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We’ve all known people who seem to be living vicariously through their children. But now there is a whole new generation that has taken that concept one step further: They are living vicariously through technology. Ironically, in doing so they are really living anything but vicariously.
This is something I’ve observed, here and there, over time. But it really hit me about a year ago. I was, of all places, on the floor, up close, at a Foo Fighters concert. In my experience, this is the only way to see a concert: in the thick of the crowd’s excitement, close enough to see the meticulous detail of a tattooed arm onstage, and just dangerous enough so that you’d better keep on your toes or risk getting injured by a wayward crowd-surfer. You get the picture.
So anyway, here I am, about 12 feet from the stage. But instead of being pummeled from all sides, I notice that things are, well, calm…eerily calm. I look around, then it hits me all at once, just as powerfully as if I’d gotten a swift kick to the side of the head (which has happened, thankfully, just once).
I am surrounded by a sea of hands in the air. But they’re not clapping or shaking their fists to the beat of the music. Instead, they are capturing the scene on their iPhones and mobile devices. And they are so singularly focused on this that they are actually missing out on all the excitement of the live concert experience. They are no longer participants; they are observers and historians.
Now I, too, have been known to document my concertgoing experiences: Stop by my desk and I’ll proudly show you my close-up of Billie Joe Armstrong from last year’s Green Day concert (of course, you can check it out on my Facebook page, too). And, to be truthful, I’m often guilty of being the proud parent who records every second of the kindergarten play. The only problem is, I feel a little cheated afterward, like I really didn’t get a chance to enjoy it because I was too busy recording it (trying desperately to evade the bobbing blue head of the grandma in front of me) to watch later.
I admit that it’s all too easy to get caught up in documenting and sharing in real time every nuance of our lives. Last fall, I remember getting together with some old college friends. I was furiously posting pics and sending Facebook updates, until I made myself stop so that I didn’t miss the “now” for the “later.”
I now approach social sharing the way I approach most other things in my life: in moderation. So I took a few pictures when I was in the pit for the Stone Temple Pilots concert, plus a few of my daughter and her friends getting caught up in the excitement of a Jonas Brothers concert this past August, and I’ll likely do some real-time sharing of my family’s upcoming holiday gatherings. But just as I’ll think twice about eating that fourth Oreo, I’ll also curb my appetite for overdocumenting the important—and everyday—moments of my life.
And although it seems I’m in the minority here, I am not alone. In fact, perhaps the more things change, the more things stay the same. A New York Timesarticle focusing on the double-edged sword of “openness” that the White House has encountered referenced Jacqueline Kennedy: “Mrs. Kennedy may have been impossibly glamorous and done her share of image management, but she had a chaste relationship with the camera and the public. ‘I want to live my life, not record it,’ she said.”
Because I had my social sharing epiphany at a concert, it just seems right to come full circle and sum up with another musical reference. And who better to quote than the great Bob Dylan: “Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them.”
Photo Credit: creativecommons.org/by Special K Files