My wife, daughter and I just got home from 10 days in Florida. We did the Disney and beach thing. It’s okay if you didn’t even realize I was gone. I didn’t tell you. I didn’t really want you to know.
I don’t post updates or vacation pictures on Facebook or Twitter when traveling. Part of this is a safety habit meant to prevent thieves, villains and sundry unscrupulous friends of friends of friends from targeting my house for mischief. It happens. Or, I think it happens. Or, if it doesn’t actually happen, it feels like something that should happen if it doesn’t. At the very least, it is something that is certain to happen now, since you will be watching my posts for pictures or absence of pictures. There’s no winning.
When I am traveling, you won’t see the picture of my 8 year old daughter waiting patiently at the airport, looking very much the practiced air traveler with her headphones, slightly bored expression and jug of chocolate milk. You won’t see the picture of me hanging with Rafiki or the dozen or so selfies of my wife and I smooshing face in some not-well-lit spot. You won’t see these things because I won’t post them yet. These are my memories. I want to keep them to myself a little longer.
Don’t worry. I will share them. I love to share them. I just get weary of the constant impulse to share pictures as evidence of Good Things happening while the Good Things are actually still happening. I want you to know something about my life but I don’t really want you there with me. Or, perhaps, I have it backwards. I want you with me but, when I share a picture of something that is happening while it is happening, it takes me away from the moment just a little. When I am sharing a thing to bring you all with me, I am making myself a little less there myself. I am a little less aware. I participate in that moment just a little bit less and and it belongs to me just a little bit less.
The ease of taking and sharing images makes is harder to protect the lines of genuine experience. Social networks exacerbate the situation, but they do not cause it. You may recall die hard photographers of a certain generation who would capture a moment on film and then miss out on the next several while gently fanning that precious scrap of self-exposing film called Polaroid.
When my wife and I married almost twenty years ago, my uncle rushed his photos of our ceremony through One Hour Photo so he could share the pictures of the ceremony that just happened at our reception.
I call this phenomenon the Instant Memory Machine. It is a very human thing and isn’t caused by technology, though I think our technologies increase potential for our actual experiences to get overrun by the documents of those experiences.
And so, kind friends, I ask that you wait. I’m going to keep these memories to myself just a little bit longer. I’m going to wrap myself in them like a suit of armor for my first day back to work. I’m going to marinate in them until I feel soft and well-saturated by the fullness of them. And just when the memory starts to settle, I will push them out into the world for the likes and the faves and the comments which are an important part of the Instant Memory Machine, that help me construct the narrative of who, what, when, where and why. The experience will be over and we can create something new out of it together. We can start the reminiscing, the storytelling and take the best parts of it all and latch them together to make something shared and useful.
But, still, there is that urge. The desire to share even just a little. Because somewhere inside of me remains the feeling that perhaps none of it really happened unless I have made evidence and shared evidence with someone else. And now, I can’t get this idea out of my head and so, not because you asked, but because it is my very human nature and I feel a kind of responsibility to feed the Instant Memory Machine. Just a little. Just this one. For now. Just so you can know I didn’t make this up. This actually happened. I was there. I wanted you there with me. I came back to bring a bit of it to you.