Recently we went on a beach vacation with my family and I decided to spend the weekend cellphone free. I posted one last photo on Instagram then used my phone for GPS to get us to our destination (of Solomons Island, MD) and once we arrived I turned my phone off and put it away for four whole days. I wandered around without even bothering to bring my pocketbook with me. It felt really wonderful.
I was at a bit of an advantage in this scenario because Todd was always with me and he had his cell phone in case anyone needed to reach us, and his camera in case Margot did anything noteworthy and adorable. Also, my parents and sister were usually with us, along with my brother in law and my neice. So, most of the people who I would be worried about missing an emergency call from were with me.
Still, I felt really great not carrying my cell phone around with me. I liked not having that familiar weight in my bag as well as not having that familiar itching feeling to check what was happening on Instagram.
A few years ago I realized the Facebook was taking up too much of my time. I was a new mother and a new vegan and I was desperate for community and Facebook was my connection to hundreds of like-minded people in similar stages of life. It is perhaps hyperbolic to say that I would not have survived that time of my life without the familiar blue glow of Facebook on my cell phone, but it was, indeed, an important part of my life. I have made friends on Facebook who I now call my best friends, I used it to educate myself and expand my world. But then I started to feel bad when I went on. It was an addiction and I needed to break it. So, I decided to take a 3 month hiatus and after a few weeks of no Facebook, I never went back. I decided life on the other side was much clearer and happier. And, in some ways, I replaced my Facebook addiction with an Instagram addiction.
I have always felt like Instagram was less insidious than Facebook. I still, for the most part, believe this is true. But, I was noticing the same pattern of obsessive checking and I decided, rather on a whim, to take a 3 month summer hiatus from Instagram. I have had mixed feelings about taking this break because I have, again, met some wonderful people on Instagram, most of whom live very far away. So, it feels a little like I shut down a bridge and have no way of crossing the river anymore. But, also, it feels kind of amazing. I feel like I am present in my life in a way that I wasn’t always being present when I was looking at events through the lens of “Instagram worthiness.” I like to think that I was not curating my life so that it was worthy, but still, looking at all of the things that I do together with Margot and thinking “oooh, I have to post this.” It added a step between experiencing something and enjoying it for myself. I also began to realize how strange it must be for Margot when everyone around her knows about all of the things that she does. It was not uncommon for me to post about something that Margot did and then run into someone the next day who said “Oh! Margot, I saw that thing you did yesterday!!” Margot never made any comments about this or seemed distressed, but… it started to seem odd to me.
A few days after I began my hiatus I decided to finally do something with Margot that she had been asking to do for a while. We dyed her hair purple and pink. And I went through the process of thinking “OMG, if I don’t post this to Instagram, NO ONE WILL KNOW HER HAIR IS PURPLE.”
And then I realized how absurd it was that I was worried about that. Was I dying her hair purple so that I could show the internet or because it was something fun that Margot wanted to do? And… what happens if we do something and DON’T post about it online. (I realize, also, the absurdity of positing that question ON MY BLOG, but… bear with me…)
So, I’m taking a hiatus. I think I will still post on this blog when the mood strikes me, but I’m trying really hard to be more present in my life. I think it’s important for my health and well-being and also for Margot’s. I know that there have been times in her life that she has had to share my attention with my cell-phone screen and I feel bad about that. I still have my phone, and I still find myself looking at it more times per day than I “should,” to check the weather, to look up an answer to some random question, to zone out for a few minutes reading news blogs. But, I am absolutely feeling more present in my life. Instead of watching Margot play in the frog pond and thinking of the perfect Instagram caption for what she’s doing, I’m just… enjoying watching her do it. I mean, I still did snap a photo and send it to some of my best friends… the ones I met on Facebook… but, come on, I am still a millenial!