April 22, 2024
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April 22, 2024
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Today we’re discussing the prevalent opinion that selfies are signaling the decline of civilization. We’re going to use a simple Q&A format, because the decline has already started.

What are selfies? A selfie is a picture that you take of yourself, using a handheld device, of you holding that device and looking at it. Also, sometimes there’s stuff going on behind you.

Is this normal? Sure! In a world where people talk to themselves, why not take pictures of yourself?

People talk to themselves? Yeah. What do you think this article is?

Whoa. I just blew my mind. True, phones don’t take the best pictures, but at least people always have their phones on them. When I was growing up, if you wanted to take a picture—like if your kid was doing something cute—you almost never had your phone on you, because it was attached to your house. You had to remember where your camera was, and then you had to put in film, and batteries, and by the time you were done, your kid was in high school.

What do we do with these pictures? I already know what I look like. You send them to your friends, who never see your face in real life because you’re always looking down at your device, and they’re like, “Who’s that?” Many selfies also feature your arm coming toward the corner of the screen, as if the photographer couldn’t wait to take the picture of you until you finished shaking his hand.

Why can’t other people take pictures of us? People take selfies because they can’t find anyone else to take pictures of them. In my day, if you were on vacation and you wanted a picture of yourself partially blocking whatever it is you were looking at, you would hand someone a camera and then try your best to smile while praying that they had no interest in stealing it. Like these people hang out at landmarks all day, paying admission fees, hoping some nice family hands them a huge camera they can steal. It was not the best system.

Yes, but that’s how we always took them. Also, your friends could never figure out how to use your camera. They always asked, “Which button do I press?”

“The big button. It’s right on top. How does your camera work?”

So what’s the problem with selfies? First of all, we take way too may pictures altogether. Selfies are apparently for when someone wants to make a flip book of their lives.

What about the old days? In the old days, people didn’t take 50 pictures of themselves at once, because they had to get film developed at the pharmacy 24 pictures at a time, and the pharmacist saw every single one of them. If you handed him an entire roll of you making duck faces, he’d probably hook you up with some pills for it.

Let’s put it this way: Everyone has pictures of their beloved grandparents hanging in their homes, and if you happen to glance at their walls, even by accident, they say things like, “This was the only picture my grandfather brought with him when he came to America.”

“Wow! How long ago did he come?”

“Oh, he was just here last week.”

But what are our grandchildren going to hang on their walls? Even you will never have a chance to go through all the pictures you’ve taken.

Yeah, but memories! Nobody looks at most digital pictures more than a couple of months after they take them. It’s never like, “Remember that thing that happened eight years ago?” It’s more like, “Remember what happened last week?” People can’t remember what happened last week without the picture. We’ve lost our ability to remember things. My 9-year-old son, Heshy, for example, somehow lost the ability to remember to bring his homework home every night. So usually, I call my sister, whose son is in my son’s class, and ask her to fax it over, and instead she takes a picture of her son’s paper and sends it to us. And it’s not even a good picture. She takes it at an angle, possibly from across the room while she’s making supper. She doesn’t have time for my kid’s mishugass. And then Heshy has to hand in his homework done on a crooked picture of his cousin’s homework. But imagine doing that 20 years ago. My sister would take a picture of the homework, and then we’d have to get it developed. And then we’d get a little glossy card two days later.

“Can I get this in an 8½ by 11?”

“You want to frame this? It’s a math page.”

“No, I want to use it as a math page.”


But my point is that thanks to small electronic devices, I no longer remember where I was going with this.

By Mordechai Schmutter

 Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press and Aish.com, among others. He also has five books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].


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