My Pelfie, Myself

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 3.13.11 PM This week, we were asked to look through our selfies, and choose one that we felt  might be representative of “life in 2014 in your country.” We were then asked to think about how that photo might read to researchers from the future. Personally, I like  thought experiments like this: they get me to make connections I might not have made otherwise.

The photo attached is an example of what I mean. This is a selfie (or ‘pelfie’) featuring my sweet cat, Cleo. As anyone who follows my Facebook knows, I have two cats, Cleo and Nero. One is nice, one is naughty, and both are pretty entertaining. I am not ashamed to say my pets have made me a more loving, patient, and decent human being. They are a big part of my life, and I spoil them.

When I thought of this photo as having the burden of representing the population of my entire country, though, it gave me pause. Out of interest, I Googled, “Americans love pets more than people” and found some sobering information. In one study, many respondents claimed their animal was their best friend. This post, which details the precisely where pets come from, as well as the history of commercial pet ownership in the United States, was fascinating (disclosure: I got my animals through a group called The American Street Cat.) This interview with the author of the book, One Nation under a Dog, got me thinking about how people from other parts of the world might view my preoccupation with my animals.

The fact is, I live in a country that spent over 56 billion dollars taking care of pets last year. That reflects a substantial amount of disposable income–a privilege I try to be conscious of, but know I’ll never fully appreciate, because I’ve lived in America for most of my life.  In the past, when I displayed my pets, it never occurred to me that in someone else’s eyes, I might be flaunting my wealth as well.  Now it’s something I’ll think more about. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying my photo of sweet Cleo is equivalent to the posts of   Rich Kids of Instagram,, and I’ll still be telling stories of myself and my pets. I’ll just try to be more conscious of what a gift it is to even be able to do such a thing.

I’d love to hear from others about which selfie they chose as the one most representative of someone from their country, circa 2014. Show me your picture, and tell me your story, please!

 

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I teach global media at New York University, and write about digital culture, gender, sexuality, race, celebrity, branding, ethics, and aesthetics.

Posted in Week 1: Identity and Interpellation
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  1. […] as an expression of ‘identity’, without revealing the photographer’s face. These the pelfie (a pet selfie), a range of body part selfies (such as the foot selfie, aka felfie), and the shelfie – a […]

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