Life through a social media lense

I’m as guilty as anyone of living my life through social media. It seems like every single major or minor event is shared with friends and strangers alike.

But one thing which has recently occurred to me is how much we miss when viewing life through a social media lense. It seems that we are so wrapped up in capturing life’s moments on a 6inch screen in 8-megapixels that we are missing the bigger picture, the real picture.
On Thursday I took Tom to see the Christmas Lights switched on. People around us held their phones aloft recording events on the stage. It seems even minor celebs are worthy of capturing on our tiny screens. I picked up Tom so he could see and held him tight to me. Head to head. After the countdown and the lights went on the fireworks started. We stood together. Heads above the surrounding crowd and watched the fireworks. I shared in his pure innocent awe at the colours and explosions and sound above the crowd. We shared that moment. We captured that moment. Not on a tiny screen on a tiny device, but in our hearts and minds and memories.

Standing there with my boy’s arms around my neck just watching the display I realised that this is what is important. It’s not about what we can commit to electronic memory to be forgotten as soon as it’s happened, it’s about what we can feel and remember. What we can share with those people who matter to us.

So next time you experience something. Next time there is an event. Put away your phone. Hold those who matter to you close, and simply enjoy the sensation of sharing a time and place. You’ll get more from that act of intimacy than you ever will from your Instagram picture or your tweet.

You can do whatever you want to do

I’m currently reading (amongst others) a book called Masters of Doom by David Kushner. Subtitled, “How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture”. It tells the story of John Carmack and John Romero. Of Doom, Quake, and id Software. I’m about half way through. In book terms, Doom had just been released, and I’m eager to find out what happens next.

But reading it has given me pause for thought. When I was younger, when I was in my first couple of years at secondary school, I was a huge fan of arcade games. These aren’t the same arcades as you would expect to see in America, but I used to go to the local arcade after school and battle my way through Golden Axe and other total classics such as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. I’d take trips to the seaside and pump pounds worth of 10p pieces into the machines. Always action, side scrolling ‘beat ’em ups’ or shooters. I was hooked.

This all came to a stop when I was seen by my mother and forbidden from using the arcade machines. Then I was forbidden from even entering the arcade. We never had much money. She saw me putting money into an arcade machine as throwing it away, but I loved the escapism from my life. I loved to venture into fantasy to escape reality. The reality of not fitting in, or being apart from my family, from being the black sheep. I never felt wanted when I was in my early teens. Games gaves me a method of denying the destructive feelings of isolation. Things finally came to a head when I was attacked from behind by my mother when I was playing the aforementioned Golden Axe. I remember it so well, even though it was so many years ago. The year would have been 1991 or 1992. Eighteen years have passed but I still remember the humiliation I felt being dragged out of there by my mother in front of the kids from school. I still remember the hot tears and the stinging shock of that slap. I wasn’t allowed to do what I wanted to do.

I think back to that and I wonder what damage it did to my aspirations. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not going to sit here and proclaim to have missed my calling, or to be the next Sid Meier yet discovered and undeveloped. But games is something I wanted to do. I have always loved games. Who knows what I could have done had I been encouraged and not slapped down all those year ago. Who fucking knows….?

He may not yet be three. But I told Thomas today, I promised him, that he can do anything he wants to do. I promised him that if he wants to be a sportsman, or a writer, artist, musician, dancer, game designer (!) then I would support and encourage him in his dream. I promised him that I would never hold him back from pursuing his path or try and coerce him down a route that I want for him. It’s his life, and I will be there to help him in any way that I am physically, mentally, emotionally or financially able. Of course, he had no idea what I was talking about, but the words were for my benefit not just for his. I want him to have the life I never had. Christ that sounds fucking shit, doesn’t it? I haven’t had a bad life. Far from it. But with Tom I want only the best. That was my promise today. Tom can make his own choices, and I’ll be right behind him, supporting him on his way.