Selfie-Centered Generation



An alarming epidemic is sweeping the nation, sparing not a single smartphone user or their quickly-dwindling photo storage. Excessive picture-taking is not a matter to be taken lightly — it has influenced all corners of society. The infected tend to have their fingers permanently fixed to their devices, ready at any second to capture the tail-end of that Hawaiian sunset or to not-so-covertly sneak a shot of their crème brûlée. Symptoms may include stiffness in the neck and arm tendons and cramping in the fingers.

In all seriousness, I, too, am guilty as charged. Although smartphones have definitely exacerbated the cause, this “epidemic” has existed long before they were invented. My first time being exposed to it was when I was six-years-old, going on a trip with my family to Yellowstone National Park on a tourist bus. Crammed into a clanky metal box along with about 20 other people was, needless to say, not the most
enjoyable experience.

But as the infant two rows back started howling for the third time in the first hour, I willed myself to stay calm and assured myself that the destination would be worth it. My fellow
passengers seemed to share this sentiment, because when the bus came to a stop at the first “sightseeing” spot, they all rushed to exit the bus hastily, leaving me and my parents there, blinking and staring in awe.

However, what I saw as I stepped out of the bus was not at all what I’d expected. Instead of basking in the sunlight and gazing into the distance at the faraway mountains, the tourists had all flocked to one spot and were now taking turns getting pictures of the scenery. How they determined the “optimal spot” so quickly was beyond me, but when my parents led me to the end of the line, I did not think to question it.

The next few days went by in a similar fashion. A couple hours of journey by bus,  getting off to a beautiful sight of nature, taking as many pictures as we possibly could, and getting back onto the bus. It felt like this compulsory routine that everybody performed and nobody questioned. Time was scarce, and we were on a mission — a mission to shove as much of the world around us into our memory… cards?

To this day, all I remember of the alpine rivers, verdant forests, breathtaking canyons, hot springs, and gushing geysers are what I can surmise from the haphazardly taken shots from the section in our family travel photo album
labeled “Yellowstone.”

Today, people of my generation face this problem on an even larger scope. I do not want to make myself sound like some pompous, pretentious critic, but this form of picture-taking is not photography. Of course, the boundary between the two is hazy, and it’s not exactly my place to say; however, one clear distinction is in the motive behind a picture. Photography as an art form is meant to capture a moment’s succinct emotional impact and elicit the same sort of emotion in the viewer, while the type of picture-taking I am referring to is the attempt to record the details of a certain object or event. By taking pictures of mundane everyday occurrences with our phones, we have become disengaged tourists in our own lives. Why do we take so many unnecessary pictures?

It all boils down to the quickening pace of this age. We no longer have time to stop and admire things, so we attempt to preserve them in a timeless, digital vessel, telling ourselves that once we have time, we will be able to look at them and revisit the moment. We outsource our memories onto our devices, and so our real memories of experiences are weakened and distorted by the incompleteness of our pictures. When you try to surreptitiously take a shot of a restaurant dish, you are really just condemning yourself to experiencing it through your phone lens, and giving away truly living in
the moment.