The selfie has replaced the autograph. Straight up.
No one should be surprised that this happened. It is the obvious way the world is going, and I can tell you exactly why.
Look at what is happening around us right now. Kids take selfies with their favorite stars and put them in their locker. The hottest social media communities rely on visual sharing. We are in a visual, photo based world now, and it is the number one way people share their experiences. An autograph is an analog version of proof that you met someone, but we don’t live in an analog world anymore. Need a real time example? I’m on a family vacation right now, and as I sit by the pool, there are eleven people reading books. Eight of the eleven are reading on a Kindle. Those numbers were very different ten years ago, and I’m sure they will only continue to become more digital in the next ten.
Ok, so a pen-and-paper autograph is becoming antiquated. But that doesn’t explain why the selfie is the thing that has replaced it. Why have I picked that form of visual storytelling specifically?
Glad you asked. This brings me to my biggest point on this whole subject.
An autograph is a moment where you interacted with someone you look up to, right? Right. But that is only ten percent of the equation. It is about showing everybody else that it happened. Accomplishing the psychological goal of proving your involvement has always been the driving factor. You were there. This happened to you. It was a moment only you experienced. A photograph is a hell of a lot more powerful in showing that than a signature.
Why? A few reasons.
One, anyone can buy autographed memorabilia on EBay, or buy a signed copy of a book in Barnes & Noble. The selfie? That only could have happened with you there, my friend. It is personal. It’s not just closer to you, it is you. Who wouldn’t want that? Even if your name is added to the beginning of the signature, a selfie carries so much more weight, so much more importance.
Two, a selfie is easier to show off. It’s digital. It’s portable. It doesn’t exist in one place. My Nolan Ryan signed baseball is still sitting at the bottom of a drawer in my parent’s house.
Three, as I sit here and think back on every autograph I’ve gotten in my life, I would be dramatically happier sitting and scrolling through photos of myself with these people. Right? There is no way someone can say they disagree with this statement.
Autographs are social currency. They represent the social equity of “Hey, I met this person.” The selfie is an even more powerful version of that.
The whole world now has access to cameras at any moment, because they’re in the very thing you bring with you everywhere: your phone. The autograph requires a pen. And how many times have you heard “Any body got a pen?” followed by silence? Yep.
The selfie has 100% replaced the autograph.
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