Selfie Syndrome

On August 30th, I had the pleasure of being interviewed on RTÉ 2FM by Dave Fanning. I was on the airwaves speaking about my life as a little person, whilst also offering an Irish context to the viral video ‘Don’t Look Down On Me‘ by my friend, Jonathan Novak.

Through the medium of a spy camera, Jonathan’s video highlighted the reactions or lack thereof, fellow New Yorkers had to his short stature. Some people point, others stare and a few even stop to take photographs of him. Growing up in Ireland, I have experienced some of what Jonathan’s video documented but thankfully, to a much lesser extent.

As an avid user of social media, this concept of taking photos of anything or anyone that we perceive to be different or newsworthy, without asking the individual’s permission, is something which equally fascinates and horrifies me. Recently, I was standing on George’s Street in Dublin where a cyclist had been injured. Three people were attempting to offer him first aid but a much larger group surrounded him taking photographs and videos of the incident. Why? I’m not entirely sure but perhaps social media has given individuals the perception that they too are a media outlet and it is their responsibility to report it to the world.

It’s a worrying trend and is not something which uniquely needs to be addressed pertaining to little people, but to society at large – even celebrities!

“I’m very very comfortable there; I find it an extraordinarily warm and informal place to live. I’m left alone there. On the street people say, ‘hi how are you,’ and I say ‘I’m grand how are you?’ It’s a very easy going place to be and I love Ireland for that reason.”

The above quote is from an interview with Dame Angela Lansbury on Irish Post earlier this year. The most pertinent line? “I’m left alone there.”

When Kim Kardashian and Kanye West spent their honeymoon in Ireland, it would be reasonable to say that the previous statement did not ring true. Perhaps you think that as famous people / reality television stars, they deserve it? I’m not so sure.

Yesterday, the superbly talented Fiona Byrne pointed me towards ‘Aspirational’; an exceptionally well made short-film by Matthew Frost which satires celebrity interactions in the selfie era. Made for Vs. Magazine, it stars Kirsten Dunst and at just two minutes long, I won’t spoil it for you with endless descriptions. Most importantly, it made me think and question how I would react to an impromptu meeting with a famous face.

What are your thoughts on all of the above? Tweet me or comment below!

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Sinéad Burke is an academic and a writer with an obsessive interest in fashion, education and 'Extraordinary Women'. She is an ambassador for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the National Women's Council of Ireland.