During a browsing session recently, I ended up looking at the Amish in America, I have no idea how but it was interesting so I stuck with it. While reading I came across something that stood out. I knew they didn’t use technology but I had never given any thought to their views on photography. I expected they wouldn’t have a camera but they also don’t like to be photographed, some feel more strongly than others but it’s best not to go around snapping them as an annoying tourist.
It wasn’t so much that they didn’t like being photographed that stood out, it was more the reasons why. There are some Biblical beliefs behind it but that wasn’t what caught my attention, it was the belief that photographs ‘may accentuate individuality and call attention to themselves.’ ‘They also want to be remembered by the lives they lived and the examples they left, not by physical appearance.’
I like photographs and I have been guilty of taking the occasional selfie, usually with my family, before they became cool. How before cool, well before phones had selfie cameras cool.
I can’t imagine a world without photographs but then I can’t imagine living as the Amish do. Until recently I would have thought this belief a little silly however it is now difficult to argue against.
Since social media became commonplace and selfies became the norm I have to now admit, they have a point.
A simple internet search will reveal stories of selfie addiction, selfies with people about to commit suicide, a Russian paramedic taking pictures with dying people and selfies with corpses. You can easily find a lot of negatives arising from the world’s obsession with selfies.
What’s the connection? Well, what’s the reason for the selfies? It is purely to draw attention to themselves and to accentuate their individuality. Almost exactly what the Amish believed would come from posing for photographs. There is a constant drive for people to take more extreme selfies, any way to get likes or loves or whatever gives people the hit of social media dopamine.
A little further digging into the web and you will find studies explaining how people are unhappier now and how social media gives people an unrealistic expectation of life. Everyone loves to show what a great holiday they’re having, what celebrity they’re meeting or how amazing they look in their new expensive whatever.
Today, the young are bombarded with good looking people, having amazing times in exotic places. Maybe that’s ok for you but it isn’t if you have self-esteem issues or are suffering from depression. If you feel like everyone else is better looking or having a better life than you, a selfie proving that just rubs salt into the wound.
It’s not unusual for people to delete selfies from social media if they don’t get enough likes. The picture must be bad, they must look ugly or something else negative. Why else wouldn’t you get a load of loves for your new filtered pic?
We live in a time where everything is shoved in your face. The rich flaunt their wealth and supermodels pose with makeup and filters. To a teenage girl feeling fat or a young lad without much cash, it doesn’t help to see a manufactured image proving their inadequacies.
I meet enough people and talk to them enough to know that everyone deals with problems every day of their lives. I’m old enough to know that people present a fake front and I’m grounded enough to know that I don’t need to be ripped to be happy. I am now but I wasn’t always and I was never really someone who suffered the mental issues that now seem commonplace.
After some searching and thinking, I really can’t help but think that the Amish were right. Photographs of ourselves, which the selfie is the ultimate expression of, have lead to a world where some people are so self-obsessed they will pose with a corpse to gain followers. People will sell themselves out for a few minutes of fame and anxiety and depression are commonplace. I’m not ready to give up my camera just yet but they certainly made me think.
© 2018 David G Chambers. All rights reserved.