I want to shut down the Kool Aid stand
Oh, Robin G, you 19-year-old Parisian. I see from your LookBook.nu page that you’re a self-described “aesthete” and a student. What are you studying, I wonder? Can’t be anything too rigorous, I imagine. After all, you’ve found the time to post 33 pictures of yourself in fashionable outfits. I’d think that must take some time. After all, it’s not just putting on the clothes. You have rustle up a friend to take the pictures of you. No iPhone-in-the-bathroom-mirror-self-portraits for you, no sir. You’re class all the way, getting shot in parks, in front of fountains, leaning against a white wall with peeling paint that perfectly complements your distressed tee and faded jeans. Talk about good location scouting!
But the work doesn’t end there, does it, Robin? No, no. You have to go home and choose which picture of you you like the best, the one that captures that je ne sais quoi, that insouciance you’re trying so desperately hard to project. Have you found it? Good. But you’re still not done yet, are you? Now you have to think of a clever little title for this picture, something random and cool sounding like “Take me there,” or “I meant that you can come back.” It must be so nerve wracking and stressful, picking out a name. How do you know when you’ve found the right one? Must be instinct. Well, at least you’re nearly finished. All that’s left is for you to upload the picture of yourself that you had taken, tag every item of clothing you are wearing so everyone can know where you bought it, and wait for the compliments of your good taste to come rolling in. ” I just love you, <3,” says Mattie N. “Love everything about this look, and your hair looks really good!” comments Charles Olivier W. And it’s not just those two. You have 4,199 fans, 668 comments, and 23,829 units of karma (whatever that means). Wow. Keeping on top of all of this must be exhausting!
I don’t mean to pick on poor Robin. He’s just one piece of a systemic problem that I believe is getting worse and worse–narcissism. It seems that many members of my generation are absolutely convinced that they are special and everything they do deserves attention and applause. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LookBook, Yelp, FourSquare—everything has to be shared, recognized, and commented upon. At the heart of it is this drive for association and influence. So many people are finding validation in the number of followers, friends and subscribers they have. Meet someone at a party and talk to them for five minutes? You best expect a friend request waiting for you the next day. Go shopping at Hollister and American Eagle and walk out with bags of crap? Better post a video on YouTube to show the world what you bought. Because you are special.
I’m not saying I’m not guilty of a few lapses in judgement in which I overshared things either too personal or too mundane. I’m not saying its wrong to want connections with other human beings or that there’s something inherently wrong with street style photography or blogs. They certainly wield tremendous influence and have a great demand. It’s the supply side of the equation that worries me. Who are these bloggers, these LookBook users, who spend their days taking pictures of themselves? It really, truly does frighten and disgust me. It’s one thing to take to the streets and capture all that inspires you in the world and in (or on, in this case) other people. It’s quite something else entirely to set the self-timer on your camera, run in front of the lens, put your hands on your hips and pout.