A Father's Journal: Through the lens of time, sharing old-school selfies
Last week, I was driving a car filled with teenage girls, and they were taking pictures of themselves and sending them to other teenage girls, some of whom were in our car.
They were not taking pictures of each other. They were taking pictures of themselves ("selfies"). The one with the phone took a picture of herself and then sent it to another girl who was apparently dying for a picture of her friend as she was riding in our car. One of my daughters was in the car, and she was doing the same thing.
I asked one of the girls (I'll call her Molly) how many selfies she took and sent to her friends every day. After a moment spent calculating, she responded that she took between 20 and 50 pictures of herself every day and sent them to others.
I will repeat: 20 to 50 selfies to send out to others, every day.
I asked the other teens in the car their selfie-sending habits. Molly admitted to the most. But the numbers for the group ranged from five each day to Molly's 50. The average was 20.
So according to my small sample, the average teenage girl each day is taking 20 pictures of herself, adding witty captions and sending them out to her "friends"-- some of which are not actually friends. Some are, according to Molly, just acquaintances.
Continuing the interrogation, I learned the most popular caption was about where a girl was buying coffee, accompanied by a selfie with a cup. But sometimes the photo is just of the cup. That's why it took Molly so long to figure out her total. Does just the cup count?
Molly sometimes does the peace sign with her hand sideways -- about 10 percent of the time, she estimates. That is up to five sideways peace signs a day from Molly to the world.
Another girl said, "I don't do the peace sign anymore. That is so old. The last time I did it was ... New Year's Eve."
I asked the teenagers if taking all these selfies was a tad narcissistic. Each (including 50-a-day Molly) said that it would be if they did it to extreme. But they did it in moderation.
I thought about it. When I was a teenager, could I have done this? Back in the day, we dropped off our film at the drugstore and two days later it came back as prints. I think it was about 50 cents a print.
So on Monday, I could shoot two rolls of film -- 50 pictures -- of myself drinking coffee. I could then order 10 copies each of each picture -- 500 prints for $250 -- and wait till Wednesday, then send them out to my friends. Let's say each friend got five pictures. That's 100 separate envelopes to mail out Wednesday -- at 20 cents an envelope. So far, I'd have spent $270 -- just for the selfies I shot Monday -- and hadn't even bought the postage stamps yet.
Plus, I would have dropped off another two rolls Tuesday for pick up Thursday, and another two rolls Wednesday when I picked up Monday's prints.
And this doesn't account for the witty captions about me drinking coffee. For that I would have used my trusty Dymo 1570 Handheld Label Maker. It pressed each individual letter into thick, colored tape from a wheel, and the letters came out white. So all my adolescent spare time would be spent getting copies of photo prints and taping on witty captions. That I would send to my friends every day in thick envelopes. Including some people who would not really be my good friends, just kids in school whose home addresses I found in the phone book.
Perhaps my dad would walk by my room and ask what I was doing, and I would tell him. I could see him shaking his head. I would ask him from behind mountains of pictures of myself, " Dad, do you think I am narcissistic?"
I can guess what his answer would be. Then I would ask him to spell "narcissistic" -- very s-l-o-w-l-y. The wheel on that label maker moved like a snail.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Friday. He can be reached by email at Tlawlor@mcommunications.com .