Seagulls aren’t exactly the most respected members of the avian community. They steal, they squawk, they swarm. They are in many ways a group of birds that only a mother, or an ornithologist, could love.
So it seemed very on-brand when one particularly bold seagull, more technically referred to as a gull, swooped down to snatch a lobster roll out of the hands of an unsuspecting tourist at Nubble Light in York. The visitor, Washington Post contributor Alicia Jessop, was taking a carefully-framed picture of the meal and the lighthouse at the exact moment her food became the gull’s food. The accidentally, but perfectly-timed, image quickly soared to great heights on the internet.
“It’s kind of embarrassing,” Jessop told News Center Maine about the lesson learned in that moment. “It was just like a split-second thing. I was so focused on the perfect Instagram picture that I didn’t even notice the seagull coming in.”
The seagull, of course, initially appears to be a villain in this crustacean culinary tragedy. It’s a thief, a rogue, a selfish fan of shellfish. But the narrative isn’t that simple.
The bird — and bear with us here — is actually a helpful messenger in the battle against digital distraction, flying in to remind us to pay more attention to the world around us and care just a little less about our online profiles.
In that moment, Jessop was many of us in the digital age: victims of our own desire to capture everything we do and share it online, often at the expense of truly being in the moment.
We understand and identify with Jessop wanting to highlight Maine’s beauty. We welcome that kind of exposure for the state. But we should all strike a balance between documenting Maine and actually experiencing it.
The seagull incident is a funny and relatable example of how technology can distract us. But there are also some serious reasons to dial back on our impulses to capture the perfect digital content.
A study from researchers in India published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, for example, found 259 selfie-related deaths in countries around the world from October 2011 to November 2017. In an effort to get buzz-worthy photos of themselves, people are drowning, falling, getting burnt, being attacked by animals and meeting other grisly ends.
At a time when people are literally dying in pursuit of pictures, the seagull stealing the lobster roll is a lighthearted but necessary reminder to put our phones away and simply enjoy the world around us.
To her credit, Jessop has been willing to laugh at her unfortunate run-in with Maine wildlife. And she’s even created a website that further explains the story behind her now-famous photo.
“I had no idea it would go viral, be picked up by news outlets and be shared by people of all backgrounds and beliefs. Laughter remains the best medicine,” she wrote on the site. “I hope my accidental photograph brings you a smile.”
Jessop’s humor and enterprise after the fly-away robbery are admirable. She has certainly made lemonade out of the situation, and the fun and laughter wouldn’t have been amplified without social media.
As we chuckle at the seagull’s gall to dive in and steal the lobster roll, however, let’s also consider the reminder this peckish bird brought with it: we all could be a little less hungry for likes on social media, and focus more on enjoying the food and views in front of us.