I tell my kids all the time, “When you are out in public, you don’t have privacy. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, chances are someone nearby has a phone with a camera ready to snap a picture or take a video.”
The new world that we live in is a shameless public one: technology abounds, and privacy is a thing of the past.
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We’ve all seen the posts on social media of random strangers having a bad day, wearing the wrong outfit, or caught in a moment of accidental indecency. Pictures and videos are taken and posted without the random stranger’s permission or knowledge. Often these posts go viral being seen and commented on by thousands of people.
Don’t get me wrong; I have no problem with having a camera on your phone. I love having a camera right at my fingertips. I’ve captured spontaneous moments of my kids, a sunset, a rainbow, laughter with a friend; I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Just the other morning I stepped onto our back deck as the sun was rising. The sunlight streaming through the trees was caught up in the morning mist creating a beautiful effect.
My phone was right there, and I snapped a picture. If I had needed to run inside to grab my camera, I would have missed it. The effect lasted only a few seconds.
There are also times the accessibility of phone cameras make the world a better place. They have been used to capture dangerous situations or criminal activity bringing about change or justice, and have made it easier for the average person to document historical moments and their own life story.
Modern technology offers much for which we can give thanks.
A Tool In the Hand Reveals the Heart
A camera is only a tool. It’s what we choose to do with the camera that makes all the difference. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus gives us what has come to be known as The Golden Rule:
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
He makes this statement having just described God as a good Father who gives good gifts to those who ask (Matthew 5:7-11). Doing for others what we would wish done for us is a way we reflect the goodness of our Father in heaven.
Privacy is a good gift to give someone, and one way to practice The Golden Rule.
Yes, some people wear outfits they shouldn’t, who trip and fall, who sing off key, who break up with each other in the seat across the aisle, and so forth. Sometimes, we are those people. Do for them at that moment what you would wish they would do for you.
Or, as Jesus said in Matthew 22:39, love your neighbor as yourself.
Not every parenting failure needs to go viral or become a national conversation. A person who is overweight doesn’t deserve public mocking on your Instagram feed. And, no, blurring out their faces doesn’t make it less hurtful.
Your Shame, My Fame
Many have given thought to the selfie trend. Many have wondered what it says about people, and society in general, that so many are obsessed with their image.
Maybe we need to consider not only the ways we use our cameras to glorify ourselves on social media but the ways we use them to diminish others.
Is any amount of “likes” worth another’s dignity? How many “likes” is your dignity worth?
A couple of years ago I was out shopping when I noticed a man taking a picture of me. When I looked at him shocked he acted like he was just scrolling through his phone and walked away.
Maybe it was harmless. Maybe he liked my haircut and wanted to show it to his wife who was considering changing hers. Who knows? But, I’ll be honest with you, it left me feeling a bit violated and vulnerable.
Before you take a picture or video of someone and post it, ask yourself a few questions:
- What is my motivation in taking this picture or video and posting it publicly?
- Will this person be hurt by my posting this picture or video?
- In the same situation, would I want someone to post a picture or video of me?
- Would I be comfortable telling this person that I’m taking their picture and for what I will be using it?
- Am I using my camera in a way that reflects the goodness of my heavenly Father?
- Would privacy be a good gift to give this person right now?
Be careful what you share that another has posted. If someone has taken a picture or video of a stranger and made a mean-spirited post, for your part, let that post end with you. It’s like hearing a word of mean-spirited gossip. You don’t have to pass it on.
As I said earlier, I tell my kids all the time when they are out in public that they don’t have privacy. Never assume privacy!
I also tell them privacy is a good gift to give others, and in giving good gifts we honor our Father in heaven.
An Aside: I don’t post pictures of my kids that they ask me not to post. If I want to teach my children to respect the privacy of others, I need to model it first. It’s okay to capture family moments that stay in the family.
Call to Action
- Do you have a “theology for picture-taking”?
- What do the pictures that you post about yourself say about you?
- Are most of the pictures that you take pictures of you or others? Why do you do that?