Say cheese

One thing you have to say about the proliferation of social networks is that they have spawned a whole new generation of people whose sole purpose in life is to take photos of themselves and post them for others to admire.

I admit I have my fair share of pictures on Facebook and Instagram, though they have mostly been taken by friends. I am just far too lazy to take out my camera or smartphone and snap away. A GPS connection even tells people where the picture was taken, down to the exact coordinates.

And if you can't find anyone to take your picture for you, then you can always take it yourself. If you have a smartphone with a forward-facing camera, that's perfect, since you can check whether you are actually in the frame or not and not just your chin or your right ear.

Some people, my daughter for one, have actually mastered the art of taking their own picture without looking at the frame. They just aim carefully... and shoot. It's perfect almost every time. They know all the angles; camera held at arm's length 45 degrees from your face which should be inclined just so. You don't really see very much of the background that way, but hey, who cares?

Whether you're taking pictures against the backdrop of Doi Suthep, Khao Khor, Disneyland, the Eiffel Tower or your own bedroom, it doesn't really make any difference because no one can see anything except a close-up of your face. But therein lies the trick. It's not just a face. It's a face that smiles sweetly, sticks out the tongue, crinkles the nose, makes wide-eyed gestures, rolls the eyes, sports a cheeky grin, makes sad mournful looks... essentially as many different poses as you can possibly come up with during the time it takes to press the button.

You post the pictures on your social network, and immediately you get a few "likes", one after another. Some people are happy if they get 10 likes. Others get 3,000. And still some others get over 10,000 likes per post. At the rate people are clicking "like", I imagine them to be doing absolutely nothing other than stalking other people's FB and IG. And with smartphones, it's so easy to stalk other people, whether you're eating your duck noodles, walking around a shopping centre, sitting on the loo, waiting for the bus or writing a newspaper column.

Don't even think this activity is limited to the younger generation. Have you noticed how every new restaurant and shopping centre, and public restroom even, has to be decorated in some particular theme that provides a colourful backdrop for the photo maniacs?

A friend of mine recently visited one of these outdoor themed restaurants so her daughter could have fun taking pictures. But she was outdone by an "aunty" who was there on her own, dressed from head to toe in what might have been a cosplay costume, taking pictures of herself with an iPad from every conceivable angle.

It was truly enlightening to watch, she remarked. At her age, she thought she knew everything about human nature. But this was a totally new, alien phenomenon that she couldn't explain. Is it a global feature or is it unique to Thais? It seems to be the latter, I hate to admit. What causes it? Have they had a repressed childhood? Is it a lack of self esteem? A supersized ego? Not properly breast-fed or potty-trained? Bullied in kindergarten? Perhaps it deserves a doctorate thesis called "Psychoanalysis of the Thai Self-portraiture Phenomenon and the Advent of Digital Technology and Pseudo Environments".

Anyway, please don't make fun of those poor souls taking pictures of themselves in the Japanese-themed ladies' room.

It might just be me.

Usnisa Sukhsvasti is the Features Editor of the Bangkok Post.

About the author

Writer: Usnisa Sukhsvasti
Position: Features Editor