Last weekend, my husband and I sat perched on a hilltop overlooking the field at Inwood Hill Park in New York City, where my son plays soccer. It was the perfect fall day. While the sun was shining and the leaves were visibly starting to change color, I snapped the most beautiful picture—showcasing the kids scrambling after the black and white soccer ball, the crystal clear blue sky, and the falling leaves with the bridge in the background. It was perfection.
As soon as my camera phone lens caught the moment, I instantly opened up my favorite photo editing Apps—brightening different elements and finishing it off with a photo filter that was able to pull out the color in each child’s t-shirt and make it “pop.” Then the photo got uploaded to Instagram, which gets fed through both my Facebook and Twitter feeds—but not without writing a clever caption first, of course.
I refreshed the image a few times, watching the photo “likes” grow—giving me instant satisfaction for my efforts. But just as quickly as the beautiful moment came, it went. The opposing team scored a goal and I could instantly hear my son screaming at the top of his lungs, “he cheated!” Down the hill my husband ran to help the coach calm down our six year old who is clearly still learning good sportsmanship. Ah, the joys of motherhood, right?
Social media is a fickle thing. It’s almost as if since its creation, has conditioned us to think about moments in a different way. We have become persistent about capturing what’s going on around us through our camera phone lenses, so that we can then showcase these happenings to our friends via social media. The problem with this is that we have stopped experiencing and are tangled in the web of capturing—we’re moving through life behind our camera lens instead of being proactive and taking part in activities. We have reached a point where a “like” or a “favorite” has become more gratifying than completing the activity itself.
Take this concept one step further, to the point where it becomes a competition of sorts. Families silently competing with families as they scroll through their newsfeed, overlooking what everyone else is spending their time doing—then comparing. We fill ourselves with thoughts that we should be doing more with our kids, we aren’t doing enough together, or our weekends aren’t fun enough. Then, the “mom guilt” sets in. We begin beating ourselves up about what we feel we should be doing based on an image that someone else posted—instead of feeling good about what we are actually doing.
Furthermore, there is a phrase that has been floating around that says something along the lines of, “it didn’t really happen unless it was posted on Instagram.” Feeling this “social pressure” to post everything fun, exciting, or wonderful that happens in our lives doesn’t really give anyone a sense of privacy anymore—yet we push onward and keep snapping away.
Ultimately though, what’s not seen whenever these beautifully enhanced images are published and uploaded to our social networks is the real life that’s going on behind the lens of your camera phone. We feel jealous or inadequate based on seeing someone else’s lovely photo, when in reality they most likely happened to snap it quickly—before a temper tantrum started. Or perhaps the image was captured just before the child darted away, running faster than their tied Dad could chase after them. No one is perfect.
And yes—we do live in a very visual age. Taking pictures is a much easier and less expensive feat than it was a hundred years ago. We take pictures to make sure we don’t forget about special moments, so that we can reflect back on them at any given time. We also take pictures to share these wonderful memories with loved ones who live far away, who we aren’t able to see on a regular basis. But overall, whenever you are reminiscing with your children about something that has happened in the past, they will enjoy that precious time talking to you about it—just as much as looking at a picture—maybe more.
Through this journey of striving for visual perfection, we are setting the tone for how our children are going to experience life. I want my son to stop and smell the roses every once in a while, always learning from the world around him, and most importantly—know when to disconnect.