Social Rehabilitation

and the sometimes significance of selfies

Social Rehabilitation And The Significance of Selfies | APW (1)

Nearly all of the pictures of G and me were selfies. I was always better at aiming them, despite his having the arm-length advantage, so most of the photos are of our smiling faces and my distorted arm—I cropped it out where possible.

I used to think everyone’s relationship must be this way, documented with awkward couples selfies and the odd holiday snapshot, but since our engagement ended (rather spectacularly) last summer I’ve noticed more and more non-selfie photos of coupled-up friends on social media sites. And the other day, as I was discussing the insular nature of the relationship with a friend, I realized that what I’d never even considered was how rarely we went out and surrounded ourselves with people. People who had camera phones and working index fingers. People who were not only capable of standing ten feet from us and calling out “three, two, one…” but who might actually want to record our presence in their lives.

I’m not saying we had no friends. To the contrary, I had plenty of friends, and most of them welcomed him with open arms—he also had friends, but his definition of friendship involved significantly less invested time than mine. But mostly the issue was that we had zero mutual friends; they were all either mine or his. And between that fact and the fact that we were old before our time (he didn’t enjoy socializing in large groups and I didn’t enjoy pushing him to do things he didn’t enjoy), we wound up with very few decent photos of the two of us.

When we were planning our wedding, I broached the subject of engagement photos. He couldn’t understand why anybody would want to do an extra photo shoot, and while I understood his hesitation (and, admittedly, had to wonder whether I really just wanted them because everyone else had them), I pushed for them. As I explained to him: all our wedding photos would involve the costumes of the day. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some pretty, professional, taken-from-a-distance pictures of the two of us in normal clothing? He agreed with that, and we planned the photo session—obviously, we never got to the point of taking the pictures.

Now that I’m looking back on our seven years together with the benefit of hindsight, I can tell you that while the lack of photos itself wasn’t necessarily a red flag, the reason for the dearth was. I like socializing; my friends are important to me and merit a solid investment of my free time, and I also truly enjoy meeting new people. Sure, I’m an introvert at heart—I have some anxiety about screwing up in social situations, and I love my alone time with a good book—but conquering my introversion is always worth the effort. He categorically disagreed, implicitly and explicitly, throughout the relationship.

These days I show up in a lot of photos online, with friends, surrounded by family, and sometimes by myself, just goofing off. Very few of them are selfies, and that’s just the way I like it. I may be single for the first time in seven years, and that may come with feelings of extreme isolation and loneliness, but at least I’m not truly alone. In fact I’ve never felt more surrounded by love.

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