Let’s talk about social media. It likely takes up more time of your day than you would admit. If you are anything like me, you browse Facebook, Instagram, and posts on motherhood before your head hits the pillow and again first thing when you wake up. Being so connected online can be a beautiful thing. But lately, it’s been feeling like more of a chore for me. I know I can’t be the only person who struggles with this when I see people publicly stepping away from their profiles and giving up Facebook for Lent. Does social media really bring us joy in motherhood? Or does it bring pain?
We’ve been spring cleaning at our house over the past few months. I was on YouTube (social media) one day and heard about Japanese organizer Marie Kondo’s method of cleaning out your life. Her motto is this: If "it" doesn’t bring you joy, throw it out. I embraced this theology and started tearing around my house with gusto. My closet suddenly contained a third of the clothes it used to, and I started loving the pieces that actually fit me. My daughter’s toy pile got reduced, and she began playing with things she had forgotten about. I thought about how much happiness I felt letting go. Why should I stop spring cleaning with just my household items?
I’m spring cleaning my social media intake. I don’t think it’s that revolutionary an idea. If I can be purposeful about the objects in my home and how we spend time as a family, I ought to also watch what I’m taking in online through so much of my day. There comes a time when we have to ask ourselves, "Did that 45 minutes I just spent browsing Instagram bring me joy?"
Here are some warning signs I start to see when the answer is no.
1) When I forget that social media isn’t real
I should know this by now, especially since my profession as a photographer means half of my workflow is sorting through the thousands of photos I take to find the one. The one where the lighting, the faces, are JUST RIGHT.
Here is a typical picture that I may post on my blog.
I’m acutely aware that it’s not fair if this is all I ever post. I don’t want to seem like motherhood is easy or perfect. In fact, here is what 50% of our pictures look like.
Sometimes there is pressure to cull these images. When my daughter was young, I posted a picture of her lying on her bed, screaming with tears running down her face. I had people asking, publicly and privately, why I shared it. I had gotten in trouble. And yet, there were many more messages of other mothers applauding the fact that I took it. That they have similar photos of their children where they wanted to remember ALL of their personality. ALL the expressions. It can be frustrating for me when I see that others, and myself, keep these sorts of images off of public spaces.
2) When it becomes a chore
The fact is, somewhere along the way we forgot the joy of sharing images and words with one another in the pursuit of likes. Or followers. There are apps for this. We plan out the minimum of 1 to 2 Instagram posts a day and gather around the computer trying to figure out the algorithms that will let us be seen.
When I feel like I have to post, I lose joy.
When my daughter sees my phone constantly in my hand, I lose joy.
When I miss a real-life moment because I try to capture it and share it with strangers, I lose joy.
3) When it makes you resent someone or something
I have this picture on my wall in my office that says, “A flower doesn’t compete with the one next to it, it just blooms." I try to remember it in a world where I am surrounded by other photographers, whose work I admire. Or when I see other moms, who seem to be parenting in an admirable way. I noticed that I have let social media chip away at this. In an effort of self-preservation, sometimes I get mad or tear down my “competition."
I should scribble these amendments:
“A flower doesn’t scroll Facebook aimlessly and cry about the fact that it doesn’t do as many styled shoots as other flowers, it just blooms.”
“A flower doesn’t angrily battle it out in the comments section of a parenting article, it just blooms.”
Clearly, this is not bringing joy.
So what do we do when we find that our social media lives do not bring us joy? Well, I’m not advocating for throwing it out completely like I did with most of our house (Don’t worry, we donated.). We just pick the pieces of it that fulfill us. Because, there are beautiful parts. When I stay connected with my dear friend who lives continents away. When I find other mamas who believe in peaceful parenting and babywearing and can share ideas with me. When I admit that I am having a tough time and a friend shows up on my doorstep with coffee later in the day.
But those other parts? You need to be ruthless with them. If you keep seeing an Instagram poster who you admire but only causes you to be consistently jealous? It’s okay to unfollow. It’s okay to not be Facebook Friends with people you don’t even know. It’s okay to post the crying picture even if someone may be offended. It’s okay to screw posting twice a day religiously to Instagram if I don’t have anything to communicate.
Spring is here, and it’s time to throw it out.