I have been wanting to publish a post on this picture since it went viral online. I am not sure if you have seen it, a Reddit user under the name of Lewy-G was taking a picture of his girlfriend for Instagram and he realised that everyone around him was doing the same thing. The post can be seen by clicking here.
So far this picture has gained 133,000 upvotes and 5,700 comments. Ironically, this will be much, much more popular than the planned original picture of a girl gazing out to sea alongside the other tourists. How can someone taking a picture of people taking pictures go viral? The reason is pretty simple but rarely used to our advantage.
People love taking selfies. It is a huge worldwide phenomenon. People also love their selfies receiving likes and attention. One of the reasons for this is that social media has increased our desire to fit in and keep up with the rest of society. Fitting in has had benefits throughout human history and evolution, whether it was hunting in packs to increase survival rates to gaining followers online to improve our social life and status. It makes sense. This primitive desire has spread into the digital world and we have a constant need to receive the same amount of likes as our friends and an ever increasing standard of photo to post to keep our head above the water. And with that, scenes like these are born.
I visited Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and visited Christ the Redeemer and everyone (including myself) stopped to pose like JC himself. It was funny to look around and take it in. In fact, this link demonstrates very well (and hilariously) how using the desire to fit in can be manipulated and actually be used as a creative rocket boost and help us stand out from the crowds we try to keep up with.
What I have learned from blogging is that in order to gain in popularity and build an audience, readers need it to relate to themselves in some way. A blog purely about myself will be very hard to build on and attract readers. If I have blog posts that readers can relate to and gain something from, it will have a much higher chance of success. I enjoy the nature of posting something that people could potentially learn from or find meaning in, and for this reason my blog isn’t filled with selfies. That, and I don’t take selfies very well.
Also, anything that is different to the norm will often attract attention if done correctly. Some kind of thinking outside the box or at least a new way of thinking can be very rewarding as much as it can seem a risk. This is evident in so many ways in life. Look at our heroes and inspirations. Many of these people are known for doing things their way and often in unique fashion. Maybe it is focusing on working on their art relentlessly instead of putting energy into the average daily selfie consisting of a similar pose but with slightly different backdrops. I don’t believe for a second that Banksy spends huge amounts of time devoted to random pictures of people gazing out to sea, but I know for a fact an incredible amount of people will spend their time appreciating his artwork. This is how I try to think about what I want to do and why I should do it. Do I want to be another person getting a handful of likes keeping up with everyone else, or do I want to spend my time trying to think outside of the box any way that I can and being creative? The latter sounds much more exciting and in the long term, will be much more beneficial and rewarding.
Selfies are easy. That is why every single person we know does it. And success is rarely a reward for anything that is easy or rewarded for trying to fit in. That is how one simple picture taken of people taking photos will become more popular than every one of the individual beach selfies combined. And this is why we should take pride in not trying to fit in, but escaping that mentality.
Of course, I want people to do what they want and if this means asking your partner to take a photo as you gaze out at an incredible landscape, please go for it. You do you, always. But because I know so many people strive for followers and some degree of popularity online, this is more often than not the way to succeed.
Take these photos, have these memories but work on your strengths and take pride in individuality.
Seeing pictures like the one that went viral is for me a beautiful reminder that whilst we are all trying to get the upper hand and stay relevant, we are forced into being average. Life is too short to be average and everyone looking in the same direction isn’t necessarily the right direction. After all, a group gazing out into the same direction is a group bored of themselves. This doesn’t have to be the case.