Prince Harry Hates Your Selfies and Thinks They're "Bad" — Maybe You Should Too
Everyone takes selfies. Presidents, parents, teenagers, primates, celebrities, even adorable Australian animals — everyone seems to love flipping the camera lens around and going to town.
Everyone except Prince Harry, that is.
The redheaded royal made headlines this week for an act of hostility toward the art of self-documentation. "I hate selfies," he responded to a selfie request from a young fan, as captured by a BBC news segment published Monday. "Seriously, you need to get out of it. I know you're young, but selfies are bad. Just take a normal photograph."
The comments, made in Canberra, Australia, during a scheduled public appearance, immediately drew attention — much of it positive. Lauren Rosewarne, a social media expert at the University of Melbourne, told Agence France-Presse that the advice from the Prince of Wales should be viewed as "words of wisdom."
"Young people need to be reminded as many times as possible that what you put online stays online, even if you delete it," she added. (There's no word on how the young fan herself is doing post-Harry snub.)
He may be on to something. As addicting as selfies may be, they're linked with some fairly undesirable behavior. Men who post selfies to their online dating profiles, for example, are more disposed to narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy and self-objectification, according to a study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
In fact, the selfie's tie to narcissism is perhaps its biggest liability. Critics condemn the photos as nothing more than exercises in navel-gazing, demonstrating our most selfish tendencies. Or, as Jonathan Jones put it rather alarmingly for the Guardian, "Selfies deny and erase a fundamental human self-consciousness ... the selfie is actually an attack on the moral self."
Meanwhile, another study found that those who post too many photos of themselves on social media are alienating friends and acquaintances. "Increased frequency of sharing photographs of the self, regardless of the type of target sharing the photographs, is related to a decrease in intimacy," the study declared.
Then there's the problem of context. Selfies are ultimately harmless — if irritating — in most cases. But occasionally, when the gods of misfortune and idiocy put their heads together, selfies can venture into head-shakingly offensive territory.
Take the Tumblr account "Selfies at Serious Places," for instance, which documents seemingly frivolous selfies taken at concentration camps, funerals, memorials and disaster sites, to name a few. Or the recent uproar over a group of women who used a selfie stick to document their presence at a building explosion site in New York where two people were killed and dozens more injured. Or the teenage girl who ignited a firestorm when her Auschwitz selfie went viral.
Clearly, Prince Harry is right — the selfie is a blight on our cultural landscape.
Or is it? As the phenomenon began to gain traction, some voices emerged to offer a different explanation. "The cult of the selfie celebrates regular people," Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, told Teen Vogue. "There are many more photographs available now of real people than models."
Likewise, Andrea Letamendi, a clinical psychologist, told Time that selfies are simply a new method for self-expression. "Self-captured images allow young adults and teens to express their mood states and share important experiences," she said.
Whatever the case, people need to calm down. Selfies have become yet another concept for people to wring their hands over. At the end of the day, a selfie is just another form of self-portraiture — something people have been doing for centuries. It's been updated for modern use, but that doesn't mean it's inherently bad.
Then again, maybe Prince Harry is worth listening to — after all, he has quite a bit of experience with the power of photography.