There are some firsts you never forget. The first kiss. The first sip of alcohol. The first time you see a selfie stick in public.
When it comes to the latter, my first happened in Rome, a couple months ago—and like many firsts, I wasn’t really prepared for it at all. I know that’s hard to believe considering I was paying an obligatory visit to the one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world, the Colosseum. Here, I thought I could pay roughly ten Euro to contemplate just how many souls had died in one of the most horrifying and spectacular sites on Earth. And, in a way, I did get that experience.
Have you ever seen a grown man protract a metal rod, attach it to his daughter’s crystal-encrusted phone, and take slow, circular baby steps with a family of four and their clenched teeth? Because I have. And the first attempt at the perfect panoramic shot didn’t work. He directed this cringe-worthy production three times.
I guess what most struck me about the experience visiting the Colosseum that day—besides a few literal strikes to the head—is that for every 50 people I saw struggling to hoist their phones to the that perfect angle that shaves off extra chins, I saw only one with headphones listening to a guided tour. Like, I get it: memories, Instagram likes, The Age of Narcissism, blah blah blah. But those who paid admission with me on January 18th were staring at thousands of harmonious arches that date back to 70 AD—inside which a real-life Hunger Games took place over and over again. I’m not a history buff or anything (see teen blockbuster reference in the last sentence) but learning about those unfathomable events—in the place where they happened—seems a hell of a lot more interesting than a picture of my face, with a Kenneth the Page smile, that blocks 75% of the most-photographed Euro landmark outside the Eiffel Tower.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not anti-selfie. I get that outside a photo of a real cute dog, just about nothing else delivers a shallow-but-enjoyable stream of likes than an Instagram of your own smiling mug. I’m just pro experiencing the shit out of new places.
Today, Coachella announced that they will not be allowing selfie sticks at their festivals, to which I said YES! More of this. Museums, restaurants, places of interest that attract crowds: will you consider following this lead? How the heck are we supposed to build lasting memories if we’re spending more time obsessively taking photos of ourselves than looking around, breathing in, and taking mental shots of the moment?
Can I get an amen?
Photo by elPadawan/Flickr