Beyond the Selfie

IMG_4550A friend once told me a story. She told me about a time when her and her husband went to visit one of those famous temples in Kyoto. There’s a perfect spot to take pictures from and there is a perfect time to go, which means the temple will be packed with tourists from all over. But this spot, this perfect spot, frames the photo that everybody wants. Proof that you were there. The greatest thing about the spot is the camaraderie invoked in fellow observers. Each group takes pictures of the group in front of them, sharing the burden of snapping the perfect “wish you were here” moment. A great opportunity to meet new people from all over the world, maybe a chance to practice that new language you’re dabbling in.

It’s very Japan.

My wife recently had the great fortune to spend time with her best friend in the gorgeous land of New Zealand. I admit, I was a bit jealous because I was trapped at home with a tight schedule and deficient funds. But she had a tremendous time full of laughs, exploration, and the pictures to prove it.

It’s very social.

As I took time to organize my thousands of photographs the other day, I realized that less than one percent of them had people in them. Even less had people I actually know posing in them. I began to wonder what this said about me.

Does this make me anti-social?
Does this make me rude?
Does this make me forgettable?

IMG_4904Social media exacts tremendous pressure. Over its short lifespan it has developed a distinct culture of thoughts and ideas that go unspoken, creating clear in-groups and out-groups. There is a special way to use social networks to market the cultivated, or uncultivated, image you desire. Some people are better versed than others.

Professionals and amateurs are beginning to study the impacts social media is having on us. Reports say it makes us sad while another says happy. I guess it depends who you ask. Look at here, here, and here for a primer of interesting articles.

Countless facts and opinions battered my skull as I tried to make sense of it all.

I thought about the person forcing me to pose with the invisible dog.
I thought about skipping picture day at school.
I thought about cultures with aversion to photography.
I thought about others.
I thought.
And thought.

Many laps later I determined nothing.

Perhaps thinking isn’t the solution. But I do know I am not anti-social. I am not rude. I might be forgettable.

IMG_4593I enjoy socializing. I like to be there in the moment with people. We are together to create new experiences, not relive past ones. Nothing makes an experience more awkward than talking about someone who isn’t there and won’t be there; it only succeeds in alienating new people. Living vicariously serves no purpose towards cultivating new and meaningful relationships.

I love photography. I will continue snapping pictures of things I think are interesting and I will share them as I see fit. But experiences with people are important to me and I want to keep those memories the same way a Tibetan Mandala is meant to be viewed.

In person.
In memory.

It’s very beautiful.


About Matthew J. Durocher

Matthew Durocher is a graduate of Michigan Tech University. He acquired his BA in English along with a minor in Music Composition and a certificate in Writing in Spring 2012. His style is one of passion and musicality. One foot is firmly rooted in tradition while the other slides dangerously close to the clouds.
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3 Responses to Beyond the Selfie

  1. Jessica says:

    There is nothing wrong with photos without people in them. Most of my photos are the same way. And I agree that living vicariously through someone else’s experiences isn’t really living at all… Sometimes it’s hard for me, honestly, because I want to share my experiences abroad with people at home, but they’ve never been…and don’t really care…

    Also, I really don’t think you’re forgettable — just have to throw that out there. And I’m jealous of your wife’s trip to New Zealand, too! Someday…

    • Your words are too kind. But I think you might have nailed how I feel when you talk about sharing experiences abroad. Most appear to not really care. That’s fine, but sometimes there are certain… issues that need to be talked about and some people don’t want to take the time to listen. Sadly, it seems that this space has turned into that for me. Writing is therapeutic and helps me deal with the more complicated issues associated with living abroad. Thanks for understanding and stopping by!

      • Jessica says:

        No thanks necessary. I really do get what it’s like to deal with some of those issues. I really am anxious to get abroad again. I have a lot of difficulty relating to many of the people here… I know that you mean when you say, “That’s fine, but sometimes there are certain… issues…” Here, I feel I cannot be myself because, by being myself, and sharing my thoughts, I push uninterested/exposed others away and only isolate myself further. It’s complex.

        I’m glad you’ve chosen to share on your site. I think anyone who’s ever been an expat can relate. Cheers!

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