You can't turn on a TV or open a paper lately without hearing the word "selfie." It was the subject of a week's worth of reporting on the "Today" show, and last weekend, at the Oscars, Ellen DeGeneres and a lot of Hollywood types took a group selfie that almost brought down the Internet.
If you have never heard of a selfie, it's defined as "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website." (Also important to know: If you have really, truly never heard of the word selfie, the rest of us define you as a "dusty old fogie.")
That definition actually came from the Oxford Dictionary, which announced that its 2013 Word of the Year is ... wait for it ... selfie. This piece of news was surprising partly because up until the announcement, very few people realized there were still people out there making dictionaries. Clearly someone at the dictionary company is trying hard, like one of the Whos on Horton's flower, to let people know they're still here. But it was also a recognition that all the around the world, folks are spending way too much time posting pictures of themselves.
There was even a scientific study on selfies out of the City University of New York. Looking at selfies shared on Instagram (again, if that's a new word for you, you're a geezer) from major cities around the world, over a period of six months, they found that women, no surprise, take more selfies than men. In a weird twist, though, they found that after age 40, men take the lead and suddenly start taking more selfies than women do. This might be because women, who universally hate the way they look, get really good at hating their looks as they get older, while men, who generally are pretty pleased with themselves no matter what they look like, get even prouder as they get older.
I've done my own study of selfies, using my Facebook account, and found that nobody wants to look at pictures of men over 40, let alone pictures of a man over 50. When my wife posts pictures of the two of us on Facebook, they get ridiculous numbers of "likes." People I've never heard of post comments as if it was a picture of two cuddling puppies wearing top hats.
When I have posted a picture of myself alone, however, it's like a tree falling in a deserted forest. I can only imagine "friends" all across the country suddenly cringing and hitting the scroll button furiously to get to the next post.
Part of my problem with selfies stems from the fact that I am not, personally, all that photogenic (which is what not-very-good-looking people say when they see pictures of themselves and are confronted with what they actually, truly look like). I have a roundish balding head and a smallish chin, so if I take the picture from too high, all you get is forehead, like a pink balloon. From too low, all you get is my not-very-photogenic chin. If I hold my cell phone at just the right angle, and get the right lighting, it looks like a police mug shot of some forgotten 1970s star being booked for a DUI in Nevada.
The only real explanation in the rise of selfies among middle-aged dudes is that more and more of them, thanks to divorce, inflated egos and the wonders created by the major drug manufacturers, are back out on the market looking for love. (All across America this morning, women at their breakfast tables just cringed, and one or two of you just spat out your coffee.)
So, women of America, take pity on the aging men of America. Next time you're on Facebook and you see a pathetic selfie by some somewhat moldy middle-aged guy who ought to know better than to post his battered old face for the world to judge, stop, take a moment, think about his inflated ego and click on the "like" tab.
Then, before he has a chance to notice, hit the "block this person" button as fast as you can before he can message you. He's a middle-aged man who thinks, whether you meant it that way or not, you don't just "like" his picture, you actually like the way he looks.
Studies have shown that's a really, really dangerous position for a woman to be in.
Peter McKay is a long-time Ben Avon resident. He can be reached at his website, www.peter-mckay.com.