Vanity : the new black

The hot topic on a breakfast show this week was teenagers posting selfies taken at funerals, pulling faces and stuff, at times with their dead grand-parents. A grey bobbed lady was outraged at the lack of respect, the other two presenters less so. Perhaps the grand-parents were not that nice or they weren’t that close, one suggested. Still, what about respect for those that were close to the deceased? What about general decency? It was obvious that Mrs Bob was having lots of ‘kids these days’ thoughts.

And of course she’s right in many ways, but also haven’t teenagers always lacked respect? Isn’t that the quality which defines this time in our lives. Selfishness? That feeling that everyone’s looking at you or no one is and all of this really matters and means so much. I’ll readily admit that I could be all the worst things about being a teenager and got away with a hell of a lot because Big Brother wasn’t around then. That’s the problem with teenagers these days – you can’t get away with behaving badly if it’s all being posted online.

Other breaking news that I just happened to catch as I was flicking between serious stations (obviously) – Justin Bieber being filmed graffitiing a wall in Brazil! The sad thing is that Justin Bieber probably posted the video himself – because what’s the point in doing graffiti if no one knows you did it? Isn’t that what tagging is all about? I can appreciate a nice spray-painted ‘piece’ but tagging, the act of inartistically scribbling your super-cool graffiti bad-boy’s name over any available neighbourhood wall, bus-stop, toilet door or bus seat – has always seemed like a pretty vain thing to do. Or what’s the point?

And before tagging there was carving your initials into tables and trees, monuments and temples … so it seems self-absorption and lack of respect has been with us since the beginning of time. God knows what the Egyptian kids were doing during the embalming and entombing! Those Egyptians were a bit more restricted as to what pics they posted.

In any case, I’ve always wondered why tourists on holiday think they have to be in every single photo with every single monument. This is not new. This is just not artistic. And when it is artistic, we’re pretty fucking happy that we’re so multi-talented. So what is exactly vanity?

vanity = excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.

(Let’s be honest, who doesn’t check themselves first in a group photo?)

(But that’s not vanity as much as it is self-absorption)

Maybe vanity is irrelevant in the new world. If you look at the most popular pages on Instagram – people who are not regular celebrities but still have 500K followers – you will see that these people are pretty much constantly posting pictures of themselves, over and over. This is what the public want! It may look like an Andy Warhol Marilyn or Mao but is actually the opposite. By repeating the image in technicolour, Warhol stripped famous figures of their history and made them an image. Whereas these Instagrammers, who get over 10, 000 likes on a photo and were once just your average Jolene who bought an iPhone, are repeating their own image and in the process gaining celebrity and a story. Oh but a slice of life in 2013.

(I took a class at uni and have waited over ten years to say something intelligent about post-modernism. Hopefully, I’m not wrong and if I am, please be gentle)

(Ha! Vanity? I laugh in the face of Vanity!)

So the question is not how vain are you but rather how visible do you want to be? What’s stopping you from making a comment or posting a picture of yourself online? The chances are, the US government doesn’t give a flying F*** about it so let’s not pretend we’re being tracked. And there is nothing that you can do that will make you look vain because people are posting their pouts all day every day in so many states of dress and undress on Instagram. Alright?

I’ve gone off on this uncharacteristic rant and all I really wanted to say is that I’ve finished my week of daily blogging. Oops!

I was totally uninspired and just wanted to say what I’d learnt and then I went to sit at the mirror and this happened. So what I’ve learnt is that I shouldn’t give up my mirror-time, no matter how much of a vain procrastinator I appear to be – because that’s where I get my best ideas. There is nothing I know of as writer’s block – it’s just that there’s sometimes a bit of a wait between the planting of the seed and the words sprouting. The ingredients have been put in the bottle but it can’t be uncorked straight-away. Mirror-time speeds up the fermentation process.

Another thing I learnt is that if something seems scary we just have to do it and stop thinking and talking about it. Just do it. That was my whole point. Whatever you think you can’t do, start it today (if you want). A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. So what is that first step? Alternatively, just do it for a week so you don’t have to commit to the full thousand. You could also end up feeling something.

And lastly, doing something over and over enabled me to let go of the outcome. I stopped caring so much about getting it perfect and cared more about getting to bed. It didn’t matter too much if it wasn’t that good or if y’all read it or not because I was going to write something else the next day (although I’ll be honest, I really really liked it if you liked it). When I write once a week and get not much response, I have to wait the whole week to find out if it was a once off or if I really am a total failure of a writer, my words fading into the abyss of insignificance as billions of selfies continue to be posted around the clock, each one garnering more accolades and attention than my three hours of writing did. So it was nice to let go of that.

Good night Sweets! Buona notte and bonne nuit!

(Hope you wake up with all the answers and let me know what you think of this old derelict called Vanity if you dare…)

Published by Mireille Parker

My name's Mireille Parker and i love to write. I am here to peace for peace, to love for love and to share what I learn as i wander.

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7 Comments

  1. Brilliant Mireille. I an finding at my age in life, with the onset of OLD age, one has to let go or release some vanity, otherwise I would join the thousands of other women my age lining up for the plastic surgeon! As my life journey shortens with time I want to start so many journeys of a thousand miles! Your wisdom is beyond your years xxxx

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    1. I’d never think of you as OLD Helen. I don’t even think my Mum is old – though she keeps insisting. But it’s all relative anyway. You seem like someone who just DOES and talks about it later. I’d love to hear more about these journeys you’d like to take though. Thank you again for your compliments xxxxx

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  2. coming a bit late to this, but you know – *all* writing is valuable, though it could also be considered holding up a mirror to your thoughts. Sometimes blogging feels as useful as looking in a mirror. All I ever see are the flaws that get magnified with gravity’s not so slow partnering with entropy 😀 But I don’t know that you can wipe all graffiti throughout the ages as pure vanity. Much as I sometimes think a little artistry, no matter how contrived, would make some graffiti less insulting to the eyes & actually enhance a cityscape or a streetscape (eg Banksy and many unnamed others), I think the urge goes deeper. Sure, teenage rebellion, yada yada yada, but I think it’s also the deep instinct to leave your mark, to mark out territory, and to say ‘I was here’ to an indifferent world. There is that sense to ancient graffiti sometimes, a record to those who came after that so-and-so of Roman legion numero whatever was at the pryamids with what-his-face in this particular year – maybe a boast, maybe a message in a bottle, the mark is there, so the person was. They existed. Cyberspace, the digital universe, is a large place to drop in thoughts. They get lost, float in and out of visibility, lose relevance and eventually become unthethered from their organic originator, but like that ancient graffiti, they remain. Always. The selfies at a funeral I do find somewhat disrespectful and purile and not the same thing. The funeral wasn’t so much about them as about formalising a farewell for all concerned. But a lot of the other stuff? I really think it’s about shouting out to the indifference around us – I am here. Is that vanity? Not sure it is.

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    1. No, you are right of course it is not all vanity. I like that ‘to say I was here to an indifferent world.’ I can see that would apply to tagging as well. The fact that people posting endless selfless on Instagram makes them most popular (an otherwise ‘unknown’ with 100, 000 followers or more) is fascinating to me though. Never before have people taken so many pictures of themselves (do you have any teens like that on your FB?). It kind of blow my mind. What do you make of that?

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      1. oh my goodness – when did you write this? I have been so snowed under! Yes, have teens like that – and not so teens. I wonder if there’s a resonance with when mirrors first became a thing. It’s reality and revelation at several removes. You no longer look at yourself for yourself but for others – reinforcing your appearance in the world – or something like that 🙂 It could become quite philosophically fascinating!

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