Sunday, April 19, 2015

But First, Let Me Take a Selfie

I know that I'm getting older... and that I "just don't understand"... and that taking selfies is just what everybody (insert the words "under thirty") is doing.

And I've been known to stick my arm out with the best of 'em, to capture a moment with the camera turned the wrong way...

But, truth be told, I'm a little disturbed. I find the selfie craze pretty disconcerting. I'm concerned about what it is turning us into... who it is making us. It scares me a little to see people so utterly self-absorbed that literally every kind of moment has to be captured with the camera facing SELF. It is changing how we view things. It is changing how we document things. It is changing how we do relationship.

I don't know about you, but I didn't need anything to come along to make me more self-focused... more self-absorbed... more looking at myself and how the world affects me, instead of how it is affecting those around me!

Last night, my family and I were camping, and all of them had headed to the bath house to get ready for bed. I had stayed behind, enjoying the last few moments of our little campfire. The embers were morphing and moving in the smoke, and the last dying flames joined their movements in a mesmerizing dance. It was glorious, that sight, as it combined with the sounds and smells of that fading fire... crackling pops... rising sparks... the scent of wood and earth and smoky tendrils filling my nostrils...

It was in the context of this peaceful, beautiful, holy moment that I saw of one of the most ridiculous things I think I've ever seen. Across the way, at the next campsite, I became aware of a couple of guys who had set up a tripod and camera in front of their campfire. (Yes, a full-blown tripod, complete with camera attachment.) They were ready to capture their selfie the old-fashioned way, I guess... at a decent distance, and without the distorted shoulder in one of the corners. And so I watched them as they attempted to do so. Not once. Not twice. Not six or eight times. No, I watched these two young men literally set up the scene (clinking beer bottles in front of their campfire), hold the pose (as in, "Let's keep these beer bottles in this fake clink for eight seconds while the camera takes the shot), look at the result (apparently never quite perfect enough), and then re-stage the entire thing for a re-do-try-over TEN TIMES. They wasted almost twenty minutes with this project. Were they enjoying the fire? The beers? The company? No, they were obsessed with staging and then capturing the perfect (fake!) moment.

I had been experiencing the perfect (real) moment, and I was never once--not even for a fleeting instant--tempted to spoil the mood by trying to "capture the moment" with my camera. And, had I been so inclined, I certainly would never have been tempted to try to capture it by sticking my arm out and centering my big ugly mug in front of the real show!

I'm not sure what to make of it all, but I know that I never want to miss the real things going on around me because I'm too busy staging some fake ones.

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*Entry 4, April - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is from the song "#SELFIE" by The Chainsmokers.

(For some interesting thoughts about selfies, you can read these two articles, which discuss some research-based findings suggesting that our selfie-centered behavior is making us psychologically sick. I wouldn't be surprised.)