Beyond Selfies: How to Capture the Wonder of Life with Others


For twelve years, Kevin Scruggs made a video of his daughter on the first day of school. The videos were simple. He asked her questions. She answered. They said, “I love you.” Lovely little moments, every one. Then, as a gift for his daughter’s high school graduation, Kevin edited all the short videos into a modest mash-up. The result is, well, miraculous (see it here). 

What do you think? Clips from the first two or three years are cute, right? Sweet. Endearing. But as you watch a girl become a young woman and hear Kevin’s voice break with emotion, you realize you’re not watching an insurance commercial or the opening sequence of a princess cartoon. You’re watching two real people share life and shape each other into who they will become. This is the big picture. This is reality from 30,000 feet. And “wow,” you gasp with a lump in your throat. “This is the wonder.”

Even now, as I watch the video again, I’m asking how my children’s lives flew by so fast. Honestly, one minute I was strapping them into their car seats. The next, I was packing them off to college. Of course, we captured the big moments along the way, and we’ve got drawers of snapshots, little square slides, and stacks of videotapes to prove it. But sorting, swiping, and fast-forwarding through those pictures and videos, it’s hard to get the wonder of it all. Here’s a famous example that helps explain why:

The sports world cheered as Stephen Curry led the Golden State Warriors to their second NBA title in three years. But the wonder isn’t only in 3-pointers or even the championship game. It’s in how these moments came to be.

Watch home movies of scrappy, five-foot-five Steph in Etobicoke, Canada, playing hockey, indoor soccer, volleyball, and (yes) basketball in a tiny K-12 school of 200 students (see video here—Steph is number 12). It’s him, yes, but it’s also a gaggle of boys around him, running up and down the court, dribbling and passing and shooting together.

Some of the wonder is in a Burger King commercial with his dad, Dell, when little Steph asked what it takes to be a great ball player (here). And as a growing teen with his family (here). The wonder continues as Steph dates and marries his wife Ayesha, and they become parents together (here).

As a basketball player, the wonder is clear at Davidson College, where Steph is leading his teammates to the Elite Eight (here). And with Coach K and Team USA, finding their rhythm together (here). And finally, with the Warriors, honing a brand of team play that some say changed basketball forever (here). 

What’s the point of all these moments? Just this. Something happens between the black and white footage of a sixth-grade game and the full-color broadcast of an NBA championship. It’s the sequence. The sweeping progression. The unfolding of a boy becoming a young man, a team member, a husband, a father, and then—in and through all of that—a superstar player. That’s more wonderful than any single achievement, or any single photo, video, or isolated post. It’s the big picture. Reality from 30,000 feet. And it truly is wonderful.

But there’s an even more important point to Steph’s story: He didn’t do it alone. Which is why, when it was his turn to take the NBA trophy home, he wasn’t content to share it with just his immediate family. He brought the trophy back to those who helped him win it. Back to where he started—his childhood home, his high school (here), his college (here). Retracing his steps and connecting the dots, Steph captured the wonder of his own path by recognizing the people who walked it with him.

This is a critical lesson for everyone immersed in a selfie culture. If all we have is isolated snapshots and quickie videos stored on phones, buried in hard drives, and scattered across social feeds, we’ll miss much of the wonder of life.

Because wonder is not, ultimately, just in the peaks of achievement and the vistas of dreams come true. It’s in the winding, upward paths we walk together and how we help each other along the way.

These days, more and more social media users (like Scruggs) are figuring this out. They’re turning “summit” moments into sequences, progressions, and stories. In the process, they’re also discovering they need more media than they can capture on their own. For example, when paying tribute to grandma, they need that video of her last birthday party (which they weren’t there to get), and the picture of everyone around her hospital bed (taken on someone else’s phone). 

To answer the need for more stories (and more wonder), tools are being developed that allow us to capture our lives with media from others. Here are three apps to keep your eye on:

1. Journi. This smart tool that takes your travel photos and builds a story of your trip automatically. And, it allows you to create albums with media from your friends who are traveling with you.

2. Cluster. Emphasizing private feeds for groups (such as close friends and extended family members), this application allows invited users to document everyday interactions and special occasions together, as a cluster.

3. Prixm. The is the newest of the apps, rolled out as an alternative social media platform. It’s a safe place to “Tell Your Story” using your own media, and the media of others who live your story with you.  

For many, getting a “vista view” of life is worth the effort to master a new app. For others, automatically assembled “collections” will be adequate for now. But as the tools in our hands become more sophisticated, we’ll be less satisfied with what the big platforms make on our behalf. Even the smartest algorithms will not be able to get the “through-lines” right—to capture the unfolding wonder of life as we live it.

Whatever tool you use, it’s important to resist an “all-or-nothing” approach. Get what you can without interrupting the flow of everyday experiences. Then, when you assemble the big picture, you’ll see that even the smallest moments become priceless.

In the American play “Our Town,” a young woman dies in childbirth and is given the opportunity to look back on her past. She thinks she’s lived an unremarkable life. But as she sees herself growing into a woman, and the people who helped to shape her life, she gasps at the wonder of even ordinary events. “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it, every, every minute?” she asks. 

Of course, the answer is no. But when we assemble those minutes as a pathway to the present, we get the big picture. We see reality from 30,000 feet. And “wow,” we gasp with a lump in our throat. “This is the wonder.”