“Stop picking your nose, John.”

I was caught.

“How did you know I was picking my nose?”

I was on the phone with my wife, and for a moment I forgot that we were also on a webcam call. She could see me.

I looked up and sure enough, I could see her looking out from my computer screen laughing at me.

The webcam is a remarkable little doodad. It looks and acts like an eyeball perched on the top of your computer. Properly connected and united with a similar user one can have a video call.

The person you’re talking to is displayed in a large video screen, while you appear in a smaller one, giving you a chance to see what image you are sending to the other person.

I could see myself picking my nose; not so pretty.

At the time I had the phone in my hand as well. Webcam technology is not quite perfected and is dependent on a variety of mysterious atmospheric and inter-spacial factors. Sometimes there is an annoying delay in the sound and the image. So, we have found the best combination is the telephone used in conjunction with the image on the computer.

The trouble is that using a phone encourages phone habits that are distinctly different from video habits. The phone is just voice; you can get away with doing other things while you’re on the phone. On video however, you pay careful attention to your appearance because you can see yourself being seen by others.

It leaves one to ponder the question of how we might act differently were the whole of our lives visible on a personal webcam. Would we find ourselves as witty and engaging as we sometimes believe ourselves to be? Would we understand why others sometimes misunderstand us, or find us irritating or annoying? Would we comb our hair differently or buy different clothing? Would we work harder to change nagging habits or learn to be more discreet with the less socially acceptable ones (like picking our noses)?

Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet of the early 19th century, coined a phrase that now resides on the lips of every older, wiser Scotsman I’ve had the chance to meet.

“O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us, To see oursels as others see us!”

It’s worth thinking about.

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