(originally published on Deseret News)
I know you don’t get it. Social media is not your thing. You have a group of 15 guys who mean something to you. You text them a couple times a year, get together every now and then, check out their family on a Christmas card and your life feels full. When you see me scrolling through posts and commenting on photos of people I only know virtually, or sharing news about our family you are sure no one cares about, it is all you can do to refrain from an eye roll. I get it. From the outside it seems silly to me, too.
But, as a mom, at home with kids most of the day, these virtual people are, in a way, my colleagues:
The quirky gal who is always entertaining during water cooler chit-chat;
The boss stopping by to give me a little encouragement;
The fashionista who distracts me with incredible outfits for killer deals;
The friend who lets me rant about the unfairness of my current position;
The grandma-type who makes everything seem like it will be all right;
The funny guy who never fails to make us all laugh during the tense times;
The teacher who is always willing to mentor;
The know-it-all who has the best ideas;
And sometimes, an entire room full of people trying to solve a problem together. During a day full of relatively mundane tasks, these small doses of the outside world remind me that I am not in this alone.
But it’s not just distraction. As a woman, I need to connect. I find joy in keeping up with good friends and seeing what their lives become. I love watching their children grow and admiring them from afar; I am truly happy about their triumphs and pray for them during trials. Social media has allowed me to keep in touch with family and friends scattered all over the world as I see their smiling faces pop up in my feed.
I take the time to comment on their photos and stories whenever I can because it is an easy way to let them know I love them and still care, even if our hectic schedules or crazy distance keep us from truly being in each other’s lives. Growing these relationships, sharing my support and feeling supported by them does not seem at all frivolous to me.
All that being said, I know that it is a fine line, and sometimes a tough one to walk. I admit, there are days when I am too focused on catching up on others’ lives and miss living my own; times when I let an innocent, quick “check” become an hour of wasted time, or when I find myself following people who make me feel envious and entitled instead of loving and grateful. I need to do better, have more control, click “unfollow” a lot more often.
When I am with you or our kids, I should be present. I never thought I would say this, but it is all going so fast and I don’t want to miss it. When we are driving together, we should talk instead of scroll. When we are out as a family, I should be more worried about enjoying the moment than snapping the perfect photo. Before bed, there should be pillow talk, not glowing screens. But if you are watching a four-hour football game, you better believe I can sit next to you and Instagram away, guilt-free.
If you feel like my phone is replacing actual relationships or keeping me from experiencing the best moments in real time, let’s chat. I can take it.
So smile for the camera, encourage me to capture only what is real, and then remind me, nicely, to post it later, so I don’t miss out on the amazing things that are yet to come.But, I also want you to understand why I don’t just quit social media. It is more than just escapism or a way to exit reality. It is a way for me to connect, to get ideas, to find help and support. Raising children has always been about a village, and today our villages are often the virtual type; they are big, broad, and diverse and it’s a beautiful thing.