Social Media Made Me a Worse Mom -- So When It Comes to Family, I'm 'Going Dark'

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mom on social media
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My daughter blows out the flimsy wick of her 6 candle wedged on top of her hedgehog cupcake. The wax collects and then hardens as her tiny lips pucker and blow. I’ve taken a choppy video, not enough pictures, and am already thinking about when to post. Should I do an Instagram story or an album on Facebook? I can’t forget to tag everybody! I can’t believe I’m wearing workout clothes to a birthday party…

My daughter is having an American Ninja Warrior birthday, replete with a kid’s course and the one above, where parents attempt to jump, pull, and drag themselves across obstacles many, many feet above the ground. There’s beer, snacks, and the familiar faces told to smile, say cheese, and pose, our practiced bodies stagnant for a few seconds to capture the moment.

  • And this is where I wish it would end. But it doesn’t.


    Later, even though I have a severe cold and just want to take a bath and read, my thumb will flex and scroll, as it so accustomed to doing, filling time with random Instagram feeds. My brain will filter through an inordinate amount of information: vegan cakes, bodybuilding, books, yoga, work, writing, writers, publicists, publishers. I ping-pong from Instagram to Facebook to Twitter (which I still don’t get), eating my precious time with the same ritual millions of people around the world do too.  

    We no longer have events without sharing, travel without posting, suffer tragedies without visceral footage, and even blast our own children’s faces and tiny bodies for the whole world to see, like, and comment. (Is anyone else creeped out by this but me?) 

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  • As I write this, more than 2.5 billion people subscribe to social networks.

    social media
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    That means 2.5 billion people choose to spend their finite period of time looking at a screen multiple times per day, every day, over any other activity they do. 

     If someone held a gun to your head (and let’s face it, at this point in history, that’s a fair assumption), what are you going to remember? The hours you spent collecting, posting, and commenting, or the people you love, the experiences you had, and the chances you took?

    I was late to the game for Facebook, joined Instagram this past year, and joined Twitter in the last few months. Why? Because I have a novel coming out in August and, you know, to be a writer, you must have a social media presence. An author platform. A voice. 

    I mean, if this article gets published, how is it shared? How will I spread the word if I don’t use social? (I honestly don’t even know the answer to that anymore.)

    Or do you?

  • I was a happier person before social media...

    ... before scheduling posts, liking, responding, judging, watching, and conversing with enough people to make my head spin. 

    I was joyful before cell phones did things other than dial numbers, when picking up this little rectangle morphed into checking emails, working, FaceTiming, talking, hearing that maddening ding of notifications on the regular, and keeping me so tethered to a digital life that I sometimes forget to live my real one.

    Gone are the days of unencumbered thinking, when going for a walk meant … going for a walk. On Mother’s Day, I got dropped to take a hike all by myself, and what did I do? I listened to music on my phone, got frustrated with Spotify, opened Pandora, took a godforsaken Instagram story, and almost sprained my ankle responding to random texts.

    In a phrase? This is bullsh*t.

  • I was a happier person before scheduling posts, liking, responding, judging, watching, and conversing with enough people to make my head spin. 

     I want to concentrate, to finish one f*cking task without my phone messing it all up. Without perpetually taking me away from my daughter, my friends, my family, dinner, the moment. We’ve all felt this way, been pushed to the brink, and have probably made the bold statement on more than one occasion: I’m deleting all my social media accounts.  

    Then you ask: 

    But how will I stay in touch with everyone?

    How will I not miss out?

    How will I be seen and heard?

    How will I stay relevant???

    Let me tell you a little secret that’s hard to hear: You’re not that important.

    Those people with 100k followers and a “brand”? They’re not that important either. Social media doesn’t tell you who good people are, what they believe in, or how they contribute to their families. It’s a sense of voyeurism, of narcissism, and if we don’t knock it off, our kids aren’t going to have any idea what the real world is. 

    Aren’t we better than this? 

    Apparently, I’m a minority here, as 2.5 billion people would disagree with me. And yet, every single person I have ever met hates social media. They roll their eyes, they complain about it, and yet they still do it. Like, daily. 

  • We bitch about not having time to work out, but we’ll spend hours on Facebook. 

    on the phone
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    We complain about not having sex with our partners, yet at night, we turn to our phones instead of them. Our children have to compete with this tiny screen that has a whole big electronic world inside of it. Technology has altered the way our brains respond, needing to be stuffed with information, likes, and comments while driving, sleeping, eating, working, or having a real conversation. 

    It’s simply too much.

    Back in my real life, I used to take up space by processing. Remember that? It was and is not a luxury; instead, it’s a necessity as humans to have this time built in. To be bored. To take up mental space with your thoughts, not feeds.

     There are people who will argue with me of course. Social media keeps up connected! It shares information! It matters! 

    But at this point, we must ask: does it? Has it? Will it? Did it ever?

    What it doesn’t do is what we were meant to do -- interact, communicate, and form real relationships that have nothing to do with clicking a button.

  • So, here it is: I’m going dark.

    I’m taking email off my phone. I’m going to live a life that is slower, maybe lonelier, or maybe, just maybe, filled with all the things I once knew and loved.

    I’m going to take time to notice things instead of commenting on someone’s feed.

    I’m going to call up my friends instead of liking a photo.

    I’m going to eat dinner with my family without a f*cking phone on the table.

    And this is my plea to you: don’t waste your life staring into a screen.

    Connect to sensation, emotions, the sky. Look up, not down. Pay more attention. (Especially while driving, please God.) Some things, like life, should be about what’s right in front of you, about what you can believe in, about what you can see, what you can touch, what you can earn.  

    Not everything is made to be shared.

    Since the writing of this, my book has launched and ironically, all social media interactions I now have are for solely promoting my book. No more scrolling. No more filling time. I now have a defined tool to help me sell books, and I can put it down when I need it … and focus on real experiences with my family. I’m learning to not be so all-or-nothing or black and white. I’m finding the balance …

    Rea Frey is an award-winning author of several nonfiction books. She lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter. Not Her Daughter is her debut novel.