Did You See?

May 22nd, 2014 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

At least once a week someone recommends that I watch a funny clip of a baby, toddler or child on YouTube. More often than not, the clip has gone viral, garnering tens of thousands of views.

Like any mother worth her salt, when my children said brilliant or hilarious comments, I called my mother and mother-in-law to pass it on. When one of the children crawled into the fireplace, emerging covered with soot from head to toe, my husband and I snapped pictures and shared them with our families. We even shared particularly entertaining remarks or outrageous dress-up costumes with friends and, in return, listened to tales of their precocious offspring and viewed their own snapshots.

What we see today is a completely new ballgame, and one that is making me increasingly uncomfortable. In a sea change  the emphasis has changed from delighting in your child’s antics to amassing millions of ‘hits’ in the hope of being invited to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. Furthermore, the videos I’m being sent are increasingly discomfiting. What is a chocolate-face child to think when he insists that he didn’t touch the cake and Mommy’s reaction is to video the situation rather than tackle the lie? What will a yet unborn sibling think when she hears her father reassure his son with many sisters that he too was disappointed to hear that another infant girl was on the way? When Dad realizes how cringe-worthy his comment is and how it will hurt his daughter in the future, he won’t be able to relegate his words to the past. They are immortalized and in the control of those with no emotional ties to someone he will deeply love.

The presence of the camera encourages parents to egg their children into greater tantrums, to celebrate rather than condemn extreme statements and actions. While initially, the clips I was sent were innocent – a baby’s uncontrollable laughter while her father ripped a paper – they are now troubling.

Most of us still cherish our precious and personal moments. The majority of parents still respect their family and children’s privacy. Yet, for our society, there is something disturbing as more of us choose to breach the bounds of confidentiality, including those of the most innocent and vulnerable, whom we are morally obliged to protect.

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6 comments

Carol says:

As usual Susan, you have correctly stated the problem with these videos. I have to admit that many times when I see these videos, the one about the child after the dental visit, are particularly disturbing. I wonder if his father or mother would have enjoyed a video of them looking undone or even goofy after sedation. The public has gone wild videoing everything and everyone in sight and the result is definitely not better behavior. The movie “Jackass” is an extremely appropriate name for the antics that ended up costing one of the movie’s participants his life. We treat life much too cheaply as it is without videoing everyone’s worst moments hoping to get 30 seconds of fame which will not last but the video will outlive us all.
Shalom,
Carol

Carol, I haven’t seen any dental videos (and have no desire to). Haven’t seen the movie you mention either. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Thanks for writing.

James says:

From your Musing, I remember the piece you posted a couple of weeks ago about the man whose comments in private were leaked to an unscrupulous media ravenous for sensation-fodder to grind. As a result, what should have remained between two persons became broadcast to a sensation-seeking populace and the man was publicly pilloried for making a statement in private. This week’s piece is highly appropriate and fits well together with your previous comment.
Well I remember the Rabbi’s discussion of the Biblical prohibition against being the tale-bearer. Gossip is a seductive pleasure, but transitory. It wins one a fleeting ten minutes of fame, yet can cause irreparable damage to its unwitting subject. Gossip can also backfire against the bearer of tales, as hearers wake up and reach inescapable conclusions. And if we propagate private and embarrassing moments of the lives of those we claim to ‘love,’ what message are we sending them? What kind of ‘love’ is this, if we plant such seeds in the lives of the next generation?

James – You make a very interesting point that one could say that videos are an online form of gossip. I never thought of it that way.

James says:

Hi, Susan…always a privilege to comment and to have my own ‘musings’ received positively! I much appreciate your response. One lesson (as always, a personal kick-in-the-teeth) derives from my eldest child. Once (at age 4!) in the supermarket line she said something innocuous-hilarious-however-injurious about another person within earshot. Only the benign innocence of toddler-hood’s innocence excused her. As Mark Twain said, the secret source of humor is sorrow.
Some three years later we blabbermouthed her hilarious comment to some new acquaintances. But we did so in my daughter’s presence. She melted on the spot and was mortified, for she was not yet old enough to realize that what she said was (well, children say the darndest things)… But we learned our lesson. A righteous person regardeth the feelings of the audience, of those present.
By the way, today she can laugh WITH us at that precious incident. But the lesson was learned!
Thank you both for your priceless lessons in Hebrew wisdom!

We’ve had a similar experience. If only we knew what we know now when we started our parenting journey.

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