Selfie to Self-Expression
Over the weekend I went to the Saatchi gallery to see the Selfie to Self-Expression exhibition with my Mum. As I walked into the first room, huge screens adorned the walls of famous portrait paintings from Van Gogh to Freida Kahlo. Next to each screen was a mobile phone which allowed you to ‘heart’ (Instagram style) the images you liked most.
Another gallery featured a whole room filled from floor to ceiling of internet video diaries all playing at once so you could hear nothing but the chatter of hundreds of people. See image below.
The exhibition got me thinking about our obsession as humans to document ourselves and our lives. From the age of 7 until into my 20s I kept diaries of my thoughts. The process became a daily ritual from when I was about 14. I’d write everything down, but often I’d write and record my thoughts in those moments that I felt would be forgotten, or I’d write things down that were playing on my mind, which felt incredibly therapeutic.
There was one point when I could look back specifically to a particular date over a 10 year period and read exactly what was going on in my life at that point and what my thought processes were. Sometimes it felt soothing to know that I’d recorded so much, but I also questioned the point of it too.
There was a lot I learnt from writing everything down including the power of the written word. I’d often read things that I’d written or maybe I would write and describe things that I wanted or didn’t want to happen in the future. What I discovered was that these things always happened within a few years whether I wanted them to or not, and it made me realise how powerful our thoughts are, especially when written down.
I no longer keep a daily diary or journal but I will sometimes write down worries or things that are getting to me and then tear the paper up and throw it away. I also still enjoy writing a journal sometimes, but I’m more choosy about what I write down and for what purpose.
Writing an essay describing your ideal future life
As a side note, you might be interested in doing the following exercise which is something I did the other week and really enjoyed.
I was listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast with graphic designer Debbie Millman called How to design a life. Amongst discussing lots of fascinating things, Debbie describes an exercise she once did in a lecture with Milton Glaser. It involved writing an essay describing your ideal future life.
You’re free to write in as much detail as you like. Debbie mentioned that when many of Milton’s students had done this in the past, the majority of essays came true, which is pretty amazing.
Going back to the first room in the Saatchi gallery exhibition, I think one of my first thoughts was, ‘we’ve always been obsessed with selfies and documenting our lives — it’s just the media we’re using that’s changing’.
We may scoff at how self obsessed taking lots of selfies is, posting lots of updates on social media or continuously writing our thoughts in journals and diaries, but what can we learn from it? What other purpose does this serve other than validation or memory creation?
At the moment, I’m playing around with the idea of using my words as a way to create my life, as well as documenting moments I want to keep as memories.
In the past, I may have written diaries and journals to record moments and thoughts, but something we perhaps could all be doing more of is reflecting on our what we’ve written in our diaries and on social media to see patterns in the way we think, and then use the power of our words to create and shape our lives to our choosing.