In many ways, the internet gives us many gifts. Adrian can spend more time at home or on holiday with us because he can often run his lab from anywhere that has an internet connection, from Norwegian ferries to Azerbaijani hotels. The web helps me feel connected to the friends and family we left behind when we moved to Belgium. I can introduce Hayden to my grandmother via Skype, and she can see new photos of him every week. Through Facebook I can witness weddings and birthdays even though I couldn’t be there in person. I can read about the life journeys of friends and strangers as they record them on their blogs. We can have virtual video hangouts with others from around the world (if anyone turns up).
However, I do wonder how this will affect Hayden as he grows up. Digital cameras and camcorders are now ubiquitous – everyone with a smartphone carries a video camera in their pocket. I know that I need to check my hair and my clothing before I head out to a social event because chances are the photos could appear on Facebook a few hours later. If I make a bad wardrobe choice, it may be broadcast to the world.
As Hayden grows, I feel an intense need to capture every moment. The way he smiles and gurgles in the morning, the way he waves his hands when he sees his bird mobile move, the way Adrian makes him dance on the table. Yet I know how much I hate being videotaped myself. I become instantly self-conscious, picking each word with care and so afraid to make any mistakes. If I put myself behind the camcorder, I too change. I try to stage the event, to ensure that the people act properly to bring about my vision of how it should go. I am no longer in the moment, I am focused on how the film will later look in iMovie.
So Adrian and I have decided that we will not videotape Hayden as he grows up. On one hand, I do feel sad that these fleeting moments may be lost as they pass. On the other hand, this means that I am more present and able to focus on Hayden, rather than making him perform for the camera. As he becomes self aware, we hope to give him as many years as possible where he feels that he can make mistakes without consequences.
As a compromise, we have a nice camera to take good quality photos of him. Much more flattering than iPhone pictures through a 2mm plastic lens, I hope that these capture the special moments of our lives without too much interruption. I try to only use the camera for at most five minutes each day, and its bulky size encourages me to leave it at home, which frees me from the burden of recording every moment.
In Hayden’s generation, I think that anonymity and freedom to control ones own image will be rare commodities. It will be a challenge to balance the joy I get from documenting our lives while still giving him shelter from an internet that never forgets a byte.
Photo by Kerii.