Oh good lord. Another day, another ludicrous controversy about a picture someone took of themselves.
This time the Internet’s self-selecting propriety police are shocked, yes shocked by a selfie taken by Nate Scimio, a student who was injured, along with nearly two dozen others, in Wednesday’s mass stabbing at Franklin Regional Senior High School in west Pennsylvania. The selfie, taken in the hospital after the attack and posted on Scimio’s Instagram, shows Scimio in a hospital gown with a bandage on his right arm. Scimio is smiling (perhaps a bit smugly) and pointing at the bandage. He captioned the photo “I’m OK. Chillin at Children’s” [hospital].
Apparently this is not okay. For the sake of brevity I will summarize the criticisms: it was in bad taste, because other victims might have worse, even life-threatening injuries; it seems to make light of the incident; it’s using a senseless tragedy as a platform for a bid for fame; teenagers are a bunch of vapid narcissists; the world is different than it used to be and we, as old people, find this very upsetting.
What a bunch of hogwash (how’s that for an old person expression?). As a public service let us quickly demolish these idiotic, knee-jerk reactions. And we’ll set aside the fact that Scimio is apparently a hero (he had the presence of mind, either before or after being attacked, to pull a fire alarm, prompting a general evacuation that may have saved lives). Let’s suppose he was just another victim, no heroics involved.
First of all, the photo was not some sort of bid for fame. Look at the caption, damn it: he’s telling his friends and family that yes he was injured, but not badly, and he’ll be fine. This is how teenagers communicate now, and it’s a good thing; can you imagine how much longer it would take to convey this information to everyone who cares about you in the pre-digital age? How would you even do that? Thinking back to the long-lost age of rotary phones, I guess your parents and best friends, who might have been there when you were taken to the hospital, would have to set up some sort of ad hoc phone tree, telling everyone they called to relay the message to others? And God forbid all someone had to go on was an initial local news report with a simple list of victims, with no information about the extent of their injuries.
In that context, the criticism that it was in bad taste because others might have been worse injured is irrelevant. So according to the critics’ logic, if you are injured in a large accident you can’t share your experience with the world unless you have already verified that you are the worst injured? Why is this a rule, exactly? Why is posting a photo of your injury disrespectful to someone else with a worse injury? In fact, that’s kind of the whole point: implicit in the selfie is the message “don’t worry about me, worry about/pray for/send good thoughts out to the other people with worse injuries.” And while we’re at it, why are the news media allowed to broadcast images (again, and again, and again) of ambulances taking people to the hospital, and the police milling around the parking lot, and the perp walk – but once the victims get to the hospital, they can’t share a photo they took of themselves? Come again?
As for all teenagers being narcissists, well, stop the presses. Sure he’s got a slightly smug expression on his face, but he’s in high school, he just got stabbed, and now he has a badass scar to show off and a crazy story to go with it. Yes, he will probably be using this story, and that scar, to get chicks for years to come. I guess you can call that narcissism, but another, less judgmental term might be “human nature.”