Hello there, precious humans.
I’ve been travelling recently. It’s been a while since I did any substantial travel, and so maybe I’ve been a bit out of touch with how the world has evolved over the last ten years, how travellers (and locals!) are documenting their experiences, and the art of taking pictures… Everywhere I went, especially the more touristy hotspots, I sensed an intense disconnection between people and the scenery, between friends and family, between *insert human here* and, well, everything. I wonder if you can guess where I’m going with this? Two words: social media. Actually, some more words: social media and the rise of The Photograph.
Now, I am a big fan of the photograph, don’t get me wrong. I love having photos to remember things by, celebrate moments, and I post to Instagram pretty regularly these days. I selfie (yes, I just made that a verb). And on occasion, I do shamelessly rip out the phone for a snap whilst my loved ones roll their eyes. One of my favourite things to do as a kid was pull out the huge boxes mum had stored away of photos documenting everything since she and dad met (and earlier even… as a kid it used to blow my mind that I didn’t exist back then… whaaat?!) Thank goodness she loved taking photos. They helped me to build the precious memories of my childhood.
However, I draw the line at where the Photo Takes Over. Or the phone. Actually, that will need to be a separate blog post, it’s so massive an issue. Nearly every waking hour that I was near a pretty view, a touristy spot, heck – even a squirrel, most of the humans around me became frenzied photographers, obsessed with getting the perfect shot (note: I became a frenzied squirrel photographer twice on this trip. I understand the challenge). Nothing new there; doesn’t take too long, a view is a view. However, if there was a human in the photo, then this became a full out photoshoot, with friends, partners or families spending extraordinary lengths of time photographing, checking, adjusting hair / clothes / reapplying makeup before taking the next round of shots. The longest of these dances I saw lasted an hour. I think it may have been one of those infamous influencers I was watching. Same spot, a myriad of different positions and angles. Never seen one before in the flesh; quite an experience. And it was a curious dance to watch.
Now, we all want a nice photo. But here is where I take most exception to this game. The look on the faces of the people who were critiquing themselves on their little screens told a story. It was why they took so many! Almost always it was a betrayal of disappointment or frustration. They weren’t disappointed or frustrated with the background; they were disappointed or frustrated with how they looked. And in most cases they refused to quit. Can you take another? Turn this way. I’ll just look away from the camera… Here, if you fix your makeup…? Just keep moving and I’ll keep snapping. Then there’s the return to the phone, and we have the same reaction all over again.
What’s going on here is a death loop, a critical self-talk spiral of doom. All in the name of validation, as we know there’s really only one destination for such photos these days. Comparisonitis running rife, playing into the highlight reel of social media, and quite frankly, an abominable waste of precious time. Arrrgh! It was driving me nuts, and I couldn’t believe the difference since my last big trip to such places that provide huge volumes of people-watching and epic sights over 9 years ago. Bit flabbergasted, bit worried, not going to lie.
What’s my point? No shaming, no way – most of us have been there to some extent at least. I’m concerned at what it’s doing to our minds. I am VERY concerned what it’s doing to the minds of our young people. I just really really want us to be aware of what’s happening here. On a personal level, that is. Much easier to look at it from a bystander’s point of view and analyse it. Not so much when you are in the photo-taking position. So here’s my challenge.
Next time you realise you have taken 20 shots of the same thing with you in front of it, please pause and check what’s going on in your head. Some ideas:
- How are you feeling right now? (if you are honestly feeling superamazing, by all means, disregard!!)
- Are you being kind to yourself?
- What is your endgame here?
- Where’s this picture going and why?
- Can you just pull a goofy face (the whole intention is to look goofy so it’s hard to mess it up) and lighten the mood instead?
- If you aren’t having a wonderful day with the camera, perhaps you could enjoy the view without it joining you in that moment.
- Or maybe you could challenge yourself to take the photo and not check it until later.
Whatever works. Interrupt the loop. Just be aware of what’s happening and above all else, please be kind to you. Photos may feel like they hold greater importance and have a wider audience than they used to, but a hot highlight reel isn’t going to fix your self-esteem if you self-combust in order to snap the content for your social accounts. Food for thought.
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Lots of love and in empowerment x
Behold, The Selfie. Pivotal in the rise of The Photograph.
Bec is the human behind Rebel Starseeds. She loves being outside, avocados and anything to do with the ocean. She also likes to write a lot, especially about things to do with wellbeing for girls + womxn, in the hope that she can find help others empowerment and joy from within themselves with a little reconnection, rewilding and rebelling (where necessary!)
About the author.