Last night I had a few girlfriends over for dinner. We laughed, we drank bubbly, we enjoyed a beautiful dessert that one of my friends, a cookbook author, had made earlier in the day while she was testing out recipes. It was a smashing success. Of course you'll have to take my word for it—because you won't see it on Instagram. In fact, no one took any photos the entire night, something that didn't occur to me until my guests were long gone. There were still some things left on the dining table—a few folded napkins, a berry-stained bowl—to make a pretty-enough image, but what really would have been the point? To say it happened?
If a tree falls in an empty forest, does it make a sound? These days, the more relevant question seems to be, "If something happened, but it wasn't documented and shared through social media, did it ever actually occur?" No pic, no proof, they say.
To be honest, I felt a little uneasy and miffed at myself for not thinking to take a photograph earlier—one of those artful aerial shots of the table's landscape, with hands reaching into the frame to fill plates with food, or even just the spread of appetizers and the set table before my guests arrived. I lost my chance! But then again, how wonderfully freeing it felt to be able to sit down and toast to everyone and our evening together without first art directing a tabletop tableau. There's nothing more annoying than being hungry and not being being to touch a single bite of your dinner until someone standing on a chair gets their money shot (and it can be even worse when everyone else stands up to do the same).
It was a liberating experience, and a rather interesting one too, in the sense that these photo-free moments are no longer the norm. We put such a meta-emphasis on legitimization from outsiders and everyone else observing our experience, that we forget where the real validation should come from: within. Tuesday's dinner was a reminder of the more authentic motivations behind something like a simple dinner party in the the first place—and the pleasures of its real rewards. I'll never know how many "likes" and comments that dinner party photo would have amassed. But really, that's ok. Instead I got emails and texts from my girlfriends telling me what a fun night we all had. And really, isn't that the whole point?
Of course, would I have been annoyed to see a gorgeous image show up on Instagram the next day? Probably not. And even now as I write this, I'm eating a bowl of leftover dessert with greek yogurt, and it just looks so pretty, maybe I should take a photo...