Why you don’t need so many selfies


When Richard and I moved to the UK, he applied for a spouse visa and was asked to produce photos of us in some of the places we’d lived or visited in the six years we’d been together.

Well, he had plenty of photos that he’d taken of me. And I had plenty of photos that I’d taken of him. But it turned out we only had one photo of us both together. Fortunately Richard’s brother had taken a photo of us at our wedding and some friends had a few other shots of us that we could use.

Fast forward another six years and we faced a similar situation when we decided to move to Australia. Now it was my turn to apply for a spouse visa. But this time we were better prepared. While exploring the UK, we’d remembered to get a few passers-by to take photos of us smiling happily into our camera against various scenic backdrops.

We live in a selfie culture

The point I am making here is that we live in such a selfie culture that both the UK and Australian governments assume that every couple has photos of themselves. But Richard and I prefer to live in the moment instead of recording it for posterity, so even during the years we lived in Bali, we hardly took any photos of each other or the island.

Selfie mania has reached such heights that 259 selfie deaths were recorded between 2011-17, primarily caused by falling, drowning or transport accidents, with death by animals, electrocution, fire and firearms cited as other reasons. And it’s thought the true number is much larger because attempting to take a selfie is not always reported as the real cause of the fatality.

The majority of “killfies”, as they are sometimes called, involve people under 30 years old, that age when we all still feel immortal. Over 70% of the fatalities are men, which begs the interesting question, are men bigger risk takers or are they more vain? And about half the tragedies are in India, which has now declared “no-selfie zones” in a number of selfie-death hotspots, in an attempt to combat the problem.

The lure of selfies

An iconic shot of an entire crowd turning their backs on presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, in 2016 to take selfies of themselves with her in the background graphically captured how deeply embedded in modern life this has become. And the fact that she instigated this because she knows what a crowd pleaser it is shows how normal it has become. Selfies give a sense of self-importance. They create an ‘I was there, I did that’ memento.

Then there are the Jeremy Clarkson’s of the world, who don’t buy into this at all. In one of his Sunday Times columns this year he gave a word of advice: ‘If you see me in the street, ask crisply and efficiently for a photograph. I will then tell you to eff off and we can both go about our business with minimal disruption.’

And Eric Idle of Monty Python fame shared a similar sentiment in a little song he wrote that John Cleese clearly agrees with:

No prizes for guessing which camp I’m in.

Why you don’t need selfies

The reason Richard and I have almost no photos of ourselves, our friends or the places we visit is not because we don’t own a camera or know how to use one to good effect. It’s because we choose to live in the present, not in the past.

For example, if we come upon a beautiful place, we’ll stop the car, get out, feel the land energies and absorb the view through our eyes and other senses. We’ll take some time to fully experience what it’s like to be there. And those memories can stay with us for months, years or even decades. No photo required. Memories are stored in the etheric and photos are a very poor substitute for that.

So next time you’re tempted to take a photo of any kind, stop and ask yourself: Do you really need to add yet another image to your digital clutter? Or would you rather immerse yourself in the richness of the moment and experience it to the full?

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2019

About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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6 Responses to Why you don’t need so many selfies

  1. Jude M says:

    Wow, Karen!

    I dare say that the proliferation of personal blogs is also a part of the “selfie” movement, as well as comments on social media relating to “my status: gee, I’m in a restaurant now, eating this food!” I truly believe that our young people do not know, haven’t learned, or have already forgotten how to experience the present. Or, maybe they’ve lost or never had the ability to screen out the things that distract us from being in the present.

    I certainly have such problems, but I’m aware of them, and I’m gradually acquiring the ability to push away from the metaexperiential (my newly coined word, I think). Having recently received a probable diagnosis of a fatal disease, I have superpowers that help me stay in the now. I hope everyone else in the world can get those powers more easily than I!

  2. Carol says:

    I love my old black and white photos exactly because I have just a few from each year, just enough to start a conversation with the fellow traveler, and to prompt them to pull moments from their memories in a wonderful conversation. Can’t say that of selfies. The experiencing of swapping memories with someone of the same event is a very present activity. Maybe part story telling, maybe part fact, but we are very present when we do this!!

  3. Virginia K says:

    I agree with Jill, our families old photos are a source of wonder for our grandchildren. We are in the rare position of having family photos dating back to the 1860’s. I do not understand the trend for ‘selfies’, seems weird to me but on the other hand the odd photo with me in it at a place I have visited would be nice to reminisce about with my grandchildren. I worked with a guy who told me the story of his daughter age 7 asking about baby photos of her, why in fact there weren’t any but hundreds of her older brother. Turns out they were so concerned with a ‘perfect’ photo they deleted everything as they went. Needless to say this little girl was not impressed. Over time I have resorted to deleting a lot of mine after a trip but I do print the one’s that have meaning to me and no I don’t think I live in the past at all.

  4. Jill B says:

    My sister has just unearthed a huge number of photos from our past. I am 70 and she a little younger. Obviously none are selfies and, after discarding a large percentage, it has been a pleasure to look at photos of our parents and their families and friends (all long dead), and also some of ourselves and our children at varying younger ages. It would be, in my opinion, sad if no-one took photos of themselves and others. Yes, it is great to live in the present, but our past and our ancestors are part of us, and thus part of our present, too.

    • Hi Jill, I’m not suggesting that no-one takes photos, and the ones your sister has found are clearly not selfies. But in the online courses I teach, many people report having tens of thousands of digital photos these days. They are recording life through a camera, not by experiencing it directly themselves. As Veleka commented earlier today, she felt she didn’t actually see or enjoy Paris until her camera broke!

  5. Veleka says:

    I didn’t actually see or enjoy Paris until my camera broke.

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