An addicted insider’s account of our real lives in the era of the realtime, social web.

Confession #20: The Thirty Year Swim

You’ll have to judge for yourself my assertion that there was a perfectly reasonable excuse for me to have been talking on my iPhone as my three year-old son and I ran through the waves of Mauna Kea beach on Hawaii’s Big Island.

When I was a kid, my dad and I used to swim at the same beach and each time we would float over a wave and gaze into the cloudless sky, my dad would extend his arms and say, “Ah, that’s a mechaya,” which in Yiddish basically means, ah, this is the life.

So I had my legs in the water and my phone to my ear to call my dad, tell him where we were and let him hear is grandson say, “Mechaya.”

But having a smartphone with you in almost any situation (especially when you’re wet) can be a slippery slope. And so it was on this afternoon at Mauna Kea. I looked out at the horizon and saw the makings of an incredible sunset. I snapped a photo of it with my iPhone. Then I got ready to Tweet the snapshot to the world along with a single word post: Mechaya.

Even for a guy like me who doesn’t Tweet all that much, the move felt almost like a reflex. See. Snap. Describe. Share. But then I stopped myself. First, I realized that no one would really know what the word mechaya meant. Second, the phone photo I took wasn’t of a quality worth sharing. Third, this was a rare moment, both of nostaglia and the present, that was ultimately personal. The experience had already been shared across an ocean and a couple generations with the people who mattered. That’s probably enough for one afternoon at the beach.

Perhaps the biggest issue to consider here is the nature of realtime communication. Let’s say a few elements of the story were different  — good picture, interesting words, no Yiddish and (at least among my twelve interested followers) universal appeal of some sort. Absent still would be a compelling reason for me to share this moment in realtime. The photo and the words would be equally meaningful whether I shared then at that second or if I at least waited until my feet were dry. Yet the pull to share right now is great.

Luckily, in this case I put the phone away and focused on what will, for quite some time, be an incredible memory of taking a swim over about thirty years with my dad and my son.

And that’s a Mechaya.


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My name is Dave Pell, internet superhero. This blog provides an addicted insider's account of what's happening to us in the era of the realtime, social web. You can read more about the site, grab the rss feed, follow me on twitter, join the Facebook page, or get email updates.