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ANOTHER USE FOR A SELFIE. Photograph by Brenda Coffee, ©2019

This summer I’ve been traveling a lot, and everywhere I go, I’ve seen 20-something young women who are obsessed with themselves and how they look. Whether they’re alone, or in groups, they’re taking selfies at breakfast, standing on the street corner, even getting out of an Uber. 

It’s almost as if they can’t be separated from looking at themselves for even a minute. How can they bear to go to sleep?

On the way down from the 60th floor of a hotel, one young woman was posing and taking photos of herself. It was just the two of us, but I honestly don’t think she knew I was there, because the back wall of the elevator was one big mirror, and she was the star of her own reality show. 

First she posed—in her see-through dress, black thong underwear and tiny bra—with her designer backpack over her left shoulder. Then she turned 180 degrees and changed the backpack to her right shoulder. With each change of position she placed the straps so they fell just so. With a look of surprise on her face she pursed her lips, lifted the back of her skirt and turned so her butt faced the mirror, all the while taking selfies. When the elevator reached the lobby I got off, but she continued to pose this way and that until the elevator door closed and she disappeared from view.

Every generation worries about the next generation, but like my mother and grandmother, they’ve all discovered the world wasn’t “going to Hell in a hand basket.” I know so many outstanding young people who are making their way in the world and making their communities proud. But then there are the young women I’ve seen this summer who seem more interested in themselves than they are in their surroundings. I wonder if what they know about politics and the world around them are from the #hastags they see on social media? Plus why bother to travel if they’re only interested in an image of themselves that stares back at themselves?   

Hi! It’s me! Again! Lips pursed. Not pursed. Head tilted to the right. To the left. Champaign glass so it doesn’t block my view of me.

Then there are the 20-something couples in restaurants and walking down the street who are on their phones. How well can they possibly know one another? Do they talk about their hopes and dreams? Have they developed the ability to feel empathy for one another? What is the empathy emoji anyway? Oh, yes, I know… Emojis were developed so young people could express digital concern for one another, but something’s been lost in translation.

Empathy! Human connection!

My emoji for all of this? I’m sending everyone XOXO, and like my mother and grandmother, I’m hoping the younger generation will continue to find their way.

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  1. It is a different generation and we don’t understand it. My grandchildren are totally immersed in the digital world. Their phones are always with them. I find it quite disturbing. What is the real world for them? Some classrooms let their students bring their phones to class. Now, it is to use the calculator or google…Does anyone think they are not using them for personal reasons, too? But, it’s not just children that abuse their phones. I see adults with phone in hand all the time. I had surgery on Thursday and phones were allowed in the recovery room. I find that an evasion of privacy. I go to the pool for exercise. Phones are not allowed in the change rooms but does anyone enforce that rule? No! I see phones come out of bags all the time. My phone stays in my purse. My husband teases me that it’s never turned on. Well, I have it for my needs – arranging a meet up, car troubles….I would rather live in the here and now.

    • Thank you, Joanna! I thought I was one of the few… older folks… who doesn’t live on my phone. We’re not as bad as some of the young people, but my phone is for when I need it. In airports and on airplanes, I have a real book, and I’m kind of odd man out. With my blog I really should spend more time on Instagram, but I’d rather play with Annie or read a real book. And speaking of Annie… She doesn’t like it when I do take an hour to work Instagram, and I understand that. xoxox, Brenda

  2. So funny ,, and sad but true , I must say this elevator lady was above and beyond anything I have ever seen ,,, how lucky you were

    • Renee, She put on a real show, and it wasn’t for me. I could have taken photos or videos of her, and she wouldn’t have known it!!! So lost in her own photoshoot! Bizarre! xoxox, Brenda

  3. Well put – I was laughing and crying at the same time. Laughing at how ridiculous our world has become in ways and crying because it’s becoming sadder and lonelier for so many.

    • Elaine, “Sadder and lonelier for so many… ” So true. I think we should be grateful we’re the age we are, and that we’ve passed through all that angst and painful self-discovery. Actually I heard something on the news just yesterday that said older people are much happier than young people, and I believe it! xoxox, Brenda

  4. I worry about the youth today. Will they ever realize the world does not revolve around them? I read an article the other day that stated Millenials don’t think they will live till retirement age. I find most of what these young people do is worrisome and they will be running the world someday.

    • Hi Victoria, I know there are a lot of smart, involved young people out there, who are well-informed. Let’s hope the self involved twits are just passing through a phase. How are you doing getting on with your life? I imagine this summer has been difficult for you. xoxox, Brenda

  5. I’m on my phone/ I pad a lot, I’m 68. I find the tech world fascinating. I also read real books. I take a lot of selfies as well, I see it as a new photographic hobby, or a documentary of sorts. And I love being interconnected to the whole world, how amazing, I can walk the streets of Paris, and never have to fly there. I can look up repairs, and see a video, like magic. Communication just seems brief, less words, at least for now. The two things I notice without phones are Yoga, and wilderness hiking ( no connection). Things run in cycles, the tech world will become fascinated with disconnecting, probably.

