Self­ies for pos­ter­ity

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Opinion - Jim Mullen

I’ve been trav­el­ing for the past few weeks, try­ing to cross a few things off my bucket list. Things like “find the Foun­tain of Youth,” “find a new imag­i­nary friend,” “rec­on­cile with fam­ily (but not Bob),” “visit a bunch of fa­mous places that are so packed with tourists that all you see is other tour- ists.”

I’ve learned that peo­ple don’t travel now to see fa­mous at­trac­tions or to learn more about them. No, the rea­son they pack four over­sized bags, buy a plane ticket and take a taxi to a Won- der of the World is for the sole pur­pose of tak­ing pic­tures of them­selves in front of it.

As if hav­ing your face in the photo will some­how im­prove the over­all look of the Eif­fel Tower or the Grand Canyon.

And there’s an en­tire process to it. First, you must po­si­tion your­self look­ing away from the attraction, then you hold your phone arm out as far as it will go, knock­ing out any­one walk­ing nearby. Then you snap your selfie and walk away. No, just kid­ding. You then look at the pic­ture you just took, play with your hair, con­sider the an­gle and the light­ing and do it again. Wait, some­body walked be­hind you; let’s try that again. Now let’s try it again with a friend. Or two. Then you send the pic­ture to your friend who was stand­ing right next to you.

Now mul­ti­ply this scene by a thou­sand or two. Add a few thou­sand selfie-sticks, and there you have the modern tourist ex­pe­ri­ence: be­ing clubbed to death by other tourists. Which will, of course, be filmed by hun­dreds of other tourists, and who knows? Your ugly death may go vi­ral. Sheer karmic gold.

Sure, tourists have taken pic­tures ever since the por­ta­ble cam­era came along, but tak­ing pic­tures to­day is a much, much different ex­pe­ri­ence. And, it seems there’s a much different mo­tive be­hind it. There’s a feel­ing out there now that the whole point of do­ing any­thing is to take a pic­ture of it, to record it. “This is me at my birth­day party at a restau­rant” is now “This is me get­ting my morn­ing cof­fee at the drive-thru,” fol­lowed by a vul­gar emoti­con. Thanks so much for shar­ing.

If you are just tak­ing a selfie to prove you were there, what does that say about your friends? If they’re not go­ing to take your word for it, maybe you should be look­ing for new ones. Some think they’re tak­ing it for the mem­o­ries. Do you re­ally think you’re go­ing to for­get that you flew to France, got from the air­port to your ho­tel, walked to the Eif­fel Tower and even stood in line to go to the top? If you did all that, I bet you can re­mem­ber how hot or cold it was, how long or short the line was, all the different lan­guages that you heard, all the street food cook­ing around you, the pesky scam­mers who ask you where the Eif­fel Tower is -- and when you tell them they’re stand­ing un­der it, they are so grate­ful that they have a real leather coat to sell for just “$20 U.S.,” which is the Euro­pean ver­sion of “it fell off the truck.”

Heck, I can re­mem­ber all of it and I wasn’t even there.

I think we’re lucky the cam­era phone wasn’t in­vented thou­sands of years ago. Yes, it’d be nice to have doc­u­men­tary pho­tos of his­toric events, but if we took them with to­day’s mind­set, we’d have to look at the bizarre spec­ta­cle of Bru­tus’ smil­ing face while his friends fin­ish off Ceasar in the back­ground. Or a wide-eyed close-up of one of the spec­ta­tors while Anne Bo­leyn has her head on the block.

You’d be able to see ev­ery­thing BUT the re­ally in­ter­est­ing stuff.

“Can you see that little speck be­hind me? That’s Je­sus giv­ing the Ser­mon on the Mount. Doesn’t my hair look good? I braided it that very morn­ing!”

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