Last week, I wrote about my selfie consciousness. This week, I’m reporting on my plan to ask a stranger to take my photo and see what happens. I went into the Middle School to conduct a workshop on building effective sentences last Friday, and the first thing I did was look for a student. While they were checking my driver’s license to make sure I was not a criminal, I spied two children sitting on the bench next to the attendance office. I said, “Would one of you do me a favor? I need you to take my picture.” They were both more than willing, and I thought I might have to rescue my phone when they briefly wrestled with it before Jose, a sixth grader who was waiting to see the principal, took the picture. They smiled and laughed when I explained that I was writing about selfies. They were friendly and open, even though they were both evidently in some kind of trouble. After our brief conversation, I thought, “That was easy enough. What’s the big deal about asking someone to take your picture?”
When I left the campus to eat lunch, I decided that asking an eleven year old to take my picture was too comfortable. I needed to make the experience more of a risk. So I waited until I had placed my order with the twenty-something young gentlemen at the restaurant, and then I said, “This is kind of embarrassing, but can I get you to take my picture?”
He agreed, but the ten years he had on my friend Jose changed his perspective about a total stranger asking you to take their picture. I believe he indulged me because I was an older person and because he was not in a position to say no since he was waiting on me at the time. He did, however, take a much better picture.
This experiment is not over. I’m going to continue to ask people to take my picture, and look for opportunities to engage in what I called micro-connections last week. I have to continue because I haven’t made sense of why people are so obsessed with selfies and why I’m so resistant to taking one myself. The whole point of this blog is to learn about the world that evolved into being while I was raising my children and working.
In the meantime, I’ve been doing some interesting reading about selfies. The Times article http://healthland.time.com/2013/09/06/why-selfies-matter/ presents information from the perspective of a concerned society. Jerry Salz’s article http://www.vulture.com/2014/01/history-of-the-selfie.htmlselfie helped me take a longer view. Selfies, like Elvis, like hip-hop, have changed and will continue to change our conceptions of art and of communication and beauty. Finally, Matthew Frost’s video, starring Kirsten Dunst, affirms that I’m not alone in feeling that we’re giving up a sense of community and connection in exchange for the ease of taking a fast photo.