Monday, 30 March 2015

The Vicariousness Of Self

Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I'm constantly battling the urge to beat people to death with their own selfie sticks. I know it's their life and they can do with it what they will, but for some reason the whole performance irks me in a deep and profound way.

We nipped up to Hatta a while ago for two days of mountain air and Martinis in my favourite bar anywhere in the world ever (the luxuriantly '70s brown velour and walnut charm of Hatta Fort's Roumoul Bar) and I sat, aghast - interrupted in my mission to lie sunning myself by the pool and consuming as many books as a Kindle Voyage can carry - as a couple swooshed around in the water gurning at a GoPro hoisted on the end of a selfie stick.

They were filming themselves so that in 20 years time they can look back at that time in Hatta when they didn't enjoy the pool because they were too busy filming themselves not having fun so they could capture their strange, onanistic non-fun pool filming for posterity.

They probably shared the moment they never really had. Up on Facebook it goes, that time we walked around a pool filming ourselves so our friends could see what wonderful lives we're leading together and experience the moments we never got around to having because we were so busy making sure everyone else had a glimpse of what it is we haven't got.

I stopped taking pictures of food for Instagram quite quickly. I realised I had started to eat excellent food that had gone cold. I have since come up with the brilliant scheme of Instagramming empty plates. Those smears I'm sharing are the meal I enjoyed all the more because I didn't share the moment of epiphany when a plate of really good food leaves a kitchen and is slid noiselessly under your nose with a murmured 'Bon appetit'. There I said it. I care more about food than you.

This is not new behaviour, just in case you're tempted to think it is. It's more aggressive because of the Internet, but I remember walking the bounds of Chester a decade or so ago because Sarah was attending a course there and I was left to spend my days fossicking around the city's ancient ruins and medieval buildings. The city was full of chattering groups of excited Japanese people who thought the world was square, their view of anything of even the slightest significance being captured from behind a viewfinder.

By the way, apropos nothing really very much, this tumblr blog is rather brilliant: Pictures of Asians taking pictures of food.

We're constantly being egged on to share, seek the approval of our peers, our 'friends' and 'followers'. But sharing a moment doesn't signify enjoyment: it means you've denied yourself that moment. And approval isn't experience.

Live it. And just be aware, as you raise that selfie stick to capture yourself and your pimply moon-faced girlfriend framed by the Burj Khalifa, you might be the ones that make me finally snap.

Yes, yes, I do feel better now, thanks for asking...


Anonymous said...

Absolutely subscribe. I actually stopped taking pictures at meaningful events in my life because I realized I wasn't enjoying them fully, distracted as I was by the operation of the camera.
My next iteration will be setting up a fixed camera with an appropriate lens, then forget about it and enjoy the event.

Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

Dare I suggest Alexander that you may enjoy the bar here:

Truly recaptures the days of the Raj, aided by our discovery that they stocked BabyCham - an amazing find on a Sri Lankan hilltop!

Les Smith said...

Surely the selfie stick is more accurately referred to as a narcissis-stick?

I, too, loathe this attitude that the photo is more important than the event itself

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