Would the selfie as such have managed to establish itself as a cultural practice! And therefore as a form of resistance to the established order?
In the future, everyone will have the right to 15 minutes of world star status
Who has not experienced such an accident? Whether it’s in front of the Taj Mahal, the Château de Chambord or the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, the same smiles have inevitably hardened in front of the digital screen. And of course back to the decor. When it is not clouds of poles that pollute the environment and prevent you from any quiet contemplation of the visited place. Welcome to the world of selfies. Unless your name is Hibernatus, you do not need to remember the principle : we take our picture, we post on social networks … and we do not even look at that work or that landscape.
Although this practice, which some call Instagrammable tourism, is now common, its invention on the other hand is very old. In fact, the first selfie would have been taken in 1839 by Robert Cornelius, American photographic pioneer.
Which roads we traveled ever since. Selfie was named Word of the Year in 2013 by Oxford Dictionaries, which is the reference work in English. That same year he appeared in Le Petit Larousse. In addition, practice has generated a very specific vocabulary. “Duck face” when you have a beaked mouth. Or even “Wellfie” if you choose to show off your muscles. My favorite ? “Bookshelfie”, that is, photographing oneself with a library in the background.
Selfies in tourist marketing
Etourisme.info has already on several occasions examined the area of the tourist institution and its use of this form of communication. From 2014 thanks to Ludovic Dublanchet, with significant contributions from Jean-Luc Boulin (2015) and Margot Perroy (2017).
So why return? First of all, to note the development of this use and its effects, direct, indirect and induced. So to marvel at the hidden significance of this now common practice.
First an observation. In addition to tourism, it is now the cultural world that has taken hold of the phenomenon. Budapest, Los Angeles, Stockholm, London, Montreal … Dedicated to the “science, art and culture of self-representation”, selfie museums are popping up around the world. Originally temporary in the form of “pop-up” installations, these resorts have multiplied and some have even become sedentary. No works of art are exhibited here. The principle of these “instagramable” museums? Give to see each other.
Still in the culture department, remember that in 2014 #MuseumSelfieDay was launched, the world selfie day at museums (every 16 January).
On the tourism side, we therefore no longer count the number of competitions, selfie events and other XXL selfies implemented by the various institutional levels of tourism promotion. It’s hard to be original now. Aside from breaking the codes of goodwill, which New Zealand did just in 2021 with a communications campaign that resolutely makes fun of Instagrammers who are eager for the same places to pose. This campaign, called “Do Something New”, encourages visitors, primarily New Zealanders themselves, to break free from the trends that social networks bring.
And if finally the question underpinned by this communication campaign was the following: Instagram posts do not threaten the ecosystem in the most beautiful places on the planet? But there is perhaps even more serious …
Be careful, the selfie kills.
Because if travelers choose their destinations based on Instagrammable sites, they love the photos taken with the wildlife at said destinations. Like exotic animals. Who, you will have understood, has nothing to do in this galley, especially since they are forced to do so, often at the expense of enormous suffering. In the tropical forest of the Amazon, for example, we see the birth of the intensive exploitation of sloths, which the natives tear from their wild habitat to force them to live in a hostile environment, in permanent contact with tourists. It is also to increase their awareness that a “Travel Selfie Code” was created. France is not spared. Thus in the Pyrenees National Park, agents advise visitors to avoid selfies with cows …
At the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, it is common to see young people take a huge smile in their selfies, perform in the maze or sit on the concrete memorial stones. Very interesting reaction in 2017 to the obvious lack of respect from these visitors, the Yolocaust.de project, a contraction of the phrase “Yolo” (“You only live once”) and the word Holocaust. Israeli artist Shahak Shapira once used photo montages to place some of these photographers in mass graves or death camps. Fantastically guaranteed.
New playground for selfie lovers, the Chernobyl site. Especially since the success of the “Chernobyl” series (broadcast in France on OCS). The city of Pripyat in Ukraine, which is closest to the facility, has therefore become the epicenter of a new genre, nuclear tourism. So much so that series creator Craig Mazin asked fans to be respectful on social media.
Finally the photographers.
It is estimated that selfies kill five times more people than shark attacks. According to a study conducted by the Spanish foundation iO, and as reported by the weekly magazine Le Point, selfie deaths today represent a real public health problem. Between January 2008 and July 2021, 379 deaths were recorded under these circumstances, which is an average of one case every 13 days. The first country in this spooky hit parade, India. The United States and Russia complete the podium.
A macabre anthology of young lives sacrificed on the altar of selfies.
But would the selfie then have become the antithesis of responsible tourism? In short, are we complicit in this Disneylandization of tourism?
To avoid any arbitrary positioning, it is necessary to return to the sources of this practice.
Selfie, cultivation of individualism …
” Is it really relevant in tourism just to get someone to take a selfie without showing off the beauty of the destination? I personally do not think so says Bruno Maltor, travel blogger, followed by more than 1.3 million people.
Author Stéphane Audeguy goes on to say: ” the selfie is a strange and terrible victory for tourist individualism. He notices the ubiquity of the forced smile on this type of image and this claim of no longer being able to discover a site without even appearing there. ” Here we have become promoters and merchants of ourselves. » This generalization seems to signal the abandonment of our own singularity.
This staging of the self, to be disseminated in a limited or extended community, would therefore, above all, be a narcissistic practice. Besides, it’s not called “self-portrait” in Quebec? As early as 1979, sociologist Christopher Lasch spoke of ” the culture of narcissism »; young people, the main providers of selfies, would therefore have ” the language of the self for mother tongue (Jean M. Twenge). Similarly, this immense use of a permanently documented and widespread life would be the symptom of contemporary narcissism with its self-culture favored by social networks; the symbol of a fall that our civilization would undergo. Here we see that moral judgment anticipates any justified attempt at appreciation.
selfie. Smile, you’re doomed …
Or act of resistance?
Sharing a selfie is actually a social act that means membership of a group. And again, ” The self is another (Rimbaud). For what counts, more than the motive, is the frame. Who I am with, where I am, what I do … In addition, the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu talked about the aesthetic dimension of photos as early as 1965 about ” the unique adventure for him who took them. So what if the main function of the selfie was ultimately to participate in the identity formation of that subject? And the division is just showing up. Because this very way of creating a self-image is determined neither by adults (regarding teenagers) nor by the cultural corpus. We know, especially through the work of Pierre Bourdieu, that culture is a tool for social dominance. So, ” The selfie has been bannered for the powerful movement that strengthens cultural practices encouraged by the digital transition (André Gunthert).
Thus, the selfie would have managed to impose itself as a cultural practice as such! And therefore as a form of resistance to the established order? Take Ridley Scott’s iconic 1991 film “Thelma and Louise”. Do we not see two women, tired of submission and full of freedom, waving an arm-length polaroid to take what was not yet called a selfie?
As we can see, this topic is not done making a lot of ink flow …