22 September 2017Last updated

Features | People

Suresh Menon: move over tennis elbow

Selfie-taking is hazardous, our columnist finds out – both for your elbow, and your life as a whole

Suresh Menon
4 Oct 2016 | 12:50 pm

It was bound to happen sooner or later. The selfie elbow is here. This comes from flexing and folding your arm and thus straining your muscles while working out the best angle for your selfie.

It took a TV host in the US to visit her doctor for a painful elbow for the complaint to work itself into medical journals. The lady was diagnosed with the ‘selfie elbow’. A personal event thus became a cultural milestone and finally gained prestige as a medical condition. The tennis elbow has given way to the selfie elbow.

It starts – as so many of these things do, including public relations – with an angle. In the selfie’s case, the phone tilted at about 45 degrees. Then there is the light, which needs to be flattering – thus greater movement for the elbow. When that’s in place, there is the pose – cheeks sucked in to suggest loss of weight as well as mischief. Tousled hair to suggest that you are a superior creature who doesn’t take all this seriously. Such manoeuvres wreak havoc on the average elbow.

As does the work to make everything appear more flattering – soft colours, tints, sharp edges blurred, getting rid of the wrinkles, then that final motion that gets it all on to Twitter. Elbow, elbow, and more elbow.

Imagine doing that some 300 times in a day – shirt on (most of us), shirt off (Justin Bieber), teeth in, teeth 
out, and so on. Continuous recording of the self is the modern fetish. Last year a Japanese astronaut sent a selfie from the International Space Station. How much would his elbow have needed to work?

Sometimes it is not just the elbow. The act of selfie-taking destroys the rest of the body too – those focused on taking selfies have fallen into ravines, been run over by trains, drowned at sea and so on. No smartphone comes with a health warning: ‘Don’t walk backwards while attempting a selfie. You may meet others who did so at the bottom of the Grand Canyon’. The selfie martyrs are both those who walked back too far as well as those who pose reluctantly for the shot. If a public figure refuses a selfie, it might become a national scandal. I once took a selfie in Paris with a national icon there. Sadly, my elbow was at the wrong angle and I got only the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Ah! missed, I said and walked on. Forwards. Those determined not to miss might walk backwards. That’s how they invite selfie martyrdom, disappearing into the Seine, elbow, selfie and all.

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Suresh Menon

Suresh Menon

is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world but later decided to leave it as it is.