The decade's most triggering comedy
A major controversy erupted last week involving a country singer. I’m not talking about Jason Aldean.
I’m talking about Miranda Lambert, who ignited a fierce and important debate when she made the decision to stop in the middle of her concert in Las Vegas to lecture some fans in the front row who were taking selfies. Watch:
Apparently, these fans were busy taking pictures of themselves instead of watching the show, and so Lambert decided to shame them in front of thousands of people. A decision that many on social media decried as excessive and bullying — but one that I fully and enthusiastically support.
I will explain why in a moment.
First, we have to get the other side of the story from the selfie culprits themselves, who were interviewed about the traumatic incident on Good Morning America. Here’s what they had to say:
Well, I’m glad that we heard from the experts. The experts on phone usage at concerts. Good Morning America brought in the licensed, credentialed, concert selfie experts to give us the news that people take selfies at concerts a lot. We could not have known this without them. We needed their guidance and insight. We need the experts to help us navigate through every facet of life and answer every question, no matter how seemingly obvious and banal. Thank God for the experts. All hail the experts.
But this still leaves the question about whether Miranda Lambert was right to publicly scold a group of women for taking a few selfies, and the answer is that yes, she was. It is about time that someone in a position of influence — however mild that influence may be — stands up and speaks out against the selfie scourge that has gripped hold of our society for decades now. It has become so endemic, so inherent, that it seems pointless to complain about it. But the pointlessness of a complaint has never stopped me before, and it won’t now.
You do not need to take a picture of every single thing you experience in your life. You do not need documentation of every moment. You especially do not need documentation of yourself experiencing every moment. I’ve never understood the motivation here, which is why I never take selfies unless someone stops me in public and asks for one. Even then, I only do it because I’m afraid that if I refuse they’ll call up TMZ and complain about how rude Matt Walsh is. At which point, TMZ will respond, “Wait, who is Matt Walsh?” And that would make the whole thing even more embarrassing.
The point is that selfies are pointless. Millions of people carry around phones stocked with hundreds of pictures of their own faces. Just think about that for a moment. And do any of them actually go back and scroll through those pictures, reminiscing about how their faces looked? “Yep, that’s my face at Disney World. There’s my face at Applebee’s. I remember that. I’ll never forget the time my face went to Applebee’s. And wow, there’s my face at grandma’s funeral.”
Is that what people do? Of course, I realize that they aren’t primarily taking pictures in order to store them away as keepsakes, but rather to post them on social media so that everyone else can see. That’s even more pointless. Nobody cares that you were at a Miranda Lambert concert. But if anyone does care, they would probably want to see a picture of Miranda Lambert up on stage. They don’t need to see you in the stands.
Recently I saw a picture a guy posted of himself visiting the pyramids in Egypt. The picture was a selfie with a pyramid in the background, posted to social media for all to enjoy. But if the rest of us want to see a picture from your vacation at all — and we don’t — we’d rather see the pyramids without your face crowding up the frame. How egotistical do you have to be to think that these magnificent three thousand-year-old structures can be improved by adding your face to them?
This is the real tragedy of selfie culture. It encourages you to experience life with your back turned to it, putting yourself at the center of something you aren’t even paying attention to. Our obsession with documenting everything we do — and worse, documenting ourselves doing it, rather than documenting the thing itself — has ironically made it so that we miss out on the very things we are documenting. This is a familiar observation, even cliched, but it’s true. We are so obsessed with creating digital proof that we were there, that we aren’t really there at all.
We need to learn how to simply occupy the space that we are standing in, existing in, and absorbing each present moment as it comes. Personally, I would never go to a Miranda Lambert concert, but if you do go, if you buy the tickets, if you spend the money — too much money — to have that experience, then HAVE that experience. Be there for it, which means not being on your phone.
Now you might argue that taking one quick selfie, while a pointless act, is not going to significantly intrude on your or anyone else’s ability to enjoy the moment. But we all know that these girls were not taking one quick selfie. They were taking a series of shots from different angles, they were posting to Instagram, they were doing little videos for TikTok, then they were taking more selfies, and on and on. I wasn’t there, but I know just from looking at that woman and listening to her speak for five seconds that this is the way it goes.
Even if I’m wrong, even if it was just one brief selfie incident, I would still defend Lambert’s response. What you have to understand is that some of us have grown exhausted with all of this — with the fact that people can’t look up from their phones, with the constant need to document and take pictures and videos — and so we react in what some might consider disproportionate ways when someone pulls out a phone or takes a picture.
My wife will tell you that I have only grown more and more resistant to being involved in any picture or selfie activity as time has gone on. It’s not that I flat-out refuse to be in a picture, or even to take one on occasion. In fact, I just took a picture a few days ago of a nice bass that I caught. It was probably about six pounds. Obviously, I’m going to get a picture of that. Actually, most of the pictures in my phone aren’t photos of my own face but are photos of various fish that I’ve caught. That’s different, though, because I need documentation of these behemoths that I’m landing, or else nobody will believe me.
Anyway, aside from these exceptions, generally I am resistant to posing for pictures or selfies, much to my wife’s chagrin. But my point to her is that we don’t need photographic evidence of every moment. It is good enough that we live those moments, immerse ourselves in them, and hold the memories in our hearts, as people have always done. We don’t need any more selfies. Nobody does.
We need to put down the phone and turn our gaze back upon this great wild world, and these wonderful experiences that are so much larger than a screen, if only we would look up and see it. And yes I will give this whole speech rather than stop for five seconds stop to take a picture. Someone has to take this stand. I am glad to see that I am not totally alone.
Which is why Miranda Lambert certainly is not wrong. Instead, it is the perpetual selfie-takers who are, with a vengeance, quite wrong.