Ever since the song “Selfie” came out, this has been a common phrase–both spoken and typed–by our generation. Whenever we’re getting ready for a night out, seeing our favorite musician in concert, or just feeling the need for some positive reinforcement, we put our lives on hold for a moment to take a picture.
Now, this isn’t exactly new. Ever since the release of the first Kodak camera in 1888, people have been documenting their lives. We were finally able to capture, save, and cherish a moment in time that we could revisit whenever we wanted. We, as a society, were able to see ourselves as infants, only minutes old in the world. We were able to tell that we really did get our great grandma’s eyes, and that the laugh lines on our faces come from Grandpa. We still got to see the smile of loved ones who had passed, of our older brother’s first steps, and countless moments that we might have otherwise missed.
Unfortunately, things changed.
How? Just take a look at your camera roll. How many selfies do you have? How many of them are the EXACT same, except for a shift in your head tilt or an adjustment of the light? What was happening when you took that picture? Were you out to dinner, ignoring a friend who you hadn’t seen in six months? Or were you at a music festival, staring into the soulless eye of a camera, while the guy of your dreams walked by unseen?
Sure, like past generations, we take pictures when we feel compelled, but what is compelling us? Is it the desire to capture the moment we want to cherish for the rest of our lives, or are we taking pictures because the lighting is good, we’re feeling lonely, and we want people to “like” how pretty we are?
With Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, we spend so much time making sure our lives and “stories” appear perfect. We post all of the coolest things we do online, so when we finally meet up with friends to tell them that we went on that brewery tour, went on a date with a great guy, or got a new job, they already know. When was the last time we printed out pictures, put them in an album, and sat with a friend, discussing the memories and sharing the stories before she knew about them? When was the last time we got to tell our side of the story before Facebook did it for us? Honestly, the only time I’ve ever done that was during recruitment. How sad is that? We are running out of things to talk about because our friends, family, and acquaintances already know.
The next time you go to take a selfie, I challenge you to say, “but first…” to yourself. Only this time, say it for a different reason.
Say it to question whether you’ve taken this picture before. Say it to question whether you’re capturing this moment because it’s exciting, thrilling, and memorable, or because your cleavage looks good. Say it to stop yourself from taking the same smiling, breast-bearing, perfect picture, and turn the camera around. Focus the lens on the world around you. Capture the flawed, beautiful, unplanned moments of life that you’ll want to remember. We’ll get old, and our memories will fade. Make sure to document the things that are important to you while you can. Someday when you’re 80 years old, you’ll want to show your grandchildren what life was like in the year 2014. And honestly, I hope you’ll have more to show for yourself than a collection of boring, perfectly posed self portraits. Because “likes” will one day become irrelevant, but being able to remember how breathtaking your mother looks when she laughs? That’s something you’ll never want to forget..