The unacknowledged life is still worth living

What if I die and no one remembers me? Does it make my life any less valid? I’ve been asking myself these questions lately as I find myself feeling compelled to share my life online.

When I got a Flickr account in 2006, I felt compelled to publish every good photo I took. In turn, I felt compelled to document my life in photos so I could share those photos — my life — on Flickr. Then I got a Facebook and Twitter account, and I began to feel compelled to share my life there, too. I enjoyed the response, and that drove me to share more. There’s nothing wrong with the impulse to share experiences, but I have to believe that my life is worth living regardless of whether I’m acknowledged for it.

Maybe I’m having a midlife moment. I’m 42 years old. It’s unclear whether I’ve made a mark on the world. And it’s time to decide whether or not I care. I don’t have kids, my parents are getting older, and I don’t have a lot of siblings or cousins. Who is going to remember me? And does it even matter.

On the one hand, I am coming to terms with my nature. I need to communicate with others, to create my own expression and share it with the world. Looking at people’s enthusiastic self-expression in social media outlets, I can see that I am not alone.

On the other hand, I must resist the compulsion to share photos and status updates in order to add value to my experiences. I don’t need to be applauded for being cool or interesting or cultured. I don’t have to be told I have good taste or talent. It feels good, but becoming addicted to acknowledgment leads to a letdown when I don’t get it.

For a year or two now, I’ve debated whether to take my camera on certain adventures. I want to “show the folks back home!” but the equipment weighs me down and cramps my ability to enjoy my own adventure. I told my husband that I was beginning to question whether I could really experience a moment and record it at the same time, and ever since then he tells me, “live the moment, don’t record it.”

I’m not about to stop publishing to social media, but I will continue to remind myself that what matters is not whether people love your life when you’re dead. What matters is that you love your life while you’re living.

Author: Daniel Greene

I facilitate communication between Deaf and hearing people, and I teach people American Sign Language (ASL) and interpreting. Apart from doing the work I love, my greatest joys are family & friends, entertainment, food, photography, and travel.

4 thoughts on “The unacknowledged life is still worth living”

  1. Daniel, I am 43-year-old woman married to a man and we chose not to have children. I have aging parents around 80, and all my siblings are older. You said something also that surprised me, because it’s exactly what my husband and I already do. We never take our camera on trips or to social occasions. We are too busy being involved in the events to bother recording them. And I find my memory of them is very strong. I don’t need pictures to remember those things. However, I agree that it’s fun to set aside time just to make videos for youtube, but not private stuff like trips. So, for the past 10 years of our marriage, we actually have pretty few photos, but lots of excellent memories.

    Do I ever think about someone remembering me when I’m gone? Well, no. I don’t care about what’s going to happen when I’m gone. I care about now and making every moment of every day count. Life is very, very precious. Having children is not a guarantee that someone will remember you. My life is extremely full and rewarding every day, without children.

    I think you and I are way too young still to be thinking about death. Just live every day to its fullest and don’t think about that icky subject. Besides, you will be remembered because you are just too cool to be forgotten, my friend.🙂

    Hugs,
    Paula

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  2. Daniel, I really agree with you conclusion not to worry about what people remember about you when you’re gone. I’ve tried to deal with this issue as well. I don’t know if it’s because we are gay men, or if it is common to anyone without kids. I’ve concluded that even if one is well-remembered, that will only last as long as those who remember you are living and when they die, what?. In the blink of an eye, we will all be forgotten anyway.

    I think your need to share experiences is one of the most compelling reasons that most of us seek mates. You are fortunate in that regard in that you have one.

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  3. Good post and good points. (Also, I like the Socratic title.) I think you have a good handle on things. Everyone who’s online gets a little carried away from time to time, and I definitely get the problem with photographing versus experiencing. Sometimes they can go hand in hand; other times not. The morning we had the gorgeous thunderstorm, I took the camera out to capture my son prancing through the rain in his pajamas. I distracted us both from the moment, so I stashed the camera and joined him. Cloud watching, on the other hand, or insect study or just quietly watching my son watching the world, lend themselves pretty well to photographic recording. I try to remember to record the moment because I loved the moment in the first place, and not manufacture photo ops. I pretty much never pose anyone/anything — kids, insects, etc. (Taking pictures at my sister’s wedding was torture. All they wanted was grinning-at-the-camera lineups.)

    Gah; now I’m oversharing on your post about sharing. But you do seem to be really grounded about the whole thing. Just the fact that you periodically take stock, and the rich life you seem to live, tells me that you probably make a whole lot of real-life impact.

    Also? You DO have good taste and talent, from what I’ve seen.

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