Periodically, I think about facebook and miss knowing how people are (it's been 2 or 3 months since I deleted my account). The reason it came to mind last week is that I realized I haven't seen pictures of our nieces and nephews for a while and I miss seeing how they're doing. But, it came to mind this morning in light of one of the effects I started to see on my thinking the longer I'd been on facebook.
I had a thought provoking conversation with a friend today at church. My friend explained to me the reason why her husband didn't want their kids to have digital cameras yet. He desires for his children not to live their lives through a camera. I came home and discussed this with my husband. He and I discussed the effect that constant picture taking can potentially have on one's life. I don't have a name for this effect, but my husband articulated it this way. He said our desire to take pictures can have several purposes. One of those purposes can be a creative outlet--an artistic expression. Another purpose can be to "document our lives". On the face of it, that doesn't sound like a bad thing. We all want to remember what has happened and pictures can help us do that.
But, we can also get caught living our lives through the lens of a camera--rather than really living it. Taking a picture, posting it, and having people comment (either positive or negative) does not validate the event. It doesn't make whatever has happened more meaningful or worthy of rememberance. But, when we document everything and get praise for that documentation, a cycle can begin. That cycle is one of the desire for positive affirmation of the memory.
I think this affirmation is especially alluring to stay at home moms. We are the only ones who often witness the milestones of our children's lives when we are home with them. It's been interesting having my mom live with us, because she gets to experience those milestones alongside me while my husband is at work. And I have to admit that it increases my enjoyment to get to share the things that happen with her as they happen.
But, there's a fine line. Our enjoyment should ideally be first in the moment and then second as we share with others--whether by email, picture, text, etc. If our enjoyment isn't first in the physical moment on our own, then we won't be fully present. For me, it is a slippery slope. It was a slippery slope.
What was once an artificial reality is now truly considered part of our everyday reality--email, facebook, texting... Many people, I think, consider the relationships built over these medium every bit as real as the relationships they maintain with people in person. But, there are some dangerous consequences to this. We can start to put priority on those relationships over the ones near us. They are convenient and make us feel valued. My husband jokingly calls the computer our "Skinner box", named for B.F. Skinner. I believe he read this phrase in a book written by Alan Jacobs. Skinner's idea was that rather than continual rewards, intermittent rewards are actually more effective at changing behavior. Email and facebook fit that reward system to a tee!
But, back to the picture taking idea. Next year, I'm planning on teaching my children about photography. I love to see God's creation through the lens of my camera. That is my primary purpose in taking pictures. But, I do take pictures to help me remember people and capture expressions. It doesn't make my life more meaningful because it's documented, but I'm interested to see what lessons God has for us as we embark on that adventure next year!