Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: USF ban on graduation selfies lets loathers rejoice

It is probably a telling sign of the self-indulgent times we live in when the University of South Florida has to issue an edict banning the taking of selfies during this weekend's commencement ceremonies.

Apparently this began to become a problem last year when graduates insisted on memorializing the completion of their studies by pausing to take their own photo as they were handed their sheepskin. With some 6,500 graduates, the selfie moments tended to add up, making what is usually a fairly tedious rite of passage even more time-consuming.

After spending four, five, six years or so matriculating at USF, you would think these young folks who have transformed their minds full of mush into pillars of scholarship would be eager to simply grab their university diploma cover (the actual thing is mailed out later), have their official photo taken with president Judy Genshaft and get on to the serious work of celebratory beer drinking.

As a matter of fact, when I graduated from college in 1972, I got an early start on the foamy festivities long before the Pomp and Circumstance march hit the first note.

But no, it seems many egocentric students feel the need to hold up the proceedings by photographing themselves mugging for the camera. And that explains why more and more schools in addition to USF are imposing a no-selfie zone for commencement exercises.

In the interests of full disclosure, I am an adjunct instructor at USF. I think the world of my students. But do I really need to see pictures of them staring wide-eyed into their cellphones sticking their tongues out? I've already had to endure seeing them come to class in their pajamas. Isn't that fond memory enough?

It's merely idle speculation, but the obsessive-compulsive selfie craze would seem to speak to a somewhat broader cultural issue. Call it an extension of the Facebook narcissism phenomenon.

With the explosion of social media, an entire generation has dedicated itself to violating its own privacy at every opportunity, as if there is an eager world anxiously awaiting fast-breaking news as to what they had for breakfast, what they are thinking (or not) at any given moment and where they are at any specific point in time. As if anyone truly cares.

We have friends who upload pictures of their dinner plates. Wow! I recently was shown a too-detailed Facebook posting from someone bemoaning their utter failure to succeed as a porn star. Do I really need to know this?

The problem, of course, is if you've seen one vapid shot of someone looking stupid into a camera, haven't you pretty well seen them all? And is it worth holding up hundreds of people who just want to hear their name called as an official university graduate so you can capture yourself looking like a drooling happy face?

USF has threatened to withhold the diploma for anyone violating the selfie ban, which would seem a tad excessive. Still, if one had to explain to a potential employer their degree was being held in limbo because they couldn't resist a selfie conceit, that might quickly bring an end to the practice.

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