I remind my kids all the time that when in public there is no such thing as privacy. Wherever they are, whatever they are doing, chances are someone nearby has a phone with a camera ready to snap a picture or take a video.
This is the new world we live in: technology abounds and privacy is a thing of the past.
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 with my kids, a sunset, a rainbow, and 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 because the effect lasted only a few seconds.
There have also been times the accessibility of phone cameras made the world a better place. They have been used to capture dangerous situations and 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.
The problem isn’t the camera.
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 7:7-11). 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, there are people who 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 done for you.
Or, as Jesus said in Matthew 22:39, love your neighbor as yourself.
Not every parenting fail needs to go viral or become a national conversation. A person who is overweight doesn’t deserve to be publicly mocked on your Instagram feed. And, no, blurring out their faces doesn’t make it less hurtful.
Your shame is my five seconds of fame.
Much thought has been given to the selfie trend. Many have wondered what it says about people, and society in general, that so many are obsessed with their own 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.
Remember, every person you encounter is created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Are we loving God and our neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40) when we take and share a photo or video in order to mock or exploit another? Is any amount of likes on our social media platforms worth another’s dignity? How many likes is your dignity worth?
A couple years ago I was out shopping when I noticed a man take a picture of me. When I looked at him kind of 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 the purpose for which I will be using it?
- Am I using my camera in a way which reflects the goodness of my heavenly Father?
- Would privacy be a good gift to give this person right now?
Additionally, 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 ugly gossip. You don’t have to pass it on.
(On a side note, I’ve made it a practice not to post pictures of my kids they ask me not to share publicly. If I want to teach my kids to respect the privacy of others, I need to model it first. It’s okay to capture family moments that stay in the family.)
As I said earlier, I often remind my kids they should never assume privacy. I also encourage them to treat other people the way they would want to be treated. Privacy is a good gift to give to others, and in giving good gifts, we honor our Father in heaven.