    • Yes, tech is great but do you do this while in the company of friends? Engaging with strangers is a lot more fun than taking a picture of oneself. I think it is a new hobby for many.

      • Hi Monica, I’m responding to your comment to Eileen. Many of us over a certain age started using technology to stay hip and with it, but we’ve not vanished down the rabbit hole like the young women I’m talking about. xoxo, Brenda

    • Hi Eileen, I’m on my computer all day, reading and researching and writing, and I love it, but unlike the young 20-somethings, you and I have experienced the world… really interacted with the world and learned how to make decisions and lived with the consequences and our self-esteem has grown and is based on something other than how we look. I believe technology will only gobble up more facets of life. The genie is out of the bottle, and no one can live without it. Unfortunately it is profoundly changing the young people who are tethered to it for EVERYTHING, which means it is profoundly changing EVERYTHING about our society and our world. xoxox, Brenda

  6. Amen, baby! These phones and those clinging to them are “driving me crazy!” They will all end up with trigger finger and hearing aids…some of them even trip and fall since they are so enmeshed with their phones but I don’t think that even brings them to reality. Unfortunately it’s difficult to say anything even to adults since they are doing the same thing.

    • Melmi, Adults are doing the same thing but we were more shaped by our life experiences when we started engaging with out phones than young people are. I think that’s a detriment to them and will have far reaching effects we can’t predict. Thanks for contributing to the conversation! Brenda

  7. I have a ‘no phones’ rule in my class. But I find I’m reinforcing it at least once a day.
    I know for myself, when I take out my phone to calendar or look something up, I see ‘Ooh…somsone responded to something I posted–let me have a quick look’ and that ‘quick look’ ends up taking fifteen minutes. So I just leave it in my pocket for emergencies.
    I love my kids, but I’m getting so I dislike their phones immensely!

    • Interesting input, Diane. I can see how the rule setter gets caught by her own rules. Is this generation you’re teaching as present and engaged and asking questions and correlating cause and effect as previous generations? xoxox, Brenda

  8. I see it I see it! I find it rude. I was on vacation with another family renting a fabulously large and expensive beach house and all high school girls did was snapchat and text and take selfies. You are sitting outside having a lovely breakfast with a bunch of Kardashian wannabes trying to have a conversation with someone with their phone in their face. I go to lunch with friends who set their phone on the table and it insults me. Also, when was the last time you took a Clorox wipe to that nasty phone? I purposely and dramatically look at my phone turn it to silent and tuck it in my purse. I understand young moms with sitters needing to be available but my friends are empty nesters or have grown children. I see it mostly with the hellicopter moms. I also think it is rude when you are at concert, especially in a small venue. Oh and people who talk on the phone while in the bathroom stall……..gross.

    • Monica, Had I been those parents, I would have been tempted to take their phones away! Also as grownups, using phones, we need manners and boundaries when with our friends or at public events. I went to the movies last night and the woman in the row in front of me was on her phone, with her screen lit up, for the first 10 minutes. So annoying! Talking on the phone in the bathroom… Eeee yikes! Yes, gross. xoxox, Brenda

  9. My stepdaughter, who is 38, is useless with technology. She doesn’t know how to use anything. But well before the advent of the iPhone, she complained suntanning by our pool was no good because “nobody sees me.” What she preferred was walking around beach towns, shopping, in a thong bikini. Men and women alike would stop and stare at her, mostly not in a good way. She has at least one mirror on EVERY SINGLE WALL of her home, and she checks herself out constantly. So I don’t think it’s just a technology thing. She does know how to use her phone to take selfies, and to post them on Facebook. Her life is about consumption and the need for approval of her purchasing choices.
    Meanwhile my own kid is 100% environmental activist. As you said, there are many great young people out there, but the horrid ones are very strident.

    • TOF, Consumption and the need for approval! Bingo! That disease has a lot of us by the short hairs, regardless of age. You’re on Instagram, so I know you see women of a certain age whose entire lives are comprised of showing off a new outfit and accessories every day and getting “likes” and comments. I’d venture to say most bloggers and/or Instagram fashionistas are trying to monetize their sites, but even if brands gift them clothes, percentage wise, few of them reach their goal of becoming a superstar. And let’s say they do… What do they do with a new outfit a day or a week? And for those who don’t win the social media lottery, how do they pay for it all? The whole concept boggles my mind. So interesting that you see both sides of the coin when it comes to some of these topics. Very interesting, so thanks for sharing. xoxox, Brenda

  10. Yes, yes. There’s all those. I saw a version walking a cross walk from the grocery, taking selfies of herself with a mouth gaping as in mid-laughter while holding a bottle of wine, adjusting it’s position and snapping again, same mouth. But for every group of those, there’s an incredibly sensitive light being millennial who cares about social causes and the planet and spirituality. I’ve worked with and seen both. But I get it. I do.

    • Leisa, Thanks for singing the praises of young people. As I wrote in my post, I know there are so many young people who are making a difference in their families, their community and the world. I’m just sometimes gobsmacked by the ones who seem to be so overtly taken with themselves. xoxox, Brenda

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