Reading your comments yesterday about my less-than-awesome New Year’s Eve party got me thinking about what bothers me (and perhaps many of us) about the holiday and about general trends in how people perceive fun.

Based on your comments, it seems like most people have a better time staying in with a few friends, eating food and watching movies. And my night definitely improved upon ordering a pizza and sitting on the couch.  So here’s the question: are all people like this, or just people like us? Does anyone have fun in a crowded bar where you can’t move or hear anyone say anything?

I think part of the problem is with the holiday in particular. There’s too much pressure to have fun. You have to have plans, you have to drink champagne, you have to find someone – anyone! – to kiss at midnight. If you’re not having the best night ever, then it’s the worst night ever.

But – back to Anchor Bar in New York City, the worst place ever. It seemed to me that people were trying very, very hard to look like things were going well for them.

The first, most obvious example of this is what women wear out on New Years – out come the mini-dresses, sequins, strapless things, strappy things, short things, sheer things, high-heeled things. And I suppose I would be fine with that if it weren’t the dead of winter and if you weren’t expected to stand and dance all night. I don’t know – maybe I’m just making myself feel better about having a sweater on instead of my A-game when everyone else did, but I can’t see how being freezing and constantly adjusting the three yards of fabric that you are wearing so that it covers your ass and your boobs at the same time could actually contribute to your having a good time.

The second thing I noticed was the number of pictures being taken by the girls at the bar. Of each other. It’s happened at many of the parties I’ve been to recently – pictures of the girls with their tongues out, pictures of the girls sexily sipping their drinks, pictures of the girls kissing in front of their boyfriends. Then, inevitably, when I shamefully log into Facebook the next day, I get to wade through dozens of pictures of my friends and my friends’ friends and read about how much fun they had the night before. Don’t worry, these pictures seem to say, we weren’t sitting and eating pizza and drinking beer with a few friends last night! We were living! With our tongues out!

Talking about the phenomenon with Ben the next day, we came up with some interesting ideas about the rise in and strangeness of “fun documentation”. Ben compared it to the modern-day wish to become a celebrity, even if you aren’t famous for anything good. Facebook, in this instance, becomes a sort of US Weekly among a circle of friends – you get to see who was out with whom doing what – with your friends acting as the fake paparazzi. All the pictures are “tagged” with the names of who was there – and everyone is dressed up and having a great time!

I think fun documentation can also be linked to reality television – the pictures the girls were taking in the bar actually happened and they are documents of that moment in time, much like the footage shot for reality shows. However, looking at how the pictures are taken and presented, they are often staged and posed. The small fact that everyone knows pictures are being taken changes what is happening. Although the pictures are meant to be action shots, they are taken deliberately, like portraits.

For example, very early in the night on NYE, these three girls were about to take a totally cute picture of themselves grinding on each other on the dance floor. They weren’t drunk (yet) and the place wasn’t crowded (yet) but they were dancing close and, right before the pictures were taken, each girl froze in the sexiest of positions. After a few were taken, one of the girls stopped the “shoot” to run over and get NYE crowns for everyone in the take to wear. After the crowns were put on (and their hair fixed) the dancing and picture taking continued. It was basically a fabricated moment of fun that would look totally great on the social networking sites in the morning. Look how much fun we had! We didn’t even notice the camera!

I’m not against taking pictures when you are out or documenting an event – but it seems like digital cameras and the internet have not only given us the chance to easily record our day-to-day lives, but it has given us the opportunity to mold our lives into a social fantasy world. If women today want to be like celebrities, and if all we know about celebrities is what we see in pictures in magazines and on the internet, shouldn’t it follow that women create these fabricated moments to shoot of themselves?

Ugh, I suddenly feel very old. I’m going to reread this and make sure I never say the phrase “kids these days.” I suppose that to make up for my stuffiness and inability to embrace modern culture, I’ll post my favorite fun documentation picture, of me, Ben, and some friends at a posh party… with a celebrity! I am SO living the life!

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