When I was younger, having your photo taken was a social event. You went out for the day with your family or friends. At some point you decided it would be nice to have a record of what you were doing. So you’d chat about the best place to take the photo, where to stand, who was going to hold the camera. Maybe if you both decided to be in the photo, you’d politely ask a stranger to take the photo for you, and you’d have a brief conversation as you explained how your camera worked. Finally, the shot would be taken and maybe later on you’d send your friend a print of that special day out as a souvenir of your friendship.
Yesterday I was given a tablet – so much for my efforts to stay away from technology! It was a really generous present and exactly what I have needed for a long time. But I discovered that when it comes to using the camera, the lens can point both ways. You can either take a picture of something else out there or you can take a photo of yourself. No wonder selfies have become so popular.
But if that means you miss out on the social interaction of taking a photo, then I think we are losing something important. It seems to me that the more we become interconnected online, there is a danger that we become less and less interconnected in real life. Solitary people who take photos of their solitary selves and post them online just aren’t engaging in quite the same way. Maybe it’s a sign that we are actually developing a fear of solitude, and if that’s the case, then maybe this Lent is a good chance to reflect on the positive value of solitude and silence.