How did we become so obsessed with ourselves? Did it come with the advancement of the technological age? We do, afterall, live in an age whereby we are given the platform to make ersatz celebrities out of ourselves…we can upload onto the world wide web sneak peeks of our personal lives, wardrobes, families, friends, daily activities…the list is endless. Social media’s biggest flaw was giving people the idea that: we want to know everything. Social networks have become spaces whereby commoners cause a serious threat to the existence of tabloids since we seem to have our own juicier inventions such as “twelebs” and “twars” (popular people on twitter and aggressive arguments or ‘wars’ on twitter).
Gone are the days where families went on vacations and visited zoos and museums simply to admire the works of others- to recognise beauty beyond our daily lives. Nowadays, it seems the sole purpose of visiting such places is to take selfies with just a glimpse of the actual place and iconic artwork lurking in the background like an unwanted photo-bomber. We seem to be unable to spare a good twenty minutes to take everything in, to take one or two pictures for memories, as was done in more blissful days.
This leads to the another observation I have made; the drastic change in the quality of family album photos. If one were to browse through an album from the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and perhaps early 2000s, one would see family members gathered at social events doing social things such as hugging, laughing, dancing or hunting…pictures which were quite evidently taken by an onlooker. If one were to browse through a more modern family album however, (and that’s if those are even still on the market) one would find pictures at a party,yes, with people staring into the camera lens, chucking a deuce- the middle and index fingers raised to form the universally recognised peace sign- grinning or pouting. What happened to pictures being able to tell a story? The thousand words’ equivalent?
To get to the point, how do we fix this problem? Is this even a problem?
It most certainly is. See, the danger of being self-absorbed is that too many things in life pass you by. We miss a comet in the sky because we are too busy trying to catch a picture of the stars on our cameras; we miss out on the opportunity to be involved in the world around us…
In 2013, on World AIDS Day, I decided to scroll through my newsfeed on Facebook to see what other young people had to say about a day that has such significance in Southern Africa. To my dismay, I found not one post referring to the topic- only usual accounts of favourite songs on latest albums, annoying siblings, plans for the day with friends…I thought to myself that in a country of such alarming HIV/AIDS statistics, one would expect a little more concern shown by the youth of the country- the educated, the articulate, the vibrant, the influential…but no. What do we use all those privileges for: updates about us, our lives, our problems.
Young people need to start to think beyond themselves, realise that they are not simply Khumalos, Van de Merwes, Zulus, Portuguese, Sowetans, South Africans…we are global citizens. And that does not mean we are all suddenly obliged to become activists but what it does mean is that we need to be a little more aware of what is happening around us, recognise it and sympathise with those who are affected. We need to be able to visit cultural heritage sites, holiday destinations, live music concerts; take everything in, store it in our hearts and minds because at the end of the day, if the memory card is lost or damaged, those memories will never be erased from your memory if you took the time to internalise and appreciate it all. So the challenge is to put away our cell phones, and cameras and to live and let live.