Tuesday, 22 April 2014


This week I was presented with the double-edged luxury of travelling. There were the pros - the exploration of new and exciting places (well, York and Leeds..), the reassuring sights of familiar faces and the knowledge that I had done more with my time at home than park myself in front of Come Dine With Me re-runs. As is to be expected, there were also cons - a lack of legroom, a hungover plane ride and, surprisingly, an infuriating American that insisted on holding up the boarding process by nagging me to take multiple pictures of her on the plane steps. Now, for those of you that don't know me, I would like to clarify that I generally try to be as nice as possible to strangers and so, in the interest of not being a complete dick (damn British manners), I agreed to take one photo of the woman in question, despite the fact we were amongst the last three people to board. I did, however, draw the line at taking another photo of her because apparently the plane wasn't visible enough and her eyes were too squinty. I politely shoved her phone back into her hand, stepped past her and sashayed into my cramped window seat feeling quietly murderous. 

The growing ubiquity of selfies is well-documented through the Facebook profiles of thousands of irritating tourists that can't bring themselves to upload a picture of a famous monument without ramming their shiny faces into the foreground as a reminder that THEY WERE THERE. Apparently the knowledge that the photos were taken on their phone and uploaded to their profile is no longer sufficient to prove that these people actually travelled to these places as opposed to sitting home and uploading plagiarised images from Google. The one thing I learnt in Paris is that the new way to take a picture of the Eiffel Tower is to partially obscure it with a sweaty forehead and a slightly embarrassed grin. Either that or you make your way to Trocadero and spend a laborious thirty minutes trying to make it look like the tower is in between your fingers. I will admit, shamefully, that I myself had a picture of myself sat by the river in a Breton stripe with the glowing landmark in the background - taking photos is one way of documenting travels and even I'm not cynical enough to debate this. 

However, these people - the selfie brigade, they don't travel in packs. They're often lone travellers or nauseating couples, usually well-equipped with a fanny pack and more water than one human could ever possibly ingest. Their omnipresence has resulted in an existence which is largely unquestioned - nobody, for example, acknowledges the fact that these people spend more time snapping and deleting photos ("my face looks too shiny" and "my chin looks massive" are two complaints I heard often) than soaking in the moment and enjoying the experiences that travel bring. We also don't acknowledge the fact that approaching a stranger and barking demands at them ("STAND FURTHER BACK!") is now completely commonplace. It was only when a Chinese girl rammed her iPhone at me on my train home that I asked myself - where the fuck are our manners?

It's not just tourists that are guilty either - the fashion world recently proved itself to be a major culprit in Karl's Chanel Supermarket, resulting in the crème de la crème of the fashion industry battling to take selfies with Chanel-branded detergent. It's not enough that journalists are now expected to launch grainy exclusives via Instagram, they're also supposed to tweet a condensed press release whilst writing up notes for a collection review. In many ways, technology is a vehicle that has enabled the worst qualities of human nature to multiply and smother modern society with social media. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all major promotional tools and essential to brand growth and audience share, but at what point do they stop being business and become a lifestyle? I began to question this after I, coincidentally, lost my phone somewhere between a bar in Birmingham and a taxi in Dudley and was left to live ten days (TEN DAYS!) without a phone. It was inconvenient at times - meeting Ben in London on Bank Holiday Monday in a crowded train station with no method of contact was stressful to say the least, but I realised that when you have no way to alter meeting times, people stick to them. Not only that, but this week has been one of the best I've ever had - to have the option eliminated to check your Twitter every ten minutes means that train rides are spent reading as opposed to texting. Conversations happen just like they did before the invention of technology, without distraction. I also began to question how easy it is to be sucked into the ultra-competitive vortex of Facebook, a tool for people to essentially take the nicest moments of their lives and glam them up with a Lo-Fi filter. I was reminded of a statement from an extremely wise friend, Nadia. She once said that 'Comparison is the enemy of success', and she was right. It's only when you're forced to be in the company of your own thoughts for 14 consecutive hours of travel that you begin to realise this. 

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