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An epidemic of selfie sadness in London’s museums

11 December 2015

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories. Follow @Rakewelltweets.

The news that Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum has ‘banned’ all photography in its galleries has been met with both joy and anguish amongst museum goers. In a Ruskinian move, the museum is encouraging visitors to draw works of art, rather than take zany photos of themselves in front its unparalleled collection of Dutch masters. And besides, the museum has already photographed its entire collection, which you can download for free on its website. Why get in people’s way to take a worse image?

The Rijksmuseum website describes the process of idly snapping masterpieces rather than properly looking at them as ‘a superficial and passive experience’. To the relief of narcissists everywhere, London museums have made no such proclamations – though for the sake of their public image, perhaps they should. For according to the Guardian, a study conducted by ‘a team of data scientists, designers and researchers’ has found that selfies taken in Central London and uploaded to Instagram are among the glummest in the world.

Apparently, out of six cities surveyed, selfies taken within 5km of Somerset House showed off the least smiles and the most closed eyes. This deeply important research has been undertaken for Somerset House’s ‘Big Bang Data’ exhibition, which, according to the Grauniad, investigates ‘the explosion of social media and asks what it reveals about modern society’.

What indeed? Here, the Rake ponders this pressing sociological question and draws his own conclusions from the heaving crowds pointing smartphones in their own faces at the National Gallery: trust him, you’d be feeling pretty depressed too.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.