Selfies are a modern wonder in their own strange way. It’s wonderful that we’ll always know what we looked like after a lifetime of taking 6 bazillion selfies. It’s awful that we’ll never see George Washington’s wood-toothed smile or see Mona Lisa make a duck face, not for real, anyway.
Here are just three awful/wonderful thoughts about selfies:
- Eventually everybody on earth will take a selfie with the Mona Lisa—even if they never went to Paris. Ever since P. Diddy started the trend, all the kids want to take a selfie in front of the Mona Lisa, looking as “gangsta” as possible while Mona Lisa just looks on and smirks. Photoshop can save you lots of airfare, but you’ll miss the wine and cheese, so take your pick.
- Nobody will really remember Leonardo DaVinci — Remember? That guy who painted the Mona Lisa? They’ll remember the thing P. Diddy and Eminem took a selfie with, but not Leonardo. That’s ok, someday they’ll Google his name and put two and two together, but by then it’ll be too late. Museum managers say that hordes of people now go to the Mona Lisa, take a selfie, and leave. They don’t even really look at the Mona Lisa, they just see it in a tiny cell phone photo, even though they were there!
- Now people can refuse to look at art at all, even when they’re right in front of it. Classic masterpieces are now just backdrops for selfies, souvenirs of an experience people rush through, consume, then move on to consume the next, just like the drive-through at McDonald’s. It’s just one sign of how we’re turning our whole lives into a fast-food drive through experience, with help from technology—we consume it, instead of experiencing it. There was a time when people looked at photos of the Mona Lisa because that’s the only way they could see it. Now, nobody even bothers with that. Who has time? We have to keep up with Instagram and Snapchat.
Surveys say that nearly one in three people have photographed their food. As far as I know they still eat that food, but I could be wrong. Why not just order soda water at the bar, then walk around the restaurant photographing other diners’ food? Who’d know the difference? Is it as satisfying? Most important, how much should you tip, and to whom?
It seems to me, though, there’s a time to put the phone down, enjoy your dinner, then just look at the Mona Lisa for a bit. Really look. What is she smiling about? Or is that a tiny sneer? After all, she’s spent 500 years looking at us, but we can’t spare 5 minutes to look, really look at her?