If I want to take the 10-year challenge (and I don’t), I only have to look to the drawer where I keep my old passports. There, documented in roughly 10-year intervals, are excruciatingly objective photographs of my past selves, staring out at me with the same nervous eyes that have stared at humorless border guards for almost four decades. Taken together, they capture all the cliches of aging: A kid in his 20s, looking for romance on other continents; a young professional in his 30s feeling self-important about his first real job; and then some relative of my current self, a man in his mid-40s (when the passport was new), working his way through the bucket list.
Of course the 10-year challenge — the posting to social media of two portraits, taken at an interval of 10 years, to show the impact of aging — is a game, perhaps an innocent one. But it animates many of the worst things about social media and the culture it is crafting. If it is a game, then what does it mean to win it? To have aged well, perhaps so imperceptibly that all one’s friends and acquaintances post flattering comments: “Why, you haven’t a changed a bit!”