So we all (or a lot of us, anyway) seem to live and die by social media every day. Looked at your friends’ posts on Facebook to make sure you haven’t missed anything major (although most posts rarely rise to that level)? Check. Tweeted your 140 characters about the latest thing that has you engaged or enraged? Done. Posted a photo to Instagram or liked someone else’s? Most definitely. We’re with it, we’re on it, we’re trending.
But selfies have seemed to reach some kind of critical mass. And I don’t pretend to be innocent on this. I’ve taken my fair share of selfies and posted them, telling myself it’s because I want my far-flung friends and family to see where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing or had that ever-so-rare experience – a great hair day.
Just recently I counted nearly 50+ selfies on a social media site from someone I know, all taken within a several hour window. And Kim Kardashian has published a book called Selfies which is just – you got it – pictures of her. (I assume people will buy this. I don’t know why.) And it got me thinking. What happened to just enjoying the moment and not having to stop anywhere and everywhere to document it? Why can’t we just be?
And now we have a new weapon of mass destruction to assist us in this narcissistic path we pursue: the selfie stick. For $20 or so, you can buy this contraption to clip your phone on to so you can get a better perspective of yourself when you snap a selfie. Already these things have been banned on rides in Walt Disney World because the dopes using them think extending their phone on a selfie stick while hurtling through a ride is safe and that their need to document the experience is more important than the safety of those around them.
I love looking at people’s pictures, don’t get me wrong. But many of the best pictures I’ve seen and remember are the ones that exist only in my head, the snapshots my mind has taken and filed away under memorable moments that I can recall any time I want.
The look on my darling Dad’s face the first time my great kid was placed in his arms. My parents’ faces as they walked in on their surprise 50th anniversary party and saw a friend they hadn’t seen in 40 years, who had flown in from North Carolina just for the day to surprise them.
The memory of watching my Mom hold my Dad’s favorite baseball cap in plain sight so my son could know my Dad was with us as he walked down the aisle after graduating from high school, just a few short months after my Dad died. Waking up after surgery and seeing my Dad and my son looking down on me.
Turning around at my last high school reunion and seeing the face of my friend, a girl we had been trying to find for 40 years with no success, and bursting into tears of joy at the sight of her. Seeing the faces of my high school friends last summer when they made me insanely happy by coming to my surprise milestone birthday party. Watching my son get on a plane or in a car each time he heads back to school after a summer vacation or a Christmas holiday and feeling my heart break just a little.
None of these things are documented anywhere. Except they are. They’re imprinted on my brain and my heart, where I get to rummage through the shoebox of my memories any time I want and recall one of them at a moment’s notice.
Have we become such a self-absorbed and narcissistic culture that we have to stop – sometimes in the middle of the street – and snap a selfie to hold on to the memory? Is what we’re doing that important to anyone else besides us?
So yes, while I’ll still take an occasional selfie, I’m going to try to focus instead on snapping a virtual picture of a scene, a moment, a person, a place and keep it in my head. I wouldn’t trade those pictures for anything at all.