PARENTS

Are We Creating Real Memories For Our Children Or Are We Too Busy Posting Updates Online?

14/08/2014 17:00 | Updated 20 May 2015

Are we living life online, instead of in the moment?

Editing some family photographs recently, I dithered over one that I liked, but that wasn't flattering. I deleted it, thinking "I wouldn't want anyone to see that." It was only later that I realised no one - no one outside the family at least - did have to see it. Photographs don't HAVE to be Tweeted, Facebooked or blogged.

Once I started thinking about it, I realised how often I'm blogging an experience in my head, instead of actually, you know, experiencing it. When my eight-year-old son told me off in the park for taking too many photographs - photographs that, yes, I planned to blog or put on Facebook, I realised I may have a bit of a problem.

It's a problem many of my friends claim to share. Phoebe Williams, mum to an eight-year-old boy and six-year-old girl says" "I have taken photos of the children doing something purely because I want my friends to see them on Facebook.

"We made fairy cakes recently and I spent most of the time giving instructions and taking pictures, but not actually doing the mixing or baking!"

Alexandra Roumbas Goldstein, mum to two-year-old Ramona says: "Every time my daughter does something adorable - which is constantly - I wish I had a photo of it to put on Facebook. But then I feel guilty that I just can't enjoy a fleeting experience for what it is, and accept that not everything has to be shared to be fully enjoyed."

Mum of three Tiffany Ashton Baker does the same but doesn't see it as a negative thing at all. She says: "I think when we post things online we are doing so simply for validation. Look what a great mum I am! I took the kids out and did this awesome thing and my lovely kid pulled this awesome face and then we wait for the kudos to roll in! I know if I post a picture I want to be validated."

I can see both sides of this argument. I love seeing friends' photos of their children and reading about their experiences and I love getting positive feedback on my own, but I've also sometimes actually lost my temper with my two boys because they're not co-operating in whatever scene of family harmony I'm trying to catch for posterity.

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Wouldn't I be better off enjoying the moment and relying on our memories than risk ruining the moment trying to 'capture' it, artificially?

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It's not just photographs either. I write blog posts in my head constantly - on a trip on a yacht in Majorca this summer, I could hear myself narrating the experience (only internally, thankfully) and was also a bit gutted that I didn't have any phone reception for such a tweetable trip.

Angela, mum to 14-year-old Charlotte and 10-year-old Ben, actually gave up blogging for this reason. She also often leaves her camera behind deliberately "so that I can preserve my real memories of an event and not my camera's," she says. "I think sometimes we're forgetting how to use our actual memories and don't feel as if it really happened unless we have a tangible record of it."

That's me all over: I tweet, therefore I am. And although I laugh about it, it does genuinely worry me, particularly since watching an online talk by artist and blog analyst Jonathan Harris in which he says, "The more you document your own life, the more you check in, you tweet, the more you post photos of what you did last night, the more you do all of this stuff... the more you photograph moments, in a way, the more you start to step out of those moments, and if you do that too much, you become a spectator to your own life."

I definitely think he's got a point, but aren't we lucky to have this record of our children's childhoods? Much more than our parents ever had for us.

After my father's death, I found boxes of old photographs of me and my sister when we were small and it was the most joyful discovery, but there's next to no record of things we said, or even of basic things like when and where we went on holiday, whereas my kids will have an exhaustive record.

I suppose the solution - as with so much in parenting - is balance.

Perhaps we should follow Angela's example and leave our cameras (or - gasp! - our phones) at home sometimes. Because while all these photographs and information will be wonderful to look back on in the future, we also need to make sure we're enjoying it right now, don't we?

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