Saturday, December 7, 2013

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine blogged briefly on what she called "the lost art of privacy." When I read those words I felt like I was coming home. She put into one phrase what I've been trying to pinpoint for a long time now.

The topic is the abundant self sharing we do via the internet. Facebook, Instagram, blogging, and the like. I've had this sort of thought-field in my mind for quite some time now. The landscape is always changing but I think I'm finally starting to make something concrete of it.

We do a large amount of our identity construction online these days. It's how we self brand. We promote ourselves complete with online portfolio. I did a lot of self branding in college, mainly to try to look attractive to guys. The internet asked me, "Who are you? What do you have to share?" Youtube told me to "Broadcast Yourself." And I did for a long time. I created an online self that was sometimes meant to look edgier than I really was, or sexier, or more interesting. I might post things that I wouldn't say in public, or at least not in front of my mother. The line between public and private began disintegrating.

Now, by way of background info, I'm not currently on Facebook. John is and I occasionally use his account to access a private group that only my immediate family members belong to. It's our space online to communicate forum style. My brother posts pictures of the girls he's dating and updates with his job. My sisters and brothers-in-law tell of their adventures in Hawaii or how dental school interviews are going. And my parents let us know they are still alive and well while serving their mission in Zambia. That group is the closest thing my family has to good old fashioned sit down dinner conversation. While not crucial to staying in touch, if John and I fully abandoned Facebook now, we'd be left out of a lot of Erickson chatter.

The main reason I am not on Facebook is because I know I am much happier without it. When I get on Facebook I start looking through the photos and updates of other women, often people I don't even know personally, like the girlfriend of an old college acquaintance. In as little as 5 minutes I can start feeling bad about myself because of the comparison I make to the online versions of these women. She's so much prettier than me and has a much nicer wardrobe. She's so much more creative, she's smarter and funnier. She's so skinny, in much better shape than me, and she's probably a way better cook. She travels more and to more interesting destinations. She makes more money, has a nicer home, has more friends, goes out on the weekends. I feel less satisfied with myself and my life after spending time comparing myself to others. I have found that without Facebook I am a much happier Lindsay. I feel completely in love with who I am and what I have. I think my life is great and I couldn't ask for anything better!

I've never used Instagram. John has had an account as long as I've known him but he closed it last month. I was a fan of this decision. It tended to be his go-to activity during down time or whenever there seemed to be a lull in whatever we were doing, like laying in bed at night or while sitting in a restaurant waiting for our order. I didn't like him using Instagram during these times because I believe it prevented potential conversations from happening. With no alternative distractions I can't guarantee we would be having great conversation 100% of the time. However, with that distraction present I could guarantee with 100% certainty that meaningful conversation would not be taking place.

John had two main reasons for getting off Instagram. First, he realized that following his friends on Instagram was giving him a false sense of closeness, like he knew what was going on in their lives when he really didn't. He realized that these photo updates are not always a true indicator of how well a friend is doing. He found himself relying more on Instagram to feel connected rather than making the effort to call. The second reason came when he got real with himself and started asking why he posted the things he did. What was he trying to say by posting a photo of his new textbooks for his masters program? That he is a contributer. That he has worth. Hey guys, I'm doing something cool with my life too! He was looking for validation. He found that it was often ego driven and he didn't like that.

Now, I choose to blog. I have done it for several years. Sometimes my posts are ego driven. I won't deny that. I get excited when I get a new haircut, or buy a new purse (because those two things rarely happen more than once a year). The reason I choose a blog to post my updates is for the complete control I have of my little space on the internet. If I don't want advertisements, there won't be any. If I don't want you commenting, you won't. I also prefer to stand alone. I don't want my posts to be included in a never ending newsfeed that splashes the happenings of hundreds of people. I don't think I'm more special than anyone else but I don't want to make myself a cheap commodity. You know those friends of yours on Facebook who post 3 photos a day of their baby and you are starting to get sick of it taking over your home page. There is something to exclusivity. It keeps things inherently special. Which leads me to my real point, that these thoughts aren't just about me. The real reason I have been thinking about all this is because of my family, particularly those little ones that are yet to come into this world.

The birth of a child, I can only imagine, will be the most special moment of my life next to marrying John in the temple. There were no pictures of our marriage ceremony, but my memory of it is clear and incredibly sacred. When I see photo after photo after photo of a newborn on facebook, and mom in the hospital bed looking exhausted, I start to feel the experience being cheapened. This is one of the types of special family experiences that I want to keep in-house.

We've been taught that our homes are the only place on earth that can compare with our temples in sacredness.  But do they? Do we take advantage of that possibility and take the measures necessary to protect what is so special? We don't broadcast to the world the things that happen in the temple. When we do share about our experiences there it is done in a safe and controlled environment. We hold those things sacred. It reminds me of Mary who, after seeing an angel and being told she would raise the Son of God, "kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." I want to be like Mary. I don't want to broadcast to the world the special things and people that are in my home. I want to keep childhood in-house and free from the world's validation. It's no wonder we don't know anything about Christ from birth to around 12 years of age. It's because Mary was his mother! She knew better and she protected her sweet boy. She didn't put pearls before swine. I don't want to place my pearls before swine either. I have learned that swine aren't only those that would trample our treasures underfoot, but those that just don't care or, due to our own over sharing, have become desensitized to the special nature of what we share.

An important part of keeping our temples holy is keeping the influences of the world outside. When we go in, we turn off our cell phone, we take off our watch, and we check our trivial concerns at the door. The temple is a place of peace where we go to feel the Spirit. I want my home to be the same way. I don't want to invite all the influences of the world inside. John and I don't own a tv. We don't plan on owning one. We have ways of watching the shows, movies, and games we'd like to see. I really look forward to a home life without that portal to worldliness always available.

