly a filter, what we’re left with is the very core of a massive shift in culture.
The notion of the selfie has swept North American culture like a virus. Scrolling through my Facebook and Instagram feed, I am blatantly reminded of what people look like with a filter slapped onto their picture and how important this seems to be to preteens, teenagers and young adults alike. While I am not saying that the older generation is immune to this phenomenon, but we are more likely to see these types of self-portraits from the generation that is the most technologically literate.
So what does this tell us? One could easily say that we are too self-absorbed but that’s just the beginning of it. This selfie culture is quite complicated and expands into questions of identity, acceptance and validation, self-worth, and attempting to brand a certain image as your own. Even more so, it seems to all boil down to one very phrase that often takes a toll on one’s self-esteem: I just want to be noticed.
Tales of woe and anguish aside, it’s a common desire to stand out from the crowd and have people look and shout, “Hey, I know you! You’re that girl or guy”. If you can’t make this happen via real-life situations, why not brand yourself over social media?
Using apps, social platforms and blogs are convenient, and you can reach a larger number of people than you could if you were simply strolling down the halls of Mackenzie Chown trying to make something out of yourself.
Think about it; you’re wearing a cute outfit today but you didn’t get to walk through the high traffic areas at Brock so you take a selfie, a mirror one that is, use the Squaready app for cropping and filters, add a couple hashtags and emojis that don’t even relate to the picture, and voila: you’re one step closer to being known as one of the best-dressed students on campus. That is – granted you get as many likes as the next person – since, let’s be honest, we get a little disappointed when we don’t receive as many likes as we thought we had deserved.
So I might have over-exaggerated that one, but what the pictures you take say about how fashionable you are, or how athletic you are (speaking directly to you fitness enthusiasts with those all too familiar flex poses) is not much different than what Kourounis did with his volcano selfie.
Similarly, Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie with A-listers such as Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, and Julia Roberts has literally become known as the selfie to end all selfies. Who knew a selfie could receive 3.3 million retweets, 2 million favourites and amass a worth of $1 billion dollars according to Hollywood Reporter – not to mention this quick-to-fame image ‘broke’ Twitter.
It’s all about getting noticed whether you are become known as the volcano man, or part of the celebrity selfie. That being said, there are ways of getting your name out there other than through good ol’ virtual portraiture. Why not go out there, make conversation, build your real-life social networks and brand yourself that way? Go out into the world and be you in all your rawness and conviction… but after that selfie, I suppose.