x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 October 2017

My friends are far too photo-obsessed 

Three or four years ago, I would have had the same enthusiasm as some of my friends – eager to capture the perfect, “‘grammable” image for social media.

Friends sitting on the meadow, cute guy taking selfie
Friends sitting on the meadow, cute guy taking selfie

The light is running out. We have to go now,” says a friend urgently. You would think it’s a line from an apocalyptic film, where zombies are going to emerge at any second. But the situation is far from grave. Camera in hand, my friend is concerned that if we delay going outside any longer, there won’t be enough sunlight for well-lit photographs.

My group of friends heads outside. On the way, while passing a small mirror, one pulls out her bright fuchsia lipstick for a quick touch-up. Another adjusts the strap of her handbag, to make sure that the leather part is on her shoulder and the chain portion crosses her torso.

We gather in the garden as a group of five, but two start arguing, both wanting to be on the right end of the row. “But you know that’s always my side,” says one friend to the other, almost pleading. “Otherwise I’ll look bald.”

The friend in question has a full head of beautiful, thick black hair, which today, is freshly blow-dried. The other friend gives in, walks to the other side, but then twists her body so that she’s facing outward. The resulting photo will show her with her back against the rest of us, but she’s content, as long as her favourable side is the one that’s on display.

I stand wherever I’m pointed to, hoping to get this ordeal over with as fast as possible, because the almost-50°C Dubai heat is unforgiving. I feel droplets of sweat begin to form, dripping down my lower back.

The photographer – a friend’s husband, is also losing patience, and starts clicking the camera button on his iPhone before our formation has been settled.

“Out of 100 pictures, you known only one will be usable,” says the same friend who frantically ushered us all outside because of the diminishing sunlight.

Cheeks are sucked in, lips form pouts, fingers run through hair in last-minute efforts to create some volume and hands are placed on hips – as the photographer clicks, poses are changed, and it’s clear that we have all watched far too many episodes of America’s Next Top Model.

Three or four years ago, I would have had the same enthusiasm as some of my friends – eager to capture the perfect, “‘grammable” image for social media. Now, seeing all too often the infatuation that people have with selfies, only envisaging “likes” on Instagram, I have grown disillusioned. I’m happy to take photos with loved ones – for the purpose or recording memories, but am quickly losing patience with peers who are photo-obsessed to this extreme.

After the heat becomes too much for us all to bear, the friend who initiated this impromptu photoshoot snatches the phone from her husband and begins flicking through the images, quickly pressing the “delete” button when she sees an image she doesn’t like.

“I look so dark,” says a friend, peering over her shoulder. Another claims that she looks pregnant, and I can’t help but notice annoying gaps in my fringe. Would it have hurt to give my hair a quick comb before heading outside, I ask myself? I suddenly realise – I’m just as entangled in this photo-clicking, insecurity-mongering culture as the rest of them.