This short film sums up the Selfie Generation

September 25, 2014 Originally published on SFGate

Here is this ironic and deeply amusing short film, “Aspirational,” by Matthew Frost, shot for Vs. Magazine, a publication I know little about and a film which apparently has something to do with fashion. It stars, as you can see, Kirsten Dunst, as herself, along with two perfectly numbed-out, modern day, selfie-obsessed fangirls, doing what fangirls do, only worse.

I didn’t really research exactly why it was made, or what it’s supposed to sell. Does it matter?

Doesn’t really matter. Just watch. You’ll understand immediately.

In sum: Two fans drive by Dunst, who is waiting for an Uber. They stop, ask if it’s really her. She says yes. They dash out of their car, cellphone cameras ready. Dunst looks bemused. At first.

But the girls do not perform the usual celebrity dance. They do not offer adoration. They do not gush, or chat, or appear humble and nice. They merely rush right up to Dunst, without asking permission, and start posing for selfies, grunting out fangirl grunts as they do it, oblivious to anything but the act of taking the selfie itself, after which they both immediately start tagging and posting the photos as fast as possible, before dashing away, thrilled at all the new, random, anonymous followers they are sure to get on Instagram as a result of their treasure. Dunst is nonplussed. “Melancholia” indeed.

The reason the film is so perfect? Because I have little doubt scenes like this actually occur in, you know, “real life.”

Apple just sold 10 million iPhones in three days. A lumpy GoPro sits stop the skull of every “hardcore” skier, mountain biker, surfer dude, bungee daredevil in the land. Been to a concert lately? Half the crowd has a cellphone camera waving in the air, taking video. The other half is ignoring the show completely, busy posting their last concert action shot to Facebook.

Dude! Wherever you GoPro, there you are.

Dude! Wherever you GoPro, there you are.

Welcome to the Selfie Generation. Welcome to a time when getting the shot is equally, if not more, important as having the experience.

Actually, that’s not quite accurate. A new shift has occurred, and it’s something rather extraordinary. See, for Generation Selfie, the two – life and the recording of it – have now officially merged. The experience is getting the shot. Life and its record are the same thing.

Behold, we have reached Singularity. Or at least, a weird taste of it.

Sounds horrible, right? Shallow. Stupid. A sad diminishment of what it “really” means to be human. You’re so busy taking pictures, you miss your entire vacation. You’re so obsessed with social media, you never actually experience anything interesting… to post on social media. You’re so busy taking selfies, you miss actual human warmth and connection. Awful.

Or is it?

Here is your hot ponderable du jour: In the age when everything is recorded, filmed, documented, Instagrammed and then instantly posted somewhere for all to see, when getting the shot of the sunset, the barista, the orgasm, the fantastic meal, the dick pic, the hotel room, the yoga pose (ahem), the celebrity, the crime scene, the child’s first IPO, is equally important as enjoying the experience itself, is there a possibility for a new perspective? Despite the vapid hideousness of the fangirls in Frost’s film, is some weird new mutant form of life right now emerging?

Let’s pose it this way: Maybe we’re entering an age when the “true” experience of a thing actually contains taking a photo or video of it. Maybe we are, right now, redefining human experience, adding a new flavor, on the fly and devil-may-care. You think?

We are adding a strange new element. We are saying, “This moment is not really complete unless technology and social sharing are somehow involved.” We are saying, “Who’s to say an experience is any less real, felt, loved, enjoyed or appreciated if I videotape it while it’s happening?” We are saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to Instagram it, did it really happen?”

Laugh all you want. Cringe all you can. The Selfie Generation is already there.

Mark Morford

About Mark Morford