My love-dislove relationship with social media
I love and use social media daily. Hourly, really. It’s useful, it’s fun, and it’s full of great, supportive, funny people. The problem is, as a result, I have an acute awareness of what other people’s opinions are on any given subject. From breastfeeding to racial tension to Hilary running for president. Social media gives everyone and their mother a platform from which to opine and there are one million articles dissecting current events and everyone posits their take on the matter.
I don’t always want to know what my coworker from 10 years ago or a stranger on the internet is thinking.
We say things online we wouldn’t say in person
Would an acquaintance sit down next to another and say, “I think it’s just terrible that you let your child sleep in your bed.” Or, “You know what the problem is with this country? Single moms/immigrants/people who aren’t exactly like me.” I don’t think so. And yet, when I scroll through my social media feeds, I encounter a deluge of opinions and declarations about The Right Way to Do Life.
When I first became a mom, I thought the moms were divided and judgmental. Formula vs. breastfeeding. C-sections vs. unmedicated births. Co-sleeping vs. sleep training. Working vs. stay-at-home. And that’s because the internet was So Opinionated. When I started hanging out with other, real-life moms, I felt and saw no judgement at all. There was only acceptance and vulnerability. No one was making declarations about The Best Way to Parent. Everyone was just commiserating and supporting.
The voices in my head
“Ugh, another post about decluttering. So high and mighty.”
“She is a terrible designer. I can’t believe she does this for a living.”
“Her blog is so boring now. Blah blah blah kids work blah.”
“She knows nothing about X! Why is she blogging about that? Who does she think she is?”
Similar to how social media has made us more aware of the bad things that happen to others (kids die, people get cancer, spouses cheat, friends have miscarriages), it’s also made me more aware of what, exactly, someone on the internet would be talking behind my back about. Why they’re rolling their eyes at me. I shouldn’t care. And yet.
When I was younger, there was a voice that would tell me that I wasn’t pretty enough or skinny enough. “See her thighs? That’s what yours should look like.” Happily, that voice went away as I got older and more confident, but now there’s another voice. (There’s a voice in my head, yep.) And it’s telling me how wrong I am and how annoying I am and all of my shortcomings. It’s because I have the constant noise of reading other people’s criticisms online.
The constant chatter of social media isn’t always critical. Sometimes it’s the weight of other people’s’ joys and sorrows. Reading the moment by moment stream of consciousness of hundreds of people is…well, it’s tiring.
Obsessed with documenting
And the noise, the constant chatter of social media streams isn’t the only reason I need to take a break every year. The other part is to break my addiction to sharing. My obsession with documenting.
I go to the park with my kids and think about how I can capture the *perfect* picture to accurately portray how much fun it is. Not to impress anyone else, but to be able to look back on these days and remember clearly what they felt like. (And then, yes, I share it because Instagram is my scrapbook). I feel this internal pressure to document exactly how things feel and how wonderful they are for posterity sake. That pressure can be distracting from just being. I think about how glad I’ll be to have all of these photos and videos later, but will I also be sad I didn’t just enjoy the moment?
(Side note – I stopped following parents on Instagram who seem to have IG-perfect photos. ALSO. How in the world do you get perfect photos of young, wiggly children without spending hours of your time forcing them to hold posses in natural light?? I’m baffled.)
It is ironic to blog about taking a break? Oh well.
For these reasons, I’m really looking forward to stepping away from the holy trinity of social media – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, for a month (maybe more?) and stepping toward my kids without a phone in my hand. (Except when I’m trying to get directions, because Lord knows I can’t get anywhere without Google Maps.)
All of this is a little embarrassing to share – that I’m distracted and my head is a chaotic place because of the time that I spend online. It’s embarrassing to admit that I have to literally deactivate my social media accounts in order to not use them, but there it is. Gabe asked me if we could take a walk “without your phone” the other day. I think this break is needed.
This is my fourth year of taking a month-long social media break in the spring. You’re welcome to join me, but there’s no Facebook group or email newsletter or detox support. The point is resetting how addicted I am (very) and slowing down how I spend my time with the people and work that matters most. It’s always a month filled with less noise, less distraction, and more productivity and fun.