Friday, 18 November 2016

Ready for my close-up

If you don't mind my asking, when did you last take a photograph of yourself? In other words, when was your latest selfie? I asked myself that question earlier this week and struggled to come up with an answer. After a few minutes' thought I reckoned that the last time I took a photograph of myself was last August, i.e. August 2015, i.e. (if a further 'i.e.' is allowed) 15 months ago.

That realization produced two near-simultaneous responses in me:

1. I couldn't believe it.
2. I could believe it.

Of course, I realise that we take selfies all the time: it's now second nature to point the camera at oneself and capture a pose. I realise also that I am of the generation that has come to mobile technology 'second-hand', as it were, having lived my teenage and early adult years at a time when mobile phones and even digital cameras did not exist. But now that smartphones are available to all and that 66% (and rising) of UK adults own one, my 15-month selfie no-show feels somehow odd. I can't quite believe that I don't do what so many people readily do. What don't I get about this everyday ritual? 

But, then, perhaps I do believe it, after all. I am, by preference, a strong introvert and so tend not to feel drawn to putting myself 'out there' online or in group chats. Also, I spent the formative years of my life in the era when taking photos happened at 18th birthday parties or weddings or, perhaps, on Christmas Day. When I was a teenager, if someone came along to a party with a camera, it became something of a talking-point. Now, if someone comes along without one, it's weird. As a result, I never developed (pre-digital-photography joke, there!) the mindset that taking a photo on the spur of the moment is something that I would do.

And I do worry that I'm missing out, I really do. I don't have a smartphone full of snaps of my family and friends. And I worry that I'm the only one of my peers that doesn't. Will I regret this in five years' time? What about in ten years' time? Twenty years? And what about when it's all too late?

To end, I should own up to the fact that I don't actually have a smartphone. I did, once, for about eight months, but I found it overwhelming. I spent ridiculous amounts of time downloading apps which didn't quite live up to the hype, or occasionally taking photos which never saw the light of day. It all just felt like too much hard work. And so one day, when the battery ran out, I just didn't plug it into the charger. And I replaced it with a phone which cost me £9.99 and had no camera.

And that selfie I took 15 months ago? Well, I actually took it on an old Polaroid camera, and it was a picture of only my feet, as I walked through an ancient forest in Devon. Why I felt drawn to capture that moment, I'm not quite sure. Perhaps it was to prove, as perhaps all our selfies are, that on a particular day and at a particular time, I was here.

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