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Generation Selfie

The galloping popularity of the selfie  has  pushed industry to take note -- and respond with the right technology
By Anand Parthasarathy
The classic image of the Buddha has him seemingly looking into himself . 'Contemplating his  navel',  was supposed to concentrate the mind  and prevent confusion.  One might think   the millions of selfies captured and posted on the Web's social media sites indicate some sort of  mass  sharpening of minds.  And one would be wrong. The current selfie craze  is  more  about  a  narcissistic  preoccupation  with self  -- rather than  self realization. In other words it's all about I, Me & Myself ,  sorry, My Selfie.
Not so long ago, getting into a photo that you were taking,  meant setting the self timer in a camera  and  racing to join the group,  before the shutter clicked.  At tourist spots,  those who wanted a photo with their loved ones,   thought nothing about handing over their camera to a fellow tourist to click that keep-sake image. The result was usually a well composed  image with you, your companion and  the Taj or  Charminar  or the Singapore Merlion,  nicely in focus.  
Now people  whip out their phones,  click on the front camera -- and  do-it-yourself:  The result:  millions of  skewed, distorted  images of people grinning like devils.  There seems to  be an unwritten,  globally accepted rule,  that you are expected to  make a fool of yourself  when you click a selfie. It was not always so. In fact the first selfie  that still exists, dates back to 1839, when a Robert Cornelius of Philadelphia, shot a shaky self image.  
By 2012, Time magazine had rated  'selfie'  one of the Top Ten buzzwords. And in November 2013, it was the Oxford English Dictionary, Word of the Year.
The most famous selfie ever taken   is more recent -- the  group of stars captured by host  Ellen Degeneres at the 2014 Oscars.   It was re-tweeted 2 million times before the event was over. "If only Bradley ( Cooper)'s arm was longer!",  Ellen  lamented  when she  could get only  12 actors in the picture.  She should have done what any selfie-addict would have done -- used a selfie stick.
With a handle at one end  and an adjustable clamp at the other, to hold the phone, today's selfie sticks  let you position the camera 30-70 cms away   and with some of the  wide angle lenses that cameras  boast today ( see box: Selfie-friendly phones) , you can  easily fit 20 friends in the frame -- via wireless bluetooth.
A casual search on Indian e-tailing sites will throw up dozens of self stick priced Rs 300 - 1000. Chennai-based   Zebronics has recently launched one of the pricier ( Rs 999)  models  the ZEB-SS100  with a Bluetooth shutter release,  and  5 telescopic rods  that stretch to a full  79 cms.  The most compact selfie stick I have seen is  the one on sale at e-bazar ninja  which collapses to  palm-size and costs Rs 499. You know selfie sticks have gone mainstream when even the big name camera makers  get into the act:  Nikon launched its own stick, the foam handled   N-MP001, earlier this year.
Most sticks come preinstalled with software to work with leading makes of Android or iOS phones. But if you have an odd phone which doesn't, you can always download Camera 360 or one of its clones, a popular app that has become  the de facto  standard  powering  selfie sticks.
Over -enthusiastic selfie stick artists   have  caused some grief to   fellow  humans and  surroundings,  by their aggressive stick work. So they are today banned from many museums and public amusement parks ( and an entire nation: South Korea).  But where ever allowed,   these narci-sticks  are finding new and innovative uses. Last week in New York,  at the Reem Acra 2016  Fall  Bridal  fashion show,   models  sported  a Swarovski jewel-encrusted  selfie stick  ( with matching headphones)   which will set back prospective brides a full 500 dollars ( Rs 32,500). Who needs a shaadi-ka-photographer, when the bride records it herself?
And  a new video posted on YouTube entitled  Selfie Stick Aerobics  invites you to practice some high energy selfie admiration, by recording your  moves ,  as you  work-out.  If you don't like what you click  -- you need  to exercise some more!   
Bangalore, October 19 2015