This article was originally published in Reel West Magazine, and was republished here to archive it, after the close of the magazine.
Enough with the selfies already! I cringed in 2013 when the Oxford Dictionary made ‘selfie’ the the word of the year. This can’t bode well, I thought to myself, but I never predicted it would get as bad as it has. Since then I’ve seen selfies at funerals and so many other inappropriate places. I thought this had to be a fad … these people have got to clue into what self-obsessed prats they look, when picture after picture of their instagram feeds are all of them. Don’t get me wrong, I love to see pictures of my friends and of the faces behind the stories I follow, but in moderation. 1 or 2 selfies for every 10 pictures, not 8 selfies for every 10 pictures, or 9 for 10, or 10 for 10! Sadly this selfie obsession isn’t slowing down, it’s speeding up. This year has seen the selfie obsessed reach an all time low – ringing in New Year’s Eve with selfies in front of a burning skyscraper in Dubai – causing two peacocks to die of fright at a zoo in China by grabbing them for selfies and violently plucking out their feathers – not to mention beach goers in Argentina killing a baby dolphin by passing it around for the selfie of a lifetime. Hello people! Do you not see something wrong with this picture???
Isn’t Kindergarten where we learn that it is not all about me! Well, guess what? The reality TV craze of the past few decades, in which we’ve transformed the Kardashians and Real Housewives of Wherever into the 21st century dream, has trampled over lessons learned. Leaving those poor Kindergarten teachers asking, “Where did I go wrong?”, as they pore another stiff drink.
They didn’t go wrong … rather we in the media did, by creating false idols and a celebrity crazed culture. And it isn’t just traditional media that is to blame, as the internet and social media are what has allowed it to go viral.
Having created celebrities on the internet, I’ll let you in on a little secret … *it’s called social media for a reason.* I created digital celebrities, by … wait for it … being social and using the digital celebrity I’d created as a conduit to shine a spotlight not on themselves, but on the communities around them. Others tried to copy what I’d done and failed. Why? Because they were actually trying to be a celebrity and create an ‘all about me universe’ for themselves. Whereas I was creating a story and building a community.
In the broadcast world’s desperate race to figure out the web, we aren’t helping matters. By reporters trying to be ‘internet cool’ and using the lingo while snapping selfies, they’ve just made this idiocy more mainstream. It is a sad state of affairs when as a broadcast journalism instructor, I have to explain to an aspiring journalism student that their instagram feed, filled with picture after picture of themselves, is telling the wrong story. Journalism is about other people’s stories, not your own. You need to turn the camera outwards.
The secret to success in the digital space that broadcasters are still struggling to figure out is not about broadcasting your message – it’s about being social – it’s about creating community. If you want an audience to take a stake in your series or film and get them invested in making you a success – take an interest in them, engage with them (around their content, as well as your own), and shine a spotlight on them. From a budgeting perspective this also makes your digital media more cost effective, as you don’t need to create all the content yourself. Look at what your community is doing that is beneficial to your story and shine a spotlight on them. Of course to do this, you need to turn the camera outwards.
Please, please, please – don’t worry if everyone else is on snapchat, as it’s the latest fad, forcing you to share in the moment. It’s okay not to spend your entire meal with friends filming their every bite, or rather than flying a kite with your niece and nephew, watching them do so through the camera lens. After all, if you’re spending your life observing the world through a camera lens (or in front of it, snapping selfies of your fabulous life), you are probably missing the story that is going on around you.
Don’t get me wrong, as storytellers we all make our livings looking through a camera lens, and we need to shoot the odd selfie to place ourselves within the story and to act as a conduit in connecting our audience with the community we are building a story around. But for me, that will only be the odd shot of me, as I don’t want to miss the story going on around me – the story that actually makes my writing, my photos, and my videos that much richer. So let’s raise a glass to our Kindergarten teachers and thank them for teaching us that it is not all about me, so that they may finally sit down next to us with pride and enjoy a pint!
As we at StoryToGo, love to turn the camera outwards and shine a spotlight on our community, we do hope you’ll join us online at @AhimsaMedia and with our hashtag #StoryToGo.