An idea that may sound a little strange, even backwards, is the need to protect ourselves from praise. John is so aware of his ego and I admire his ability to steer clear of situations that would puff up his pride. Pride is so dangerous. We often only think of the "I'm all that" side of pride and forget that there is another end to the spectrum. The "I'm worthless" side, that seeks constant approval. I don't want to raise kids that seek or think they need worldly validation. They are going to get more than enough love and support from their parents, and I wouldn't mind if they got voted 5th grade class president as an extra self confidence boost. But I don't want my children's self esteem to hinge on the feedback of peers, especially on the internet.

My brother gave me this great analogy. Have you ever watched your favorite movie or listened to music you really love with someone who is experiencing it for the first time? It can almost be painful to see or hear it as you imagine it from their perspective. Every scene you just cringe and imagine what they're thinking. Do they think it's stupid, or boring, or inappropriate? The movie ends and you haven't been able to enjoy one minute of it. It was as if your own enjoyment was predicated on their acceptance. That is how I feel about living a life always validated by others on the internet. I want to live a life free of the care of what others think. We can't live free of others judgement. That is not something in our control. But what I want to avoid is the wanting of validation and acceptance, even praise. I'd like to be at a place where I can be perfectly happy with who I am and what I have whether anyone knows about it or not. I shouldn't like my haircut more because I posted a picture and 5 people said they liked it. That shouldn't be a factor in my own personal fulfillment.

James also set a great scene in my mind for another analogy. Imagine a beautiful home cooked meal. The table is set, nice music is playing. Maybe candles are lit. Everything smells divine. You sit down to eat with your family or close friends. It is an intimate gathering and there is a special ambience filling the room. Now contrast that to eating your meal in a large, florescently lit cafeteria with hundreds of other people. That is the effect of taking this almost sacred experience and having everybody pull out their phones and upload to Instagram or Facebook. You're now eating in the Facebook cafeteria and your weird old aunt drops by the table to announce that you look so grown up and that she's glad your boobs have finally come in. Specialness gone.

Now, to everything there is a season. While I was on my mission I posted openly and honestly about spiritual experiences I was having each week. I felt that was good and right for me to do. I have shared my feelings on many topics on my blog. Even by posting this I am contributing to something I am saying I am against, in a way (though this is for me more than anyone else). What internet activities are right or wrong for me and you is a completely personal matter. I love Facebook for showing me cute pictures of my nieces or my sister's new puppy. I am grateful for the internet for allowing me to stay in touch with my loved ones, some that live nearly 10,000 miles away. In regard to internet activity I merely suggest that we each make sure we are clear on what it is we're doing, how it's affecting us, and if it's right for us individually. If we've been honest about it and still think that playing Farmville (that's the last game I played on the internet, back in 2007 probably..) is a good idea, then wonderful. I respect anybody's thoughtful decision to do, say, and post what they want.

I often think about my childhood. How different would it be if I thought every picture my parents took might end up on the internet for people to comment on. Would I have cared how many 'likes' my home videos got? Sometimes I don't know if this is even all that important. But something tells me it is, or that it will be for my family. I'd like to recreate that carefree childhood of mine for my children. I don't want them to ever worry what someone else might think about them when they're doing their best and being the bravest brightest Garlocks they can be. I want to keep our home a sacred place. I want them to remember it as a refuge from the world. I believe that important identity work will happen there and I really can't wait to meet those wonderful little people. I know I'm going to be entrusted with children of God. I want to always remember that, to keep it in perspective. They deserve to be respected even by me, and I hope I will know better when they don't so I can protect them when they need protection.

This is my goal. Keep it simple. Not get wrapped up in something I don't understand. And remember, only dead fish go with the flow.


Angela Stevenson said...

Thank you for sharing this. I've sincerely appreciated it when you choose to share your thoughts. Sometimes I feel alone in my thought processes and it's nice to know I'm not the only one wondering. I know we didn't hang out much at BYU but I'm sure glad we are acquaintances.

Dana said...

Linds, I've been thinking about this lately, too. And I actually thought about picking your brain about it so that I could figure out exactly what I was feeling. So thank you for helpin a sista out and sharing your thoughts. But let's chat soon anyway, yeah? Love you!

*little miss giggles* said...

you are amazing. miss seeing your beautiful face and spirit :) glad your doing good. love ya !

Cheryl said...

Thank you for this my friend.

Catherine Zant said...

well said linds! I'm glad I read this

Linda said...

I agree with most of what you have said... I am coming from a different perspective since I was almost 50 when I entered the world of FB and instagram. I don't worry so much anymore what others think....happens as you get older. all my daughters went through a phase of trying to portray themselves as sexy...edgy...dressing up and taking photo shoots in the basement with their friends... I remember them being quite scary and shocking. But to you was innocent in a way... in the safety of your home you were testing and maybe pushing the limits of your own sexuality and your own femaleness. I did the same thing in the 1970's...dressing up in my big sister's bra, or bikini. There were no cameras anywhere...thank goodness. It was girl's play and we never imagined taking pictures of ourselves. perhaps, that is what concerns me the most for future generation...the camera will always be easily accessed and pictures put "out there".
Hence the need for good morals and values taught in the home...for good books and good movies...for scriptures and service and wholesome activity....ok...gone on long enough. Love you Lindsay and love your thoughts. So articulate. so pleased you are my daughter and my grandchildren will be raised by you and your good man!

Lizzie said...

thank you for posting this! definitely gave me a lot to think about. i have gone on and off of facebook a few times and have been tempted to do so again. i have been thinking a lot about social media lately and how desperate people are to be noticed and accepted. it is almost pathetic and is human nature. this post has tempted me to get rid of my accounts and live a little simpler.