Sure, I like to coo over everyone else’s babies as much as the next mom (of no-longer-little kids). The newborns in the tiny caps? Melting. The sweet toddlers at the beach and the park? Precious. And all the many, many pictures of events and occasions: first day of school, chorus concert, Halloween parade, fall festival — and those are all just within the first couple of months of the school year, mind you. The holidays up the ante considerably, and I steel myself for the reminder that everyone else is posting continually. Over the years, I have come to accept my destiny: I am the mom who doesn't preserve for posterity.
Whenever I try to take a photo, my camera is crap and my kids usually move — or close their eyes. But that's not the real reason I've backed off social media. The deeper truth is this: I inevitably find that by preserving the moment, I’ve missed sharing it. And no, I don’t mean "sharing" on Facebook; I mean being present and sharing actual moments with my kids.
So I am fighting back against the urge to über-mom (yes, it's a verb now) on social media because attempting to do so just leaves me feeling inadequate and disappointed in myself. And instead, I’m concentrating on putting that energy where it will legitimately do me some good.
For me, these feelings — that I can't possibly measure up to other parents on social media — often simmer over during the summer when everyone is posting more thoughtful, creative and exciting summer break experiences with their kids than I am. It wasn’t until I forced myself to take a step back that I was able to realize that another person’s pics (of their gluten-free cookie-making followed by a video of Junior completing a triple back-flip off the high-dive at the pool) might actually serve a purpose beyond making me feel inadequate.
We all enjoy feeling successful: likes, hearts, wows and responses give us validation. Of course, Facebook can also make you feel the exact opposite; social media envy is real, and it’s not news that constantly comparing ourselves to others can make us feel depressed.
Taking that step back and consciously deciding to disengage is better for me. I’m sure that some people can just enjoy Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. as easy ways of sharing their lives with others. But for me, posting online just leaves me feeling like I’m coming up short — and I know I'm far from alone in that feeling.
Google “avoid social media envy,” and you’ll get almost 400,000 results — everything from the psychological costs of coveting your friends’ magazineworthy Snapchat stories to a California law firm dispensing advice on how to avoid social media envy-related debt. Really. Add the further catalysts of mom guilt and competitive parenting, and you have a formula for overload.
I often remind myself that we present our best moments for public consumption, but it’s still hard to let myself off the hook. Fortunately, I have my mom — and her own version of Facebook. Or at least her version of photo-sharing meets "all about me" memory-keeping: the scrapbook.
I’m incredibly lucky that my mom has made it a focus of her retirement to preserve her grandkids’ lives in beautiful photo books. She combines her own photos — interestingly, my kids seem much more inclined to stay still and keep their eyes open in her pictures — with those of friends, family and anyone else who was involved in an event. She organizes the images into personalized volumes for the kiddos, each page wittily, sweetly, sometimes poetically captioned. The kids have an overflowing shelf of these visual memories; they like to look back at them, an encapsulation of their history, and talk about moments they remember and people they would have otherwise forgotten.
So that's my out. I'll admit it. These books largely let me off the hook — avoiding the mom guilt I'd otherwise feel for not documenting my kids' lives on social media. Instead, I know they have these treasures on their shelves, a hybrid of old-fashioned photo albums and new-fangled "my fabulous life" selfie memoirs. And with that knowledge, I have the space to sternly ask myself: "Why would I post on Facebook at all? Most of the time, the answer is clear: Just step away from the keyboard."
So, when you see me liking your posts and heart-ing your pictures, know that you have my respect and admiration — and maybe even envy. But when you don’t see me sharing my own posts, it’s not that I’ve fallen off the face of the Earth. It’s just that I’m making myself pay less attention to keeping up with a race I created in my own head — and pay more attention to what’s in front of me.
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