The Social Media Cleanse

Have you done it yet ?

For years my interest in the Facebook has waned; I’d say I log on every few weeks. It’s just not a pleasure to scroll on it any longer. Seeing photos and updates of my friends and family is nice and all, but as we all should know, all that happiness and perfection is mostly projection and pushing “like” is not the same as personal connection with another human.

Plus all their data mining is scary.

Plus the targeted advertising makes me paranoid.

Plus all the political viewpoints from said friends and family is tiring.

Basically, the Facebook has brought me zero joy in years. I really only hung on to it because of the “Groups” function; I love my mommy Facebook groups and the women I’ve met through there… but as our babies have aged the group dynamics are less and less.

The Facebook has a great hold on local events and the marketplace as well, and the only way I found my local babysitter in this new town was through the Facebook. Oh, and finally, the most important and annoying aspect of my Facebook dependency? My Spotify account was linked through it. If I deleted Facebook, I couldn’t access my music.

Still, I’m sick of it. The New York Times most recent piece on the corporate management provided that final nail in the coffin for me. I figured out this morning how to unlink Facebook from Spotify – basically, I had to sign up for a new account with a different email (gmail user tips- if you have a period “.” in your name, you can remove it when signing up, and you’ll still get the email but the Spotify company registers it as a different email, for example if your address was Facebook.sucks@gmail.com just sign up with facebooksucks@gmail.com) and then I was free to deactivate my FB account.

I don’t know if I’ll ever fully delete my account, and it’s not really going to change much, as I honestly only logged on once or twice a month. I haven’t had the FB app installed on my phone for years, and I never used messenger, but I still feel freer and like a weight is off my shoulders.

Now, onto the other side of my social media addiction.

Instagram.

IG seems like the lesser of two evils, and I really enjoy using it, but it too is owned by the Facebook. It too uses targeted advertising that borderlines on creepy, and, while it seems “less annoying” than the Facebook, there is just as much projection and false advertising on it.

I’ve deleted the app from my phone many times, but this time I’m determined to avoid it for a long period of time. I’m thinking until the new year. The holiday season is stressful and the last thing I need is another app making me sadder and less connected with my real life outside of the phone.

I’m not going to pretend like I’m perfect. I’m not. Within the past year, my smart phone usage has stayed the same because of Reddit. I find Reddit is more addictive than traditional social media. It’s a lot more impersonal as well, but that’s what I like about it. The anonymous nature of Reddit is what I love- you can be yourself on it and Aunt Bertha won’t comment on every post I make. I follow hundreds of unique and specialized subreddits and the content is just better.

That said, I still would like to work on my smart phone usage. It’s an addiction no matter the platform I use, and I don’t like the person I am while using; disconnected with my beautiful kids in front of my face, someone putting off chores or tasks around the house. But by weaning myself off social media and focusing on more productive parts of the internet (like writing on my blog, reading The NY Times or doing crosswords) I feel like I can break out of this addiction.

Diagnosis: Princess Power

It’s happened.

I swore to myself it wouldn’t; the day she was born someone put a silly pink bow hat on my daughter’s head, and it was then I vowed; I’m going to keep her away from the girly stuff. All the frilly, lacy, pink stuff that is having a little little girl just isn’t my style and I wanted to raise my daughter to think independently and not conform to the standard stereotypical gender role of “little princess”.

It worked, for a bit. I mean, prior to age 2 and prior to her having the ability to form an opinion and express it clearly, it was pretty easy avoiding Disney princesses and crowns.

But slowly, the princess culture seeped in to her life.

She’s the only girl out of eight cousins on her father’s side of the family, so for every birthday and Christmas, our generous extended family has fun buying her girly toys. I get it it. Superhero’s and Star Wars for seven nephews/sons/grandsons is tiresome and any break from the routine is welcome. So she can get a poofy dress up skirt and parade around in it with joy, no big deal … as long as we don’t highlight the word princess, it’ll be ok, or so I thought.

And last year she went through a serious butterfly phase. Around the time she started wanting to choose her clothes everyday, she started demanding only butterfly shirts. That was a fun indulgence. Before we moved she wanted her new room to be a butterfly room, which gave me a lot of fun options to decorate with. In my mind, while butterflies are girly, they aren’t as “bad” as a princesses.

But sometime this summer my little girl dropped the obsession with butterflies and moved straight onto the princess train.

Sigh.

What do you want to be when you grow up, Lu?

A princess.

What do you want to dress up as for Halloween?

A princess!

What do you want to play when we are at the playground, sweetie?

Princess Luella!

She’s obsessed. Any paraphernalia we purchase with a cheap Disney synergy tie-in gives her glee. She’ll just sit and look at books with the darn princesses for hours. And nothing, nothing, lights up her face more than when we call her “Princess”.

And that’s my struggle. I want her to be a strong, independent, kind person in the world, and want her to follow her passions but also be a hard worker and someone who values inner strength and beauty more than outer, yet …. the pleasure on her face when I indulge her and call her Princess while tucking her in at night, man, that’s hard to fight. She was absolutely adorable dressed up as Ariel over Halloween, and if I can give her a sticker book with the princesses in it and it entertains her for hours, what’s the harm, really? What am I fighting, exactly?

She’s three. This phase should pass, eventually, right? Shouldn’t I just let her have this phase while it’s still pure and just because they’re pretty, now, while she’s little? Why and I trying to force my own distaste of it all on her? Her being into princesses doesn’t mean I, the mom, am raising her to literally think she’s an actual entitled princess… she will still work hard and be empathetic and know her smarts are far more important than her looks because those are the values we are instilling in her.

So, I’m okay with it. I’m going to smooth her hair, call her princess because it makes her smile, let her pretend and dress up and let her enjoy all the stupid plastic Disney crap because she’s a child and this is just a phase. And trying to control what she likes isn’t the type of mom I aim to be.

Playground Politics

*This goes out to the parents out there* …. Think back, to your days before “parent” was a label applied to you. What were your thoughts on children, moms and dads, and discipline? What sorts of behavior would you witness with rolled eyes and scoffing?

*This goes out to the parents of multiple children out there* …. Hey! Remember when you had one child and they consumed your world? Every moment you had eyes on them, you knew their quirks and had no doubt of their brilliance and uniqueness? Remember going to the playground and following their every step, every triumph of a ladder rung climbed, every round on the slide? Did you ever see some random, disheveled child pushing your precious out of the way and wonder aloud: “Whose kid is this??”

My personal answers to the questions above are probably pretty obvious.

Before I had E, I didn’t think about parenting at all. I had very little interaction with children beyond the ones I encountered at work, and I usually observed every scream or whimper or booger-streaked face with disgust.

That is, until I had a baby, and my entire life revolved around just E. I thought I had it figured out. I brought him to the playground every single day, rain or shine or wind or snow…. I hovered and hemmed and hawed over him at all hours of the day. I’d see sloppy looking moms parading their multiple offspring off and watch in horror as they pushed