Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fireworks and Trash Cans

I watched the fireworks with my own two eyes. The crowds of people around me watched them through two-inch screens. iPhones and Galaxies lit up faces as explosions ignited the sky. Like my fellow patriots, I wanted a record of my 4th of July experience. I wanted a memory.

I pulled out my phone and snapped a few stills. Promptly, I returned my phone to my pocket. I prefer gazing at the heavens, not glass.

The fireworks display reached its crescendo. The Grand Finale lasted a minute, flashing and booming and leaving a trail of smoke. We, the people of the United States (and Winona Lake), set down our phones, clapped our hands, and rushed to our cars to beat traffic.

As Liz and I began our commute to her father's house, a few questions occupied my mind.
  • Why do Americans love to blow things up?
  • What do we do with so many video clips and photographs of fireworks?
  • Why do feel the need to record and micro-document our entire lives?
The answers came quickly. 
  • Americans blast things because we're free and brave. Nothing says independence like TNT.
  • My brother-in-law sent his pictures to his sister who lives in New York. Apparently the Big Apple's display is no rival to Winona Lake's. The rest of us find ways to post, share, pin, and form digital community with our images. We shoot to share. Eventually we delete.
  • The lure to micro-document our lives is driven by same impulse the devil tapped when he tempted Jesus to jump from the temple. "Throw yourself before the crowds. Let then angels catch you. Become a spectacle. Everyone will love you." Of course, Jesus turned the devil down. The Son of God was more intent on loving everyone than receiving their momentary affections. He came to give, not receive. His life was a ransom, not a self-promoting news feed.
I'd be unfair if I didn't clarify: Not all social media is self-promotion. Not every shared photo is vain glory. Many of us snap pictures to send to friends and relatives. Those instances can create meaningful connections. 

But a ten minute clip of fireworks over the lake is destined for the trash can.