Anyone who’s had a mild scrape with philosophy will have heard the question of whether a falling tree still makes a sound if there’s no one to hear it. Today, that question would be whether your life really happened if no one saw it on Facebook. Such is the state of Facebook addiction that too many people I know seem busier recording their lives than living them. I don’t think it’s possible to do both at the same time. For instance, I’ve not mastered the art of doing a great dad-dance at a concert while trying to hold my smartphone still enough to make a recording that’s worth watching after the event. Either I dad dance, or I record.
If the choice is for me to have an evening causing unbridled embarrassment that I’ll remember vividly for years, or to record a sanitised version of the evening for “sharing”, I’ll take embarrassment every time. As for sharing, I get infinitely more from other people telling me with emotion all about the thing that they did than their showing me a video of it. And I’ll rarely watch their video of it on Facebook.
But that whole recording frenzy applies, sadly, to many parents’ experiences with their children. When I go to school plays, I’m astounded by how many parents are focussing harder on recording the play than on watching their kids. Sure, it’s great to have the play captured for posterity on video. I also get that they might be doing it so that the other parent can see it. But that’s not the case for most, and it also ignores a couple of things.
The first is that I don’t believe any amount of watching a play recorded on video can ever connect you emotionally with the event as much as experiencing it when it happens. And I mean experiencing it by focussing on your kids rather than your smartphone video. What the video delivers in visual reality for me never comes close to the emotions of watching it fully engaged in the first place. My memories of things I’ve done and watched of my kids resonate far stronger with me than those that I simply record.
But the second is that with video and photos becoming so cheap now in digital form, the amount that people record is so vast that it’s rarely watched again. Check how many photos you have on your computer, or in the cloud, or even on your phone and tell me what proportion of them you ever look at again. So most people are missing out on living the moment with their kids because they’re too busy recording it to never watch it second hand. Is it worth it?
Sadly, this is compounded as our kids take their lead from our behaviour. As it is, according to The Child Study Center, the total amount of media use by youth ages 8 to 18 already averages 6-plus hours a day. And, to continue their findings, this is more than any other activity. By definition, this must be replacing something else.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of social media and believe it can enhance people’s lives. After all, our own online club for kids is predicated on kids recording and sharing activities to encourage each other. But when social media becomes people’s lives, when Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook addiction run rife, then we end up missing out on so much. And all so that Facebook can throw up a targeted advert in front of us…
So please, encourage your kids to live their lives rather than just recording them. And show them how by living the moment with them rather than through your smartphone.
For my part, I fully intend to dance gigs with my kids right through their embarrassment and up until they have their own kids who think that it’s cool that grandpa still dances.