why I think the internet is quite good

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

I've spoken about this a lot (a lot), but nowhere near as often as I've heard it said by other mothers. Always said in the same tone. It sounds kind of wistful. A mixture of sadness for a time that is gone, but fondness of the memories that it has left. And although I've heard it expressed in different ways, the general theme is always the same:

'Oh, it goes by way too fast.'
'It goes too quickly.'
'It just flew by when mine were little.'
'Enjoy them while they're young! Before you know it they'll be grown up.'

And I understand it now. I have joined the legions of mothers before me that watch, astonished, as their little babies suddenly stop being little babies any more. Chubby thighs and arms turn into long, dangly limbs ... the dimples disappear, and hair gets longer ... jeans become too short, and you swear you only bought them five minutes ago, how could they have grown so much already?

Admittedly I'm in the midst of the very precious, very small baby stage, but the same principle applies. Every Monday, I sit Baby B in her high chair, look at our diary and sort out what's happening in the week and I think, Wow, another Monday, she's another week older. I guess it's because she was born on a Monday, and when they're tiny, everything is measured in weeks, but I'm very aware of them, and they don't stop for anyone.

It got me thinking, as usual, about the whole treasure-the-moment and anticipate-the-future and remember-the-past balance that we have to somehow get right. Whether you have children or not. Time ticks away, doesn't it? And I live in an age where cataloguing memories is as easy as it gets. I've lost count of how many photos I've taken of our baby (in the hundreds maybe?) and there are countless video clips to look back on. It's not just something exclusive to parents, either. We do it with everything. We photograph our meals, make playlists that remind us of every occasion, we take selfies in every imaginable location on earth (nowhere is too exotic to bring an iPhone).

It's easy to be quite pessimistic about it. To blame our self-obsession and narcissism on our need to check in everywhere, to document, to exhibit the places we've been and the things we've done. It's easy to watch what's happening with communication, with technology, with this never-ending stream of information, and wonder how our children will grow up, whether they will have attention spans that hold longer than a few minutes, whether we will lose something of local life and community and tradition because everything between cultures is shared.


When you see relationships breaking down over Facebook you wonder what all this technology is doing to our ability to connect with each other. Whether each service that makes it easier to connect also destroys. You start to play the comparison game, too. Look at how many places that person has been to. Look how active their social life is. Look how beautiful her children are. Look how wonderful their life is.

There's a danger that we would start to live our lives for that very reason. That we would collect experiences and moments not to appreciate them, but for others to appreciate them, and how can we tell if we've crossed that line?

I find this to be true of blogs. I read some particularly gorgeous blogs, not just for their words but for their pictures. Beautiful homes, beautiful children, beautiful women, captured in the most exquisite detail. And you start to imagine that life. You buy into other people's beautiful lives, and although sometimes you might envy them, you are in awe of how stunning these people are. How perfect the moments and the details.


You could look at these photographs and think that I have a perfect life. That I spend my days lounging around playing with my happy, beautiful baby, bathed in golden light, presumably with uplifting, poignant music playing in the background. You wouldn't know that on that day, I'd spoken stern words to that same baby about a) whinging b) attempting to pull her bib off and almost strangling herself in the process and c) trying to eat my phone. You wouldn't know that I had a horrendous head/tooth/eye ache, partially caused by being woken three times in the night. You wouldn't know that I'd sat on our bed the evening before, listening to her cry in the next room, knowing it's best in the long run but fighting back the emotion rising in my throat and the instinct to run to her and scoop her up, saving teaching-her-to-settle-herself for another day.

You wouldn't know that, after playing, she didn't simply roll over and fall asleep, but had a meltdown instead due to over-tiredness, and I had to walk back and forth rocking her for fifteen minutes before she would finally settle down.

Because we don't necessarily want to capture or remember those bits. We don't want to record our fears over our health and our finances and our relationships, we don't want to capture the mundane and the boring. We whip the cameras and smartphones out for the moments we want to celebrate. And haven't we always done that? Isn't that why people keep hold of things? A flower, dried, given on a first date, concert tickets, festival wristbands. Memorabilia, scrappy little objects that piece together a narrative of us.

While everything in life involves some kind of balance, especially the use of social media (whether that be how much you go on it, how involved you become in it, or how much you share) I am grateful for it. This week, I have heard the news of a young mother I knew in real life dying of cancer, and of another young mother I don't know in real life dying suddenly of unexplained causes. Bad news, heartbreaking news, is everywhere, and it needs to be reflected on, to be mourned.

But to see people sharing beautiful, happy moments is something to enjoy. I am pleased to see people I knew from school achieving great things, finding love, having beautiful children, visiting amazing places. I like to see people celebrating life. Not pretending the hard times wont come, but taking the time to be grateful for the good bits.

I am especially grateful for the technology to capture a beautiful moment, for me to remember - not just to share later. We lounged around playing, bathed in golden light. Uplifting and poignant music was playing in the background (we were listening to Phil Wickham's album, Ascension, which as a side note is really good). And after playing and being silly, I let her lay there on our bed playing with her toys and I got out her little hospital wristbands and wondered how she was ever small enough for them to fall off whenever I changed her.


I marvelled at it all, with that ancient mix of a big amount of happiness, a fair amount of wistfulness and a little bit of mild panic at the feeling of time slipping through my fingers. And when I look at these pictures I will remember. My baby girl, rolling around on our bed looking so happy at her accomplishments, giggling and gurgling and playing by herself. And her mother watching on with a smile, breathing thanks to God for another day together, another day to be alive.

I'm glad I can record it and share it. I'm glad people can read it. I'm glad to celebrate the beautiful blessings God has given, and to be able to openly thank Him for it.

And so for all its shortcomings, I think the internet can be quite good. ;)

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