The Perils of Instant Gratification


Image from boards.weddingbee.com

Image from boards.weddingbee.com

There’s no way around it: we as a society, are OBSESSED with ourselves. Be it via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other number of social platforms that we use on a regular basis, we can’t seem to get enough US.

The advancements of technology have basically even made things like calling someone a tedious exercise. I know I speak for me when I say it actually embitters me sometimes to have to call someone instead of texting them, with the irony, of course, being that talking to them via phone would be much quicker than the waiting game one plays when conversing by text message. Now when we can’t use WiFi on our phones or laptops immediately upon the click of a button, we curse a blue streak, as if dial-up internet didn’t feature prominently in most of our early internet lives. Remember when emails were the greatest thing since sliced bread? The idea of being able to write someone and get a response in less than a week was too good to be true, rendering the written letter game fairly obsolete almost immediately. But then Instant Messaging started. And while there is still some place for email, I know I don’t use it in the same way anymore. Who has time to wait as long as even one day to get a response from someone else when there are much faster options available? All of this has happened just in my lifetime. I didn’t even get a cellphone until I was a junior in high school, so really, this has all happened within like 10 years.

There are now children in elementary school who have cellphones. Who are they calling? Do pay phones even exist anymore? I have legitimately not seen one for years. Kids have learned to be entitled because young adults are, and the worst thing is that there’s really no way to slow the trend down. It’s an incredible blessing for our technology to have come so far in so little time, but it is also a crippling curse.

We’re self-important and self-absorbed, traits that manifest themselves in any number of ways. How often do you see someone able to have a face-to-face conversation with their friends without habitually checking their phones? Some people prefer to shamelessly petition celebrities for retweets on twitter. Social media especially has fed the habit, given us all new ways to shed light on the inane minutiae of our lives. I’ve learned to never underestimate my generation’s ability/desire to champion the mundane.

My least favorite way to do so at the moment? The “selfie” picture. Dear Lord, the selfie picture. I will never stop crusading against the selfie picture. How is a grandfather supposed to rest in peace when THIS TOMFOOLERY is going on right at his bedside? Is nothing sacred? This is why we can’t have nice things.

For those who don’t know, selfies are exactly what they sound like – folks taking their own pictures. But I don’t mean when someone sets a camera up and runs into the frame to get a shot next to their family and Christmas tree. I mean when someone has nothing better to do on a Tuesday afternoon, so they throw on their favorite bandana/hat and tanktop/t-shirt, run to their bathroom and snap a quick picture that they caption “So bored, can’t believe I look like such a bum today, TEHE!”  Or maybe I’m talking about THIS. 

The apex of this shameless self-absorption, the rise of the selfie is everything that is wrong with our societal need for constant attention. It’s a wanton disregard for everyone else’s time, a gross overestimation of how much they really care, and frankly, an unbecoming closer look into what is most likely someone’s deeper, unhealthy reliance on validation. If you’re calling attention to yourself specifically because you aren’t currently getting any, then it’s become an issue. It’s usually the loudest person in the room who has the least to say.

The worst part about selfie culture is that there is no activity too trite or inappropriate that it can’t be turned into an opportunity to whore one’s self out for attention. Being bored on a Tuesday afternoon isn’t something that warrants other people’s notice. In fact, those are the times when you should want the least attention, specifically BECAUSE you aren’t doing anything particularly noteworthy. Why call attention to that? Would you enter a talent show specifically to say that you had no talent?

But on the surface, I get it – sometimes you feel or look good, and you want to be seen. I can be as vain as anyone, so while I stop short of taking selfies, it’s silly of me to go out of my way to be in public the longest on days when I feel I look nice, so in NO WAY am I implying that it’s better. Here’s my main complaint about selfies though: they’re just so embarrassingly shameless. A popular internet term is “thirsty,” which implies a staggering, almost insatiable need for attention and validation, mostly from strangers. The whole thing is somewhat paradoxical, because on the one hand, constantly calling attention to yourself via selfie implies that you’re self-absorbed. But at the same time, it seems to speak to a latent need and reliance on the opinion of others to supplement your self-worth. I’m sure we all suffer from bouts of low self-esteem in one way or another sometimes, and sometimes a little pick-me-up from others can go a long way towards stabilizing our confidence or brightening your day. But, there’s a difference between earning a sincere compliment and brazenly fishing for one. I believe that bludgeoning your online friends over the head with a never-ending stream of selfies tramples that line between tasteful and needy, and we should be better than that.

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