My son was at a Super Bowl party on Sunday night with school friends. How great is that? Guy friends hanging out. All together. Or not. It seems that throughout the game, and especially during the historic comeback by the Patriots, many of the guys were busy “snapchatting” about their experience. For them, it was more exciting and hip,(not to mention emotionally “safer”) to be sending out messages via their phones about what a great night they were having then it was to actually be there and have a great night. These days, our children are learning to be more excited by, and interested in, orchestrating false and hyped-up versions of their lives. They are more enlivened at the prospect of playacting about how amazing it all is as soon as the cameras started rolling.The moments of our children’s lives are being drained away and reduced down to little more than times manufactured; as times captured by a screen, as opposed to actually living those times.
Afterwards, my son observed that “everybody changes” as soon as the phones come out and the videos start flowing. This so speaks to what we are all up against. We as people already struggle enough with all of the ways that we will shift ourselves when we feel observed or are trying to fit in. No age suffers this more than teenagers. Now, though, with the assistance of the technologies, our children can fabricate and spin themselves and their lives in ways unprecedented until now. They can build representations of themselves based on illusions, scripts, and made-up representations of what is happening or how they want it to look.They use the devices to try and get others to see them the way they want to be seen.
This taps into such a vulnerable place in all of us; that part of us that wants to control how others see us. The technologies are exploiting and magnifying the false notion that by presenting things a certain way, via the screens, we can manage and influence how others see us, and therefore, feel about us. In the meantime, the realities of the fears and insecurities we all experience around this, and that must get addressed if we are to feel secure in ourselves and in our relationships, gets paved over. So yes, the devices afford a momentary fix to the discomforts of how we are seen, but ultimately creates a dangerous false sense of security that some parts of us, way down deep, is absolutely aware of and uneasy with, despite how great we present ourselves to others.
It is exhausting our children for them to be living as if they need to be bigger than life. It is soul-sucking to have to smile broader and convey more excitement than you are actually feeling. They are growing up believing that life is supposed to be a reality TV show/rock video that they are starring in. And we all know far too well exactly what happens to those among us who lack the capacity for living the ordinary, unobserved, non-staged, hum-drum moments of life. How will they manage if they switch their feelings off and on based on whether or not they are being watched? How will they know the truth of their experience separate from the pretending, the mask, the camera ready face they so quickly take off and on?
“The only thing that Orwell failed to predict was that we would install the telescreens ourselves, and that our greatest fear would be that no one was watching.”
Poster In Louis’ Class at PVPA