Dan Ariely writes a column, “Ask Ariely,” in The Wall Street Journal where he answers submitted questions with unique insight. I can’t describe his style—you have to read a few to see for yourself, but I am a fan of his and never miss his column.
A recent question from someone “past the selfie age group,” asked for an explanation of the selfie fascination (see my posting here of September 16, 2013). Dan was up to the task.
When we want to capture a special moment, for our memories or to share with others, the traditional way is to stop what we are doing, line up with friends or family in front of a memorable background, and ask a stranger to take our picture. (I am that available stranger as a volunteer at Longwood Gardens, over and over at every shift. I sometimes dream of countless digital shutter-beeps of the phone cameras.)
But when we line up like that, we are emotionally stepping out of the moment as we stand still and fake a smile for the camera. And it shows in the curiously joyless images that result.
Selfies keep us in the moment and even enhances it by getting us to squeeze closer together and look at ourselves onscreen in a common celebration of the shared experience. The smiles on a selfie may look silly, but they are certainly not faked. And the joy they show is contagious.