Last week I was the passenger in a car traveling on Highway 2 in Washington State. We were in Tumwater Canyon on a narrow, winding stretch of road between Stevens Pass and Leavenworth. It was icy and the river that runs alongside looked cold and unforgiving.
As we rounded a corner, I saw three middle-aged men standing on the river side pointing across the road and up the steep hill. I looked up, what could it be? There had to be something very interesting for them to stand in such a dangerous spot at the side of the road.
I didn’t see anything but trees and brush and snow.
As we passed them, I saw that one of them had his phone held up; in the hand that I thought had been pointing at something.
They were taking a selfie.
As a human species, we’ve always had a fascination with documenting our experiences with pictures – from cave paintings to the family vacation slide show, to social media posts.
I’ve spent a great deal of the last six months thinking, learning and acting on the impact of storytelling – from how it connects and drives us, as you can read about in this post; to its practical application in fundraising as I shared in my blog post here.
In the past, the sight of three grown men risking injury on the side of the road to take a smiling selfie with the river and snow behind them would have flabbergasted me. “WTF are they thinking?!” I would have said to myself.
This time, it really struck home that the selfie is another tool we use in our need to tell stories. As a Gen-Xer with millennial and Gen-Z children, I used to get annoyed and shake my head with all the selfies (so many selfies).
However, after more thought, rather than admonish or judge the “young people” (and the middle aged men) who are taking selfies; we need to start understanding that this behavior is driven by a far more ancient and meaningful need – the need to tell our stories.
When we tell out stories, we learn, we teach, we grow and we share so that we belong. It’s survival folks.
So, take those selfies and feel confident in the knowledge that you are doing something you are wired to do to survive. Also, for the sake of survival, please don’t stand on the side of a dangerous stretch of highway when you do it.