time to turn around from a scene not seen?

Lincoln's address

Ten years ago, it would have seen a very different picture.

People congregating to admire perhaps the greatest President – the saviour of the Union. Or, maybe they would be amassing merely to gaze upon the art; the fine alabaster sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, cosseted in a columnar temple looking out to Capitol Hill.

Except now, more than half of these people are facing the wrong way. At least, facing the wrong way to look directly at the statue.

For now, unlike a decade ago, the adopted mode of recording your presence is the ‘selfie’. And so, half of the people are looking away, beaming at their mobile, posing, pointing, pulling all manner of faces. Alone, or with companions peering over an appropriately framed shoulder.

It’s an odd sight. Half looking towards, half looking away.

Maybe the ‘selfie’ posture accurately reflects the passing of time? The past appropriately behind us, looking back. As if looking in a mirror at what has gone before, whilst our bodies, and eyes, face out to the future?

There was a time we recorded photographically the thing, the place, the view. However, it seems to me that instead, in this ‘selfie’ age, what matters most is the subject in the foreground. The self. Me. I. The grinning, posing photograph taker. I am, in this moment, more significant than the history that preceded me. More relevant than the beautiful scenery behind me. More important that the place, the environment, the location.

We share these pictures to showcase first and foremost our expressions, our poses, our facial creativity, our friends, not to show off the backdrop.

I wonder what metaphor this is, for our future? Not observing the wonder around us. Instead, the preoccupation with looking at ourselves. Not deeply. Not into our soul, or our very being. But looking at our superficial, surface selves. Sharing these with others. Competing with others. Even now, we photoshop them with filters. To remove reality. To remove blemishes.

Maybe we need to face reality again? Maybe we should turn around more?

Maybe that would be a decision on the scale of those Abraham Lincoln once took?

the emergence of the selfie

looking at self
What gets a lexicographer up in the morning? Where does the energy come from?

Maybe the advent of new words? Maybe the evolution of old ones?

Selfie is a new word. This sudden penchant for capturing ourselves against our current environment. Looking at ourselves in our context. Getting an arms length perspective. Using a selfie stick to get even greater perspective. To see from further out. To fit more of our situation in.

Our desire to share these 2D representations of self in these static snapshots of life, is curious. We seem strangely reluctant to show ourselves in living 3D, in reality, as we exist in the world with other human beings. Alive. Both beautiful and beautifully flawed.

Of course we have always had the ability to look at ourselves from the outside. Inside our head. Long before technology gave us the ability to record an image, many of us did that in our mind’s eye. Imagined it. We see ourselves in that awkward conversation. See ourselves in that meeting where we were criticised. See ourselves in that beautiful moment of joy, of fun, of love.

Our mind’s eye has an important advantage over the selfie. We are not limited to the current moment. Not limited to a selfie snap and a hard drive of past experiences captured in still reflection. Inside, we can do this imaging, this ‘selfie’, for our future too. Imagine our own future. Our upcoming holiday. Our new home to be. We can manipulate the image – past or present. Make it brighter, more colourful, turn it around, zoom in or out. Take parts out, add parts in.

Take a mental selfie now of where you will be next week, next month, next year.

Perspective and context are crucial to our humanity. They allow us to see possibility, to reflect, to dream, to make sense, to know we’re ok.

Click.

Remember too though that living, sharing, enjoying reality in the moment are more deeply human. Share the gift of you, now, in glorious living technicolour. Not just in smiling, staged, two dimension tomorrow.

Don’t just take a selfie. Be one.

Lexicographers – let’s add ‘be a selfie’