I love spending time with my three-year old grandson, and whenever I do, I know I’m going to hear “Watch me!” or “Watch this!” a lot. And I’m perfectly okay with that, because that’s what little children do. They are very focused on getting the attention and the approval of the people around them, and few things make them happier than our praise and affirmations. Besides, I really do enjoy watching my grandson as he masters a new skill, or simply witnessing the joy he brings to his everyday experiences.
Sometimes I think we would all do well to act more like a child now and then, but the key is to make sure that we’re being childlike only in appropriate ways….finding joy in simple things, being honest with our emotions and living in the moment as children tend to do. Sadly, the childlike trait most adults seem to be embracing these day is the need for the constant attention and approval of others. And that’s not a healthy way to live our lives at all.
Yes, I know that social media makes it so very easy to document and share almost every aspect of our days, but just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. Of course it’s fun to post a few photos of our recent vacation, or to share our favorite pictures from our recent photo sessions, etc., and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think the trouble begins when we find ourselves somewhere fun, having a great time, and our first instinct is to whip our our phones and photograph it, so we can post it where others and see it and validate our experience with their responses. Or when we try to process our emotions by sharing every single aspect of our trauma through daily photos, posts, and even videos.
There’s a fine line between healthy sharing and over-sharing, I think. And one of the ways to know when we’ve crossed it is when we find ourselves worrying too much about the responses our social media posts generate. If you had a great time at the neighborhood block party, then it really was a positive experience, even if your photos of it were largely ignored on social media. And if you’ve thought long and hard about your stance on a particular issue and are comfortable with the conclusions you drawn, your opinion isn’t any less valid just because no one in your comment section agrees with you. We don’t really need other people to approve our emotions, thoughts, or actions, no matter how much we’re encouraged to believe we do.
So my advice, to myself and everyone else, is remember that not everything needs to be shared, and how much more we can enjoy ourselves when we’re not trying to document something and experience it at the same time. Maybe the next time we see a beautiful sunset we should just sit quietly and look at it, drinking in nature’s beauty. Or the next time we’re feeling emotional, we should just call someone we trust to empathize and help us feel better. Because often, the most important moments in our lives happen when no one is looking at all….