Recently, I took the Cathay Business Class to Bangkok; it was the first time in my life that I traveled as a Business Class passenger and I was looking forward to it very much.
Except that I had no pictures to prove that I had indeed sat in an operational Business Class seat (as an airline training executive, I do have plenty of opportunities to sit in training seats in mock-ups).
The crux of the issue was that none of the pictures taken by my travelling companion of me in the seat could be posted online (what with the lack of necks, jawlines and plenty of showcase of my love handles… No way!). That left me with my selfies, many of which were grainy (the lighting was bad for my 3-year old handphone camera).
What’s more, who could tell what Business Class seat I was in with only a portion of the head rest visible in the frame of the picture? For all we know, I was taking a selfie in a massage chair set in a corner of a shopping centre!
Such is the life of someone who is known as an avid taker of selfies.
The incident inspired me to do a lot of introspection.
N insisted that the photos were OK, while I balked at how ugly I looked in the pictures. This difference in perspectives stood out because it presented how we viewed my self differently.
To him, I was the fat, double-chinned middle aged man, who was always slouching in the seat. That was why when the pictures came out that way, he thought it was normal; if that was how he was seeing me, that was also how the world-wide audience of the social media should see me.
On the other hand, I knew I had shortcomings, so whenever I took selfies, I would choose the best angle, by tilting my hand or my head, to present myself as perfectly as possible. I would immediately delete pictures that exposed my flaws.
We are talking about the same person here, and yet the views are vastly different.
Interestingly, I am known among my friends to be someone who likes to take selfies.
It was not because I only took selfies, but I curate the pictures I post of myself online (and untag myself off photos that I disapprove of).
I do appear in group pictures, out of courtesy or because I really wanted to record a part of memory with a person in 3MB. However, under the hands of a 3rd party, I rarely turned out to look like the way I imagined myself I should. The sad fact was that I was not born with killer features, so no one could take a good photo of me “anyhow, anywhere”. I need to look in the right direction, smile with the right intensity, while tucking in my tummy.
Because many of those “3rd-party pictures” I took failed those parameters, they didn’t end up appearing online. And that was how my friends see me as a selfie-king. It was not a result of me enjoying taking selfies, but as a lack in competencies of others to portray me in a good light.
A selfie is, in a way, a representation of how we portray ourselves in the workplace.
While I see myself as upholding standards, my colleagues might see me as being too calculative or focusing resources at the wrong places.
When I meet friends or just some distant colleagues from another department, and they asked how I was doing, I will definitely present them a filtered version of my work life. Occasionally, someone in my department might leak news of how I blundered in a project (just like how someone might tag me in a photo I appeared unglamorously), I would step forward and correct that impression (untag myself) or try to ignore that part of the representation (never approve to appear on FB timeline).
I always cringe when someone asks for a character referee, because I don’t trust anyone but myself to provide an accurate (albeit a perfect) description of my capabilities. Just like in the case of the Business Class seat, my own selfie, despite taken using an inferior front camera, turned out to be the best representation of that part of my memory.
Many a times, in a social setting, I find myself introducing and praising others, with little reciprocation on the others’ part. Yes, whenever I take portraits of my friends, they turned out to be rather good because I made sure I portrayed them in a good way. I would even enhance the photos after taking it. In the end, I always get asked to help take group photos or wefies (where I ended up being right at the front of the photos and my face took up 1/4 of the frame). To be frank, I find this a rather bittersweet aspect of being good in taking pictures. But at least I managed to appear in many photos of social activities. And isn’t this part of being “the good colleague” who always help others to be the best they are?
And as mentioned, a selfie is mainly taken up by the face and leaves little space for the background of the selfie. This makes it difficult for a selfie to tell a full story. More often than not, a Selfie King does hope that there will be someone who can take a photo of him, so that more background story could be told. I mean, I do want people to know that I sat in a Business Class seat, or that many years later, I can look at that picture and remark, “Oh ya! That was how a Cathay Business Class seat looked like! I sat in it on my first experience as a Business Class passenger!”
However, not everyone can take a good picture of anyone, anything, any place.
Please enjoy my selfie.