One summer evening a couple of years ago, back visiting New York, I took a walk from the High St subway station out onto the Brooklyn Bridge. I wanted to see again, at sunset, the magnificent views up and down the East River.
I did a post about that mildly traumatic experience then, and I want to bring it up again.
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 (usually a phone). What astonished me was that almost none of those cameras were directed at the East River and its boat traffic, or 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.
I asked myself – What is 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?
Some explain that we’re in an age of narcissism. Well, why? What does that mean? Will we have to have more hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes, arctic ice melting and wars to get our attention back to the world? We’re having enough of those things now, but they don’t seem to be helping.
Now I have to also admit that, that same week, I took a walk through the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. It was not as crowded as the bridge, 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 was comforting, but it didn’t do much to remove my bewilderment connected with the bridge.
Three years later, it seems to me that this photo narcissism has let up a bit, but it’s still there. It’s not confined to New York, nor to cities.
I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve travelled a lot too, yet I never saw anything like that before. I still wish someone could explain this phenomenon to me.