Clear Space Living
Clear Space Living

by Karen Kingston & Richard Kingston

by Karen Kingston & Richard Kingston


Clear Space Living Blog

Why you don’t need so many selfies

Photos are such a major form of clutter these days that it’s not unusual for someone to have tens of thousands of unorganized images stored on their phone or computer.

When Richard and I moved to the UK in 2010, he applied for a spouse visa and was asked to produce photos of us in some of the places we’d lived or visited in the six years we’d been together at that time.

Well, he had plenty of photos that he’d taken of me. And I had plenty of photos that I’d taken of him. But it turned out we only had one photo of us both together. Fortunately Richard’s brother had taken a photo of us at our wedding and some friends had a few other shots of us that we could use.

Fast forward another six years and we faced a similar situation when we decided to emigrate to Australia. Now it was my turn to apply for a spouse visa. But this time we were better prepared. While exploring the UK, we’d remembered to get a few passers-by to take photos of us smiling happily into our camera against various scenic backdrops. As it turned out, we didn’t need those photos because we moved back to the UK after three years, and we haven’t needed any since, except for photos for our websites.

We live in a selfie culture

The point I am making here is that we live in such a selfie culture that both the UK and Australian governments assume that every couple has photos of themselves. But Richard and I prefer to live in the moment instead of recording it for posterity, so even during the years we lived in Bali, we hardly took any photos of each other or the island.

Selfie mania has reached such heights that 379 selfie deaths were recorded between 2008 and 2021, primarily caused by falling, drowning, or transport accidents, with death by animals, electrocution, fire, and firearms cited as other reasons. And it’s thought the true number is much larger because attempting to take a selfie is not always reported as the real cause of the fatality. And

The majority of “killfies”, as they are sometimes called, involve people under 30 years old, that age when we all still feel immortal. Over 70% of the fatalities are men, which begs the interesting question, are men bigger risk takers or are they more vain? And about half the tragedies are in India, which has now declared “no-selfie zones” in a number of selfie-death hotspots, in an attempt to combat the problem.

The lure of selfies

An iconic shot of an entire crowd turning their backs on presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, in 2016 to take selfies of themselves with her in the background graphically captured how deeply embedded in modern life this has become. And the fact that she instigated this because she knows what a crowd pleaser it is shows how normal it had become. Selfies give a sense of self-importance. They create an ‘I was there, I did that’ memento.

Then there are the Jeremy Clarksons of the world, who don’t buy into this at all. In one of his Sunday Times columns this year he gave a word of advice: ‘If you see me in the street, ask crisply and efficiently for a photograph. I will then tell you to eff off and we can both go about our business with minimal disruption.’

Eric Idle, of Monty Python fame, shared a similar sentiment in a little song he wrote that John Cleese clearly agrees with:

No prizes for guessing which camp I’m in.

Why you don’t need selfies

The reason Richard and I have almost no photos of ourselves, our friends, or the places we visit is not because we don’t own a camera or know how to use one to good effect. It’s because we choose to live in the present, not in the past.

For example, if we come upon a beautiful place, we’ll stop the car, get out, feel the land energies, and absorb the view through our eyes and other senses. We’ll take some time to fully experience what it’s like to be there. And those memories can stay with us for months, years, or even decades. No photo required. Memories are stored in the subtle body structure each human has called the etheric, and photos are a very poor substitute for that.

So next time you’re tempted to take a photo of any kind, stop and ask yourself:

Do I really need to add yet another image to my digital clutter?
Or would I rather immerse myself in the richness of the moment and experience it to the full?

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2019, updated 2023

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7 comments on “Why you don’t need so many selfies”

  1. Veleka

    I didn’t actually see or enjoy Paris until my camera broke.

  2. Jill B

    My sister has just unearthed a huge number of photos from our past. I am 70 and she a little younger. Obviously none are selfies and, after discarding a large percentage, it has been a pleasure to look at photos of our parents and their families and friends (all long dead), and also some of ourselves and our children at varying younger ages. It would be, in my opinion, sad if no-one took photos of themselves and others. Yes, it is great to live in the present, but our past and our ancestors are part of us, and thus part of our present, too.

    1. Hi Jill, I’m not suggesting that no-one takes photos, and the ones your sister has found are clearly not selfies. But in the online courses I teach, many people report having tens of thousands of digital photos these days. They are recording life through a camera, not by experiencing it directly themselves. As Veleka commented earlier today, she felt she didn’t actually see or enjoy Paris until her camera broke!

  3. Virginia K

    I agree with Jill, our families old photos are a source of wonder for our grandchildren. We are in the rare position of having family photos dating back to the 1860’s. I do not understand the trend for ‘selfies’, seems weird to me but on the other hand the odd photo with me in it at a place I have visited would be nice to reminisce about with my grandchildren. I worked with a guy who told me the story of his daughter age 7 asking about baby photos of her, why in fact there weren’t any but hundreds of her older brother. Turns out they were so concerned with a ‘perfect’ photo they deleted everything as they went. Needless to say this little girl was not impressed. Over time I have resorted to deleting a lot of mine after a trip but I do print the one’s that have meaning to me and no I don’t think I live in the past at all.

  4. Carol

    I love my old black and white photos exactly because I have just a few from each year, just enough to start a conversation with the fellow traveler, and to prompt them to pull moments from their memories in a wonderful conversation. Can’t say that of selfies. The experiencing of swapping memories with someone of the same event is a very present activity. Maybe part story telling, maybe part fact, but we are very present when we do this!!

  5. Jude M

    Wow, Karen!

    I dare say that the proliferation of personal blogs is also a part of the “selfie” movement, as well as comments on social media relating to “my status: gee, I’m in a restaurant now, eating this food!” I truly believe that our young people do not know, haven’t learned, or have already forgotten how to experience the present. Or, maybe they’ve lost or never had the ability to screen out the things that distract us from being in the present.

    I certainly have such problems, but I’m aware of them, and I’m gradually acquiring the ability to push away from the metaexperiential (my newly coined word, I think). Having recently received a probable diagnosis of a fatal disease, I have superpowers that help me stay in the now. I hope everyone else in the world can get those powers more easily than I!

  6. On a trip awhile ago I was trying to take great photos and “be in the experience”. Finally it dawned on me professional photographers have taken much better photos of anywhere I was visiting. If I needed a memento Id buy a postcard. And as for “proving” I was at place x or y, I went through an odd experience recently. A sibling told me I had never been to a certain museum. After being angry, I asked myself what does it matter what anyone else thinks. I know I was there. No photo required.

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Karen Kingston

Leading expert in Space Clearing, Clutter Clearing, and Conscious Living

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