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Selfies, Psychopaths and Godwin’s Law

Selfie at work 2007It has been a bit of a mixed run for selfies of late. The word “selfie” recently made it into the dictionary, the “selfie stick” was introduced and, according to a study published by Ohio State University, men who frequently post these inartistic self-portraits just might be psychopaths.

A headline in my Google News feed today tells me that one of the Kardashians picks Jesus as the person with whom she would most like to take a selfie. (Didn’t we used to name a person we would choose to have over for dinner and a conversation?)

Listen to this outtake from my favorite NPR program, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me: Paula Poundstone discovers the magic of the selfie stick. (This and other podcasts from the show are available free from National Public Radio.)

Shouldn’t we be almost done with selfies by now? Planking had its moment. Tebowing, cat bearding and the Harlem Shake have come and gone. The ALS ice bucket challenge ran its course. But the selfie craze is the unkillable zombie of cultural memes.

Selfie at Target Center 2010I confess that I have not been immune. The photo at the top of this page–taken at a productive moment at work in 2007–was probably my first selfie, though I’m not sure I was doing it correctly. To the right is a selfie Joann and I took at a 2010 Timberwolves game.

I have tried to cut back. I use my phone these days to make phone calls. Generally no one answers, so I sometimes resort to text messages. But I do not take selfies.[1]

No one else is cutting back, it seems. I still attend Timberwolves games.[2] and at any given time about 10 percent of the crowd is standing up, facing away from the court and smiling into camera phones. My Facebook feed is full of selfies of people whose faces I am not likely to forget anytime soon even without these helpful reminders.

Godwin’s law asserts that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1″—​ that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism. It is claimed that this first invocation of Hitler or Nazism ends the argument. The person who attempts to buttress his case with “you are Nazi scum and your mustache would look good on Hitler” loses the argument.[3]

Can Godwin’s law be invoked to end cultural memes? Perhaps this ignorant [Jane Curtin] has done the trick:

Selfie at Auschwitz

You just have to love the “smiley face” kaomoji. Or not. God, I hope she isn’t an American.

We can only hope this is the beginning of the end of the Age of Selfies.

Breaking news:

Plane crash blamed on selfie

Selfie news


  1. Well, I don’t actually have the strength or the coordination necessary to hold my phone and snap a photo, so of course I don’t. [^]
  2. If I had any brains at all, I would be cutting back on the number of Timberwolves games I watch. [^]
  3. I cribbed most of this paragraph from the Wikipedia page on Godwin’s law. It makes interesting reading. [^]

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