Reclaiming the Private Life in a Technological Age

Earlier this week, I was on an adventure with my partner that took us into this gorgeous hideout along a river’s edge. The water was so clear and deep that I could watch fish swimming just below me.

Delighted as I always am with anything animal, I whipped out my phone and tried to capture a picture. The sounds and smells around me receded as my eye took over my sensory processing, but I was frustrated to realize that my phone couldn’t capture what my eyes could.

At one point, I looked up and the fullness of the scene came rushing back into my awareness. I realized the experience was so much more intense when I wasn’t living it through a shrunken version on a screen.

Then and there, I pocketed my phone, deciding that I actually didn’t want to share what I was doing and seeing. No one would grasp what this place felt like through what little I could show in a picture, and trying so hard to share the experience with others was actually diminishing it for myself.

It felt like an epiphany.

Everything seems to be publicized these days.

We can read the break ups of complete strangers, find out the juicy details of how someone discovered their partner was cheating on them, or witness people proposing to their significant other, coming out to their parents, or giving birth to their firstborn child.

Increasingly, we’ve been able to watch people have emotional breakdowns, commit crimes, or defend against sexual/physical assault all through the spread of recorded interactions and “live” features of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and good ol’ security cameras.

In many ways, life has become a performative art. Moments become about one’s followers and “friends” (loosely applied regardless of whether you ever hang out or converse), not about…well, the moment.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a picture to show friends or posting to social media about stuff going on in your life. It’s an important form of sharing that I don’t intend to give up.

But having the option to share any moment at any time can become a compulsion to share every moment all the time.

Sometimes, it’s good to step back and revel in the privacy of the moment—to let it be sacred, special, secret, or solo.

When was the last time you did something for yourself, just yourself, and didn’t publicize it? (Other than mundane shit like brushing your teeth and stuff.) If you find yourself struggling with coming up with an answer, maybe it’s time to stop curating Instagram and start curating your privacy.

Take a conversation off the screen and make it face-to-face. Pick something not to share on snap-chat and explore how it feels compared to the times you do share. Maybe even cultivate something in your life that never gets shared on social media—it’s entirely private, deliciously secret from the Internet (though maybe not secret from people connected to you in person).

While the Internet does a lot to expand the world for us, sometimes it also ends up disconnecting us from our inner world or from the tangible world around us. When we choose to disconnect from the screen, we reject the idea that posting a moment makes it “real.” #NoPicsBecauseIWasTooBusyLivingIt