What’s the Story with Selfies?

Jenbyrum 130 006

I have an issue with selfies. They drive me insane.

As a single mom, you would think I wouldn’t mind the occasional selfie. I am a prime candidate to take them all the time, really.

First, I am the only adult running this ship, so I don’t have a mate to capture my frequent moments of beauty and pure bliss.

Second, as a single woman in 2014, I am pretty sure selfies are mandatory when trying to attract the opposite sex. You really gotta flaunt it to get them to notice, I hear.

Finally, I have recently lost over 30 pounds and you would think I would want to show it all off a bit.

Nope, no way and no thank you. And I’m going to tell you why.

When I was in college I went to Disney World with my boyfriend. We carried several disposable cameras with us to commemorate the trip. It was 1992. Don’t judge.

Anyway, the whole point of taking photos during our trip was to remember how much fun we had. You know, the funny, silly times together.

Well, we had three rolls of film developed upon our return from Spring Break to Western Carolina University. I was infuriated when I saw them.

See, he had taken pictures of nothing but buildings and scenery. Parades and castles. Mickey and Goofy interacting with other people.

We were in TWO of the pictures. And not together. I took a pic of him. He took a pic of me.

Full disclosure: we fought the ENTIRE trip and at one point I thought he might drop me off at a Florida fruit stand on the side of the road. Worst trip of my life. But I digress.

The whole point of taking a photo is to remember. It’s to smile 20 years later and actually have captured a moment of your life. To turn back time.

How am I so sure of this? Both my uncle and grandfather worked for and retired from Kodak after long careers in Rochester, NY.

I would spend hours going through amazing photo albums of our family when we would visit them. My uncle would even include captions and notes on what year the pictures were taken and where they were.

Trust me when I tell you that the selfie is not what George Eastman had in mind when he came up with the idea for portable cameras in the 1870’s. He, in fact, was headed for a vacation where he also wanted to easily capture his own memories with his family without hauling lights, chemicals and wet glass plates.

Some 143 years later, everyone carries a camera with them at all times. We can take a picture anywhere with our cell phones anytime, for any reason at all. It doesn’t even have to be a special occasion or include anyone else. SNAP!

There used to be a tradition of asking strangers to take your picture. We did this so that nobody was ever left out of the photo. Then it took 3-5 days at the photo lab until you got to see how it turned out. There were not multiple retakes because one hair was out of place or your best friend thought she looked fat.

I hate that now there are no memories associated with self taken photos. You don’t need to wait to until you get to a party to click a pic of you in your fanciest dress with your friends. You do it in a mirror. Alone. Remembering something is not the point of selfies. The point is to share it on social media and wait for praise.

Your hair looks great. I love your shoes. Where did you get that dress? You look gorgeous.

It’s all so incredibly superficial. Decades ago selfies were called something else. Portraits. And there was much preparation that went into them. They were rare and special. There were jewels and gowns involved. They were hung above mantels and became part of your decor. It was art.

Now we take photos of ourselves all the time. With our lunch, in our workout gear, in our cars, at our favorite store, in our bathing suits and my favorite… in our BATHROOMS! Can you imagine 100 years ago, hanging a portrait above the fireplace of Great Aunt Marie making a duck face in her lavatory?

I don’t believe we purposely became so self-absorbed. I think convenience has made us this way. And I also have a theory that social media has actually made us less social. But that’s a blog for another day.

We have become the center of our own universes. Here’s what I think. Here is what I am wearing today. Here is where I am right now. Here is what I looked like five minutes ago. Why are we so convinced anyone cares?

I recently watched two young ladies spend 30 minutes at a restaurant retaking the same photo of themselves, with their beverages, over and over. It was pitiful.

I want my grandchildren to look at my photos the way I looked at my grandparents’. They will include friends and family and real life moments. I don’t want the captions to read, “2014, Grandma in her bathroom again, looking cute in her new designer jeans”.

I want the photos to be candid with my mouth wide open, cracking up, surrounded by people I love. I won’t need perfect make-up or my best outfit. My kids will smile because this is the real me. The best photos are not posed and taken 15 different times until perfect. They are moments in time. They tell the stories of our lives. And no selfie in the world can do that.