The ratio of selfied folk to beach is approximately 1 per 10 square feet. It tapers a bit as you near the ocean, with selfies changing over to friends or family taking the pics. Need to keep the phones dry. I dodge and weave through extended arms and fluttering phones as I complete an evening run over the compact sand.
Miami is full of beautiful young people and beautiful young people love selfies. Miami Beach is a badge, a symbol, a moment (sunset), and a place to broadcast. We all have narratives we wish to project. Hip, hot, healthy, and suave appear to be the goal.
The wind is infused with narcissism, I think as a group of young girls tries to get their hair to puff in just the right Instagram manner. Or perhaps this is merely survival in the social landscape of 2020.
I stop to grab my breath and to embrace the zeitgeist. I want to send a selfie to my brother-in-law. I feel an odd need to humble brag about my awesome job that lets me run Miami Beach after a long day of conferences. I raise my phone and take a selfie.
My pixel phone says my selfie looks like shit. “You may want to raise the camera and take your selfie from a higher angle.” Sure enough, I have the wind blowing hair into my mouth and substantial double chin. I am not suave.
An abuelita with pink dyed hair and rainbow flagged towel walks pass me. She’s holding the hand of her granddaughter. They push towards the water’s edge, spread the towel, and plunk down with laughter. The sky is shifting to the darker colors of dusk. They don’t take out their phones. They watch the water and the gulls.
I am struck by how we think of ourselves in moments of geographical beauty. Are we observers, or are we recorders? Do we measure ourselves against the awe of nature? Or do we measure ourselves against the wonder of our friends observing us in nature?
A group of Brazilians approaches me and asks if I can take a group picture. I smile and say in my rusty Portuguese “Absolutamente!”.
They’re too big for a selfie.