I sometimes struggle in communicating with those of official American backgrounds. They really can't see my point of view—any more than I can see theirs. I was born on American soil, but there is something to be said for DNA and upbringing.
Take the oft misunderstood ayin hara. My people don't believe that there is an independent entity from the Eibishter that can be fended off with a red string, like mosquitoes by repellent. It is more like an awareness that the bounty we have been given should not be flaunted. Ideally, the awareness of privacy keeps one humble.
And yet, when I first joined Facebook, I mindlessly succumbed. Cool, I can upload photos! So I did. I didn't really have much thought behind it. I just thought that's what one does on Facebook, sharing pictures of your life and other people share pictures of theirs.
Ah, the horror of dawning comprehension. Disgusted with myself, I vehemently deleted all those photo albums, where I crowed over my new nephew or my pretty shots in Florida (a place I don't even like! It's so hot!). This is against everything I was raised to believe, I realized.
Elisa Albert was sucked in, too. Have baby? Have camera? Have Facebook? Must post!
Superstitious by nature, it didn’t take me long to feel uneasy — his pure gaze, his private smiles, his perfect vulnerability: Did people I barely knew really deserve to be privy to them? The evil eye scared me off: Don’t parade your blessings wantonly lest you arouse jealously. Intimacy is to be earned, not offered. And anyway, the tropes of life online grew quickly tiresome.
Still, I did what everyone does: I have a blessed child! I am devoted to my blessed child! Won’t you look at my blessed child! Be a part of my life! Come in! Behold! Partake!
Why? Why is it so imperative that bare acquaintances know? Why must they know?
Quoth a stranger of her kindergartner naked on the toilet: “Bittersweet! My baby’s last day in diapers!” Quoth a relative alongside a photo of her perfectly coifed daughter: “All For Her. Only Her. Always Her. All Ways Her.” My personal favorite accompanies a photo of a teenage girl: “Stop growing!” (Meaning… Die!?) What is being put on display? Whose is it to put forward?
It occurred to Albert that she should ask her son's permission before posting, and he's not crazy about it now that he knows about it. These kids who's lives have been plastered all over will approach social media quite differently than we do.
The vignette that opens her article is troubling, because it is all too common:
In a Manhattan cafe, I sit near a mother and her young daughter having tea. The daughter looks out the window. The mother takes pictures of her own shoes on a marvelously tiled floor, and of her daughter, who ignores her assiduously. I watch the mother artfully arrange the daughter’s teacup for a shot. I watch the daughter set her jaw. I watch the mother take a photo of the daughter and her teacup. The light is just so. I watch the mother consider her caption and hashtags and post it. I watch the mother scroll through her newsfeed. I watch the daughter stare out the window.
When people sigh and complain that raising children is so difficult nowadays, I would be more sympathetic once it was established that the phone was relegated to the purse and pocket, not as a constant, flashing, texting, calling interloper of quality time. Take care of your own life. No one else needs to know about it. Enjoy it, instead of constantly recording it. When you have 500 pictures of Booba on her way to camp, you won't be looking at any.
“It’s not a secret,” my mother used to say about many things, “but it’s private.” I prefer, “Honesty is a virtue, but candor is a vice.”