In which the nitwits win again



I’ll admit, it isn’t always easy to think of ideas for this column. “No!” you’re probably gasping. “They always seem so insightful and thoroughly-researched! What about the time you spent 500 words trying to convince us that Christmas didn’t start early enough?” 

But it’s true – 11 years of filling this space means that I regularly need to have a little head-scratch for a topic that a) I haven’t written about before and forgotten (this happens), or b) isn’t too tedious, irrelevant or unappealing to the Worthing palate. 

Sometimes, however, there are things that just beg to be written about. The ones it would be rude NOT to bring to wider attention. And speaking of a little head-scratch, today I have stumbled across a Buzzfeed article titled: Are Selfies Really Causing The Spread Of Head Lice In Teens? JACKPOT. 

It’s an article that has everything. Buzzfeed! Selfies! Nostalgia! Spurious health claims! It could really only manage to be more zeitgeisty if it had a gif of a dogue in Pharrell Williams’ massive hat halfway down the page (Radio 4’s Today programme covered the dogue meme last week, so you have no excuse), and all the more wonderful for sounding exactly like something off Brass Eye, were it still going in 2014. 

Marcy McQuillan, owner of premier California grooming establishment Nitless Noggins (Are ya proud, mom?), claims that “she has seen an alarming 50% increase in cases of headlice among high school kids since 2012”, and attributes the epidemic to all those pouty photos they’re taking with their heads touching. 

As someone whose family spent a half of the 90s trapped in a merry-go-round of nit maintenance – just as one child banished them, the next would bring them home – I can’t even read the word ‘headlice’ without itching. 

But there’s something funny about this most Dickensian of afflictions too. Headlice are a great leveller. Those little critters don’t discriminate. Even the beautiful, popular people can get headlice, which if we were of a ‘UKIP-py’ persuasion we might even see as a sort of biblical comeuppance for being so darn beautiful and popular. But of course that’s ridiculous, as, it turns out, further down the report, is the idea of selfies spreading nits in the first place. 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but selfies are now being blamed for everything. They’ve risen rapidly up the ranks of youth culture evil to a point where they’re now probably responsible for half the world’s ills, occupying the same pedestal of frowny concern that Happy Slapping did eight years ago. 

They’re making us narcissists, or at least giving the narcissists a new lake to fall into. They’re making average Joes and Josephines behave like celebrities, which will probably lead to an influx of debauched dancing, hammer-licking and people wearing Pharrell’s massive hat. Though that last one, to be fair, might do something to incubate the headlice. 

When I was 12 and in possession of a Kodak disposable, my friends and I once used up a whole roll of film posing like catalogue models (La Redoute at best) and then stuck them all into an album and wrote “because I’m worth it” underneath the best ones. At least today’s kids know to space out the selfies with a few strategic shots of sunsets, or doughnuts. 

And at least the selfies we’re talking about here are actually ‘ussies’, with more than one person in them. When you think about it, that’s really just the same affection humans have shown to each other for centuries – but captured on camera with a flattering filter over the top and a portion of arm in the bottom corner. 

Come back to me when solo selfies are giving us all debilitating neck problems and eye strain from all the high-angled action. Then we might have enough frowny concern to scratch out the trend for good