By Cindy Koch –
This time of year is blooming with photos of our memories and special moments. Christmas, loved ones, beautiful trees and tables—I always enjoyed these frozen moments until just recently. Up until now, I didn’t realize how perverted our pictures have become. Now, I’m not talking about sneaking a peek at dirty pictures of shameful things. Rather, we are all now shaped by a culture that has a deep reverence for a filtered millisecond caught on a phone. Every time my little boy creates something, he proudly says, “Mom, take a picture!” When my daughter thinks something is funny, she asks, “Mom, can take a video?” Of course, it is not just our kids who have this digital obsession. But until recently, I didn’t think about the ramifications of our spectophilia.
This is changing the way our kids think about the world. No longer must they leave the house to find a job or shop for a Christmas present. No longer must they have to stand face to face with a lover or an enemy. No longer must they personally remember the details of their accomplishments or memories; the cloud has this covered. And they can certainly forget their failures because there is no virtual record of these less-than-picture-perfect tributes. Our corrupt picture-fixation turns our most intimate relationships into trivial spectacles. Everyone can see, judge, and participate in a select slice of a tragic romantic comedy called life. So, for our children, it is destroying what they should enjoy in a relationship with another person. A face-to-face friend includes a level of trust and understanding deeper than a keyboard can ever offer. They share experiences and carry each other through struggles. There are uncomfortable silences. There is joyful laughter. There is a breadth of emotion and connection that exists when a person is right next to you.
A couple of weeks ago, my sister visited me with her husband and three boys. We are both so very busy with our families and not very good at keeping up with the Instagram lifestyle. But even though it was several years since I last hugged her, it seemed like it had been only a few days. Together, we drank wine, cleaned up toys, and even worshiped. During those few short days, I discovered myself glancing angrily at my phone. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I was increasingly hostile to the world behind the screen that wanted to see what we were doing. It wasn’t until we were all sitting together in church that I discovered what made me so mad. Two pews full of excited cousins and young parents rustled with controlled chaos during the quiet confession and absolution. Then, the organist broke out into a joyful Gloria in Excelsis, and all our young boys raised their fingers and played along with the bold hymn, singing with the whole congregation. Without giving it a second thought, I quickly reached down for my phone to record a video.
That was it. I was disgusted with myself. I threw down that phone, shocked at myself. This moment of proud and hopeful mamas was not for everyone out there. I did not want to share these happy little faces with the rest of the uncaring world. This memory of our little boys singing their faith was for us—my sister and me. We will always remember their unashamed air-organ during that service. We will talk about it for years to come, reflecting on how we watched them love the company of one another in the comfort of a divine liturgy they all knew. I look at my children and mourn the projected distance of their friends, sisters, parents, and spouses. My children will be surrounded by something other than flesh-and-blood connections. Our modern obsession is replacing the desire to be near physical people share a special private relationship with anyone. Our obsession is replacing our tangible personal memories, the good and the bad which shape who we are. Our obsession is replacing our expectation for a real Word made flesh who dwelt among us.
Guard the gift of your real-world relationships this Christmas. Keep them for yourself.