I’ve been taking some time off social media. Every few months I’ll do a social media fast and each time I feel less and less inclined to come back. I question why I spend time on social media anyway. Why I feel the need to share what I’m doing, seeing, feeling, thinking, breathing with strangers.
There is nothing wrong with sharing. In fact, I think sharing is an essential part of relationships and building a trusting community, but I’ve been questioning why I feel the need to share online, as opposed to with my immediate circle I physically see or talk to on a day to day basis. There is beauty in the online world. It’s an incredible experience being able to both share and be inspired by people all over the world. But I feel like, as a millennial, I’ve missed out on some organic conversations and experiences because I’m so used to having these conversations and experiences online.
I’ve always found New York’s subway system to be an incredibly inspiring place. There are lots of people zoned out on their phones, of course, but there are also the entertainers, people reading newspapers or books, journaling, or even talking to the stranger next to them. Life on the subway exists as it did before everyone had a cell phone in their hand and I love this. I loved that about when I lived in New York. So much of my 20s was spent with my head in my phone, scrolling mindlessly through social media, that I fear how much I missed.
This holds especially true now, with my daughter in the picture. I absolutely refuse to miss a second of her life because I’m scrolling online. I also don’t want her to remember me as someone with her head in her phone. I want her to remember me for actually doing stuff. Reading books, writing, trying new recipes, painting, gardening, going on a hike, creating a beautiful photo shoot, volunteering, talking to my neighbors, going on road trips, traveling the world. Soon she will start to imitate me. I want her to imitate what’s real, not what’s online.
I also wonder the long term effects on kids whose entire lives have been broadcasted online. It’s one thing for me to show my life to the world on Instagram, but it’s another thing for me to show my daughter’s life to the world on Instagram. She is her own person with thoughts and feelings and even though she doesn’t know it yet, she has consent. I don’t feel it’s right for me to share every detail of her life online without her permission. If I did this, I wonder what she would look back and think about it? Would she be embarrassed? Would she feel exposed? Would she feel misinterpreted? I don’t entirely know but I feel like this is what I might feel if my childhood and teen years had been posted all over social media by my parents.
I’ve also seen kids acting up as soon as a phone is around or not around. On Instagram, I see stories of these little girls who are playing and in their own world, and as soon as they notice their parent is filming them, they start posing like models in Vogue. It’s heartbreaking and something I definitely don’t want my daughter to do. And then, of course, the child who acts up because they don’t know how to sit still for 5 minutes without an iPad in front of their face. I’m not trying to be judgmental here. Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done and sometimes you will do anything just to have 5 minutes of peace and quiet. I totally get it. My point here is more that sometimes I can’t even sit still for 5 minutes without scrolling through my phone. If I can’t do it, my daughter sure won’t be able to, and so the behavior change has to start with me.
It’s refreshing not being on Instagram (and I’m only referring to Instagram because I haven’t had Facebook or Twitter for a few years). Occasionally, I will log back on and it feels like information overload. It’s also been freeing for me to do stuff for the sake of doing stuff as opposed to doing something so I can share it online. It’s allowed me to get back into some old hobbies, not so that I can share it with anyone, but because these hobbies make me happy and bring joy to my life. Reading more, lettering, I even started to sew. I’m not doing these things to become anyone. I’m doing them because I enjoy them.
I was sharing too much before and it was causing the things I love to lose their significance. Things had to look perfect as opposed to real and that is just not me. What’s real is being right here, with my words, where things are quiet and I’m not competing with the thousands of images people are scrolling through. Sometimes Instagram feels like an auditorium full of people each shouting to try and get the attention of the stage performer. Look at me! That’s not where I thrive. I’d rather shrink into a hole with 1 or 2 friends and whisper secrets in the dark. And I’m not saying everyone online is shouting but there are a lot who are and so it’s hard to find the quiet ones now.
I want physical community. Late night conversations in my living room with a few friends, a few drinks, some music playing in the background and perhaps a few books laying on the floor. We talk endlessly into the night about our interests, beliefs, insecurities and love lives. We’re vulnerable and we’re honest and sometimes we disagree but we learn so much and we eventually get to the point where we can barely keep our eyes open and so we say our goodnights and we each head home and we lay our heads on our pillows and our hearts are full.
I want to sit on my back patio with a friend or two and talk about how crazy mom life is while our kids run around in the backyard laughing. I want to cook together. I want to eat together. I want to go swimming and hiking and hold hands because I don’t know how to ice skate even though I love ice skating. I want to kiss more. I want to hug more. I want to go to the drive in theatre and throw popcorn at people from the backseat. I want Row to learn the stars in the sky and the names of the clouds and that you can cut an earthworm in half and each half will still live. I want her to grow her own vegetables and write her own books and build her own playhouse.
I want everything that is real and here and now.