While the label for the disorder is new, evidence of its effects will be familiar to anyone who uses social media, has looked at a photo album or been to a beach in the late afternoon. Experts estimate that Solsnapomania – an obsession with taking pictures of sunrises and sunsets – has been around as long as there have been people, the sun, and cameras in one place with a view of the horizon, a free hand, and an inability to recognize that a picture won’t do the real thing justice and no one cares anyway.
“While Solsnapomaniacs are common in all walks of life, we have found an especially high concentration of them in the maritime sector.” Says Dr. Jimenez, a researcher with the Institute For Obsessing on Obsessions. “Now, whether these individuals became obsessed with capturing sunrises and sunsets through prolonged exposure – no pun intended – to witnessing the sun’s activities on a daily basis as per their jobs, or were drawn to their industry by this obsession, is something we are still trying to work out. It’s still very chicken and egg. Or egg and chicken, depending on how you look at it.”
With recognition growing that this is indeed a disorder and not just a mildly tacky pastime, support groups for Solsnapomaniacs have proliferated in many seaside cities and towns. A number of large marinas have begun hosting local chapters of Solsnappers Anonymous, with a recent congregation of one such group in Miami quickly filling to standing-room only and requiring an emergency run to Dunkin’ Donuts for additional refreshments. Denise (last name withheld), an attendee of that meeting, and chief stewardess on a large sail yacht, described her obsession for The General Alarm:
“I always know that the photo won’t do the real thing justice, but I just can’t help myself, I have to try to capture it, partly because I think it looks nice and maybe partly because sometimes life feels really transient, especially working on a boat. I guess with the photos in a way I’m trying to hang on to a moment in time, even though I know you can’t really do that.” As she finished relating this thought she slowly raised her smart phone to mid-chest and quietly took a picture of this reporter, then nodded to herself with grim satisfaction before asking if we are on Instagram (we aren’t).
But many remain in the denial stage of the disorder, with no shortage of Facebook updates featuring the all-too-familiar horizontal perspective of an over-exposed image, accompanied by a message apologizing for ‘yet another sunset shot’, yet posting it anyway.
“No I don’t think I have a problem,” Says a holiday-maker on the promenade in Ft. Lauderdale with more than a trace of hostility. “I’ll have you know that I regularly get 30-40 Facebook likes for my pictures of sunsets. Which is a lot more than I get for photos of my food, no matter how delicious it looks.”
One thing there is universal agreement on is that as annoying as numerous shots of a sky the colour of pink eye are, they are nowhere near as off-putting as yet another photo of peoples’ own mugs. As Jim (last name withheld), another attendee of Solsnappers Anonymous, put it, “I know not everyone is a fan of my sunset pics, but at least the subject of them is an exploding ball of gas billions of years old that sustains life as we know it, instead of my own damn face.”