Millennials: Pay attention to the moment, not its documentation

Laurel Thompson

Since the invention of photography in the 1800s, humans have been taking pictures of themselves just as much as they use photography for artistic purposes. Plate cameras and roll film cameras were the first few waves of this technology to capture the public’s interest in photography, followed by the Polaroidwhich provided a more manageable medium for everyday selfie-taking and is returning in popularity as our generation shows a fascination for old technology, like record players and Polaroid-mimicking Instagram filters. Digital cameras then became phone cameras and phones became smart, fueling the explosion of social media in the 21st century.

While taking photos of ourselves is by no means a new concept, the millennials face a great deal of criticism by older people as a self-absorbed, shallow generation that is addicted to technology. And although I fall within this age group, I agree that selfies — and social media outlets in general — have gotten out of hand.


Recently, an Arizona State University sorority was mocked by the commentators at a Diamondbacks vs. Rockies baseball game for taking selfies, who made comments like “That’s the best one of the 300 pictures of myself I’ve taken today” and “Welcome to parenting in 2015.” The video, which went viral on the Internet this month, poses several issues I think are critical to discuss in an age where technology so often interferes with authenticity.

First of all, the commentators were extremely out of line in both the attention they gave the girls — by zooming in on them during the game that people tuned in to watch — and their ageist comments regarding this generation’s upbringing. This might be news to them, and to others their age, but the millennials are not the original selfie-takers — we simply gave it the name. Maybe it’s because today’s technology makes it easier for us to take pictures of ourselves, and inventions like the “selfie stick” and Snapchat give us reasons to do so frequently, but our generation is simply taking an old concept to the next level.

While I think the commentators’ remarks were highly unnecessary and unprofessional, I must agree that the girls’ selfies were excessive. It’s one thing to snap a few pictures with your friends to document the moment, but to take a picture with each churro, hot dog and sorority sister, using a different “duck face” each time — at this point, the “snaps,” tweets and status updates detract from the experience itself, making it almost pointless to spend money on expensive tickets and go to the game. If there wasn’t a giant scoreboard and instant replay screen, I doubt anyone this distracted by their phone would leave the game knowing which team won, much less the score.

Although this behavior is especially noticeable of young generations during events like sports games and concerts, the issue extends throughout every aspect of life. It is obvious that a student who shows up for class and takes handwritten notes will do much better on exams than a student who types his notes while keeping social media open on other tabs. An employee who pulls out his iPhone to take a selfie at work is more likely to make mistakes or be written up for negligence than an engaged worker would be. A couple dining together at a restaurant, silently scrolling on their phones, is less likely to value the other’s presence without need for other entertainment.

With this in mind, I would encourage everyone to be mindful of the opportunities, conversations and experiences that can easily be missed if higher priority is given to their documentation. Sure, the “selfie stick” is useful for capturing the scenic background of your selfie, but can you remember how it made you feel or what it really looked like without needing the picture as a reference?

Collegian Columnist Laurel Thompson can be reached at or on Twitter @laurelanne1996.