Take a Picture of ME, Take a Picture of ME
There’s something about Vietnam that is different to Malaysia and Thailand and I’ve been trying to put my finger on it for the past couple of weeks since I arrived here. Before you think of course there is, it’s a different country and culture you idiot – what I am trying to say is that certain behaviours are common to people of many cultures that transcend borders but it’s not so in Vietnam. Let me explain because it came to me when I tried to access facebook – which I couldn’t because it is barred here. All over the world where people have access to camera technology or a phone that takes snaps I witness what can only be described as narcissist tendencies to take pictures of oneself in model, stupid, funny poses and load them onto Facebook for the friends and the general world to see. Sycophantic comments are then added to the wall by those who can view a person’s site. “Oooohhh you’re looking fantastic today babe” “Hi looking gorgeous as usual” “Lovely photo – fantastic hair” and so on. This tribute to beauty becomes monotonous due to the huge amount friends people seem to have. Friends, friends of friends, family, acquaintances, virtual strangers and local hobos on the street who are added to the list in order to look popular. Over 300 ‘friends’ is not unusual – which I find strange as I can count my good friends on two hands. I’m obviously a pariah in this land.
In Vietnam the facebook phenomena has not taken effect yet. People don’t pose, pout, wiggle, jump or pull funny faces into a camera lens. When meeting the Vietnamese people for the first time their opening line is not “take a picture of me/us”. It’s hello, how are you, where are you from, nice to meet you, you buy tour from me at an inflated price.
I was in the salt plains of Bolivia a few months ago. It was an amazing place – all shimmering white with luminous blue skies. I waited patiently to take pictures of the stunning scenery as two Italian girls posed, pouted, contorted themselves into impossible positions for at least 100 photos taken by their male companion. All completely oblivious to the amazing land around them and the queue of people waiting for their turn. When they finished and were checking themselves out on the screen I climbed up in their place to get a shot. Just as I was about to take my photo the boy shook my shoulder and asked me if I was going to be long! He did not like my reply, and practically hauled me up when I continued to take my shot. Now I don’t like strangers touching me – come to think of it I’m so good with people I know either. A lasting effect of an incident with a stalker. So you can imagine I reacted badly. They continued to take photos after I left and for all I know the queue of people are still waiting for them to finish. Unfortunately, the promotion of self obsession is one of the less appealing characteristics of people’s behaviour since the advent of facebook.