One Friday evening last summer I took a walk from the High Street subway station out onto the Brooklyn Bridge.
I wanted to see again, at sunset, the magnificent views up and down the East River.
I wasn’t surprised that the bridge’s central walkway was crowded with people at 8 pm, or that every second person had a camera in hand (or, more often, a telephone they were using as a camera). What astonished me was that almost none of those cameras were directed at the East River and its boat traffic, at the bridge itself, or at the spectacular Manhattan skyline silhouetted against the sunset.
No, almost everyone was taking selfies. When it was a couple or group, they were taking turns getting portraits of each other, more or less the same thing. Selfie sticks were everywhere.
What was going on? Just when did the human race lose so much interest in the world that it no longer wants to look at anything but its own face?
You say we’re in an age of narcissism? Well, why? And what does that mean? Will we have to have more hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes and wars to get our attention back to the world? We’re having enough of them as it is, but they don’t seem to be helping.
Now I should admit that, that same week, I took a walk through the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. It was not as crowded as the bridge (though it can be on a Sunday), and I saw no one taking selfies there. But the garden’s visitors, though they come in all races and all walks of life, are a special lot. That didn’t do much to remove my bewilderment connected with the bridge.
I was born in 1946, so I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve traveled a lot too, yet I’ve never seen anything like that before. I wish someone would explain selfie culture to me.