The 'Survival Selfie'

Sometimes, a self-taken photo can double as proof of life. 
More
Instagram

Why do people take selfies? You could say it's because of narcissism. You could also say it's because of insecurity. You could also say it's because of fun and whimsy and anyway let's not overthink it because selfies have actually been around since pretty much man first put paint to cave and we've been doing pretty well so far.

Another theory of the selfie, though, is that they have very little to do with the specific psychologies of their photographers/subjects ... and more to do with the general ones. Selfies are, at their core, an extremely effective way to prove that we humans exist. They don't just validate us, individually; they validate our lives, collectively. Selfie, therefore we are. It's the photographic equivalent of the "Whew! We made it!" that emerges after a scary airplane descent and then a safe landing.

If you buy that theory, then the Instagram above—a classic mirror selfie, shot and posted to Instagram this morning—is its apotheosis. It was taken by one of the victims of this morning's mass stabbing at the Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. He wears a hospital gown and a bandaged wound. "Chillin at Children's," the caption reads. 

The image has been liked, at this point, more than 2,000 times (which is notable in part because its poster is followed by just slightly more than 1,500 people). It's gotten more than 400 comments. And that's likely because it's a testament not to arrogance or narcissism or millennialism or any of that, but to something else entirely: survival. 

Jump to comments
Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What's the Number One Thing We Could Do to Improve City Life?

A group of journalists, professors, and non-profit leaders predict the future of livable, walkable cities


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In