Some Things Are Better Left UnsaidTsh Oxenreider
As you’re reading this, my husband and I are in Martha’s Vineyard, celebrating our tenth anniversary by staying in the same cottage where we honeymooned a decade ago. Our plan is to walk leisurely among the prism-colored trees, sleep in, read books, finish sentences without interruptions from little people, and … be offline.
Sure, we’ll probably Instagram a few photos, just for fun, but it won’t be work-related, and it won’t be out of obligation. Our expectation is that when we return to the real world a week later, our inboxes — and our hearts — will be brimming to overflow.
Not too long ago, Sarah Markley shared how she craved keeping a family vacation Hawaii all to herself, so she intentionally stayed offline. Hardly anyone knew she was gone, and there were no follow-up posts or Facebook status updates during their time. During her week, she said a shift began in her where she started valuing her privacy in a new way.
At Blissdom this past February, Jon Acuff made fun of us all (including himself) at how we have this insatiable need to share stuff — and that if we don’t share it, it’s as though it never happened. He regaled a story of how he and his wife were enjoying a perfect evening in the backyard, watching a sunset and their kids romping in the grass, feeling the breeze and smelling dinner on the grill. He got up to snap a pic with his phone for Instagram. Jon’s wife stopped him. “Do you have to document this moment?” He said he felt the shakes as he sat back down, photo-less.
I think our paradigm has shifted as to what makes a moment a good one — it feels more complete, more real, if we share it with others who aren’t there.
That’s not a bad thing, per se — it’s our equivalent of vacation slideshows with the neighbors after a week away (minus the deviled eggs and the need to smile with interest). I think it becomes a problem, however, when we feel obligated to share right away. That those who aren’t there in that moment need a status update.
Sarah’s words here rattled in my brain all last week as I prepared for our trip: “In this culture of over sharing and posting and photo maps and hashtags, I believe in many ways we have lost the value of privacy.”
I am profoundly thankful for social media and the Internet in general. It’s provided me my work and my passion, and I couldn’t be more grateful for my readers and followers. They make all what I do possible. But there’s a healthy line between celebrating community and information online, and keeping a moment private and personal.
We have an innate desire to be heard, to be included, and to be valued. Social media validates a lot of that, and used in conjunction with your offline life, it can be a healthy measure for finding your voice in a loud, deafening crowd. But when it replaces our three-dimensional life, we start missing the moment and translating it as a good photo, status update, tweet, or blog post. Instead of it being just what it is — a moment in time that engages our senses and deserves all our attention.
I love social media interaction, so that’s why I’m fine if we still Instagram on our anniversary trip. It’s fun to share beautiful moments with people you love, and that’s okay. But I’ll put the iPhone down if I’m staring at my feed instead of my husband. There are times and places that deserve my attention in different ways, and it’d be a shame if we spent our week without kids celebrating a decade of marriage hunched over our pocket computers during a lobster dinner.
Our privacy is important; so is our need to keep things a mystery to others. I think my Facebook friends will live if I don’t report back the status of my New England clam chowder.
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