By IHE Fellow Lucia Ann Silecchia, J.D.

In recent days, a quirky fad has gone viral: The “Ten Year Challenge.” Thousands of people, from celebrities to those unknown, are posting current photographs of themselves on social media next to their photos from a decade past. In part, this is entertainment and a chance to see – with pleasure or dismay – the ways in which a decade of life has wrought changes reflected in the faces looking back from the screen. It is an invitation to smirk at questionable fashion choices from 2009 or silently gloat if a recent picture looks better than the old one.

Beyond mere entertainment, though, the sudden burst of interest in the “Ten Year Challenge” says something fascinating about human nature. Looking at old photographs connects us to our past: who we were, who we are, and all that lies between. Juxtaposing an old photo with a new one says a lot about the face in the picture. The look on a face, aged by ten years, can speak to the ways in which a decade has been kind or how time’s trials can make that same face seem wearier than the calendar says it should.

The “Ten Year Challenge” craze is likely to disappear as quickly as it roared into social media. But our fascination with images captured in photographs is here to stay. Indeed, when asked to name their most treasured possessions, so many answer that it is the family photographs that capture their most special moments – the sonogram announcing to the world that the miracle of life is renewed again; wedding photographs that record the joy of love promised; anniversary photographs that show the joy of love lived; and photographs of baptisms, First Communions and confirmations that harken back to those special moments that cleanse, nourish and strengthen the soul.

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Originally published on 31 January 2019 at the The Catholic Messenger.

IHE Fellow Lucia Ann Silecchia, J.D. is a professor of law, and director of the Summer Law Program in Rome at The Catholic University of America. Her expertise is in environmental law and ethics, Catholic social thought & law, and Catholic higher education.

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