Selfies: Just trying to save face?

By Eva Bradley

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Would you spend 48 minutes each day primping and preening in pursuit of the perfect picture?
Would you spend 48 minutes each day primping and preening in pursuit of the perfect picture?

There's been a column building up in me for quite some time now, much in the same way steam and pressure build up in a pot of boiling potatoes when the lid's left on on tight.

And I know the subject is a polarising one, and you'll either love me or loathe me. No, it's not about Trump versus Clinton. Been there, made my friends and enemies on that one.

And it's far worse than that shady subject, anyway.

I'm talking about selfies.

A phenomenon that snuck up on us a little like Jaws, the hobby of taking pictures of oneself and posting them online has reached the point where 17 million are uploaded to various social media platforms each week, the main culprits being females aged between 16 and 25.

Staggeringly, a study has found this group to spend an average of 48 minutes each day primping and preening in pursuit of the perfect picture. That's more than five hours every week.

Thankfully I sit well outside the demographic and spend most of my time around people being paid to take professional photos of them. This means (you'd hope) that my exposure to the selfie stick would perhaps be more limited than, say, a high school teacher or parent of teenage girls.

But being on holiday in a densely populated part of Asia for a few weeks has revealed just how pervasive the awful "art" of selfie-taking has become.

And to be clear, here, I don't mean happy travelers grabbing a quick shot of themselves in front of iconic or beautiful scenery.

Ohhhhhhh no. No no no no no no.

What I'm talking about is women in the hideous throes of a full flight of unchecked public vanity, flicking their hair, pouting and dipping their shoulders seductively, throwing their necks out to get the most slimming angles and generally carrying on like they're Cara Delevingne for Dolce & Gabbana's spring collection.

And all this without the slightest self-awareness of how ridiculous they look to the many people around them or the impact their flagrant performances might be having on others.

This week I had the awesome opportunity to experience sunrise at Angkor Wat, the world's largest temple and a world heritage site.

This was a moment for peaceful contemplation, for wonder at the spiritual commitment of civilisations past. For many it was an unrepeatable opportunity to photograph one of the most spectacular sights on earth.

Well, it would have been if there hadn't been so much hair being flicked in front of my lens by the masses of iPhone-wielding young women who also believed themselves to be shooting the most spectacular sight on earth, though it sure wasn't Angkor Wat.

At what point does a public display of vanity cross the line of public decency?

In the same way a bloke can scratch his crotch in public but generally doesn't, women must ask themselves if it's really appropriate to stage their own model shoot with the world looking on.

The universe and everything good that's in it depends on balance and self-confidence is an admirable trait. But when it takes up 48 minutes of your day and is mostly in pursuit of the kind of vapid social endorsement found in generating "likes" on Facebook and Instagram, is it time to ask if you wouldn't be better off putting down the camera phone and observing the beauty and wonder in the real world instead of the manufactured created on your newsfeed?

- Eva Bradley is a photographer and columnist.

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