Explore | As the Hole Deepens

To Selfie or not to Selfie?

// By Tim Sandlin   // Illustration by Birgitta sif

My granddaughter, Julie Anne Klapshaw, has been giving lessons at the Center for the Arts this month in preparation for the Winter Selfie Season. Her mother told me the classes are packed with micro-influencers, nano influencers, bloggers, thought leaders, a few celebrities, content creators, and skiers who couldn’t afford the GoPro class.

Since I had no clue why anyone would find selfies cool or want to know the difference between doing it well or not well, I asked Julie Anne to meet me at a local coffee shop to explain the phenomenon.  

Julie settled into her seat with her oat milk matcha and said, “If you want to serve, take a selfie.”  

I said the obvious: “Huh?”

“Everyone wants them and getting a good one is a skill.”

I said, “Don’t you aim the phone camera at your head and push the white circle?”

“Grandpa, you are so naïve. Do you know the difference between time-lapse, slo-mo, video, photo, portrait, and pano? The ethics of mirrors? Who owns the Bomb?”


“No, you don’t. How about the seven lighting choices in portrait? What is high-key light mono? Some of these phones have two cameras. That’s when it gets complicated.”

“Mono is a record from when I was your age. I know that one.”

“The Dark Ages, before the Renaissance. Can you safely mount a selfie stick in a crowd, say on the Old Faithful boardwalk, without hurting anyone or being bullied by Luddites?”

“Everyone civilized hates selfie sticks. Are they still a thing? I thought they went out with the man bun. One of those fads that are jokes from the get go.”

“Selfie sticks are popular with foreign bus tours and TikTokers. I give an entire unit on selfie-stick safety.”

“Like don’t wave a wand in a buffalo’s face. Why can’t they learn that one?”

Last summer brought on a veritable onslaught of wild beast-tourist clashes in Yellowstone. Old Faithful buffalo (I’ll spit up before I say bison) were tossing tourists like senior citizens toss balloons at balloon volleyball. I blame the amateur tourists that have descended on us since the Covid thing. They think the animals are tame, drugged, and often animatronic. Several drunks have charged bull elk, moose, and even wolves, challenging them to wrestle. More than one mother has tried mounting her toddler on the back of animals who would just as soon be left alone.  

Selfie-takers are the worst, of course. Here’s my advice for you Instagram goddesses: don’t turn your back on anything that wants to kill you.

Julie Anne dipped a brownie in her matcha and bit off the tiniest of bites. A starling landed on our table and took a peck at the remaining brownie. I beaned it with a spoon.

Julie Anne said, “Selfie-takers get a bad rap when it comes to accidents. Do you know between 120 and 200 people are killed by deer every year in the United States?  Not one of them is a confirmed selfie death.”

“Car wrecks.”

She sniffed. “Most people killed by deer are in a car when they expire. A few are gored in the rut. Moose and elk hospitalize a few. You’re a lot more likely to be messed up by a moose than a bear or wolf.”

I decided to risk mansplaining. Just because I’m over 60 doesn’t make me stupid. “There are two different types of death by animals,” I said. “Those caused by proximity—bees, wasps, spiders, and the like, plus dogs, cows, and, of course, people. People are more dangerous to people than any carnivore.”

“And the second kind?

The animal that makes you nervous. Stuff you hardly ever run into but when you do, you should feel a hint of fright. Cougars, alligators, white sharks, rattlesnakes, certain kinds of jellyfish. No one in Yellowstone has ever been attacked by a wolf, much less killed, but you see people whipping out pepper spray at the first howl. That’s another thing, why doesn’t the Park Service explain to families that bear spray and mosquito spray aren’t used the same way?”

“I’m having trouble following your train of thought.”

“Some animals should not be selfied.”

 Julie Anne held up a butter knife to inspect her teeth in the reflection. Eating brownies causes tooth paranoia in women more than it does in men.

She said, “The animal I always advise against trying to selfie are snow snakes.”

 “Is this an intestinal problem in

“Jackalopes pull Santa’s sleigh. Snow snakes are dangerous, especially to snowboarders. They had a huge outbreak of them at Park City last winter. Around 10,000 feet, they hide in moguls and sink their fangs into anyone who falls or stops to get high. Their venom is basically antifreeze, and once the fangs are in, they don’t come out.”

“Beware the snow snake.”

“We had a couple of sightings up on Thunder. Betsy Van Dyke posted a selfie of one she shot from the lift, but I saw it on Pinterest and it was a weasel.”

“Are you setting up a Trump joke?”

“Just because I said weasel doesn’t mean I’m going to go political.”

“Politicians are the real winter animal you have to look out for. That and teacup dogs. I had a three-pound Pomeranian rip my thumb.”

“We’re talking snow snakes, Grandpa. They bury themselves in powder then snap out when unsuspecting tourists stop to take a selfie. If we’re making a list of animal metaphors to compare to politicians, I would rate snow snakes at the top, over your Norwegian wharf rats that you call anyone who disagrees with you.”

“Wharf rats eat babies. Snow snakes only eat babies taking selfies.”

“You always look on the bright side.” JH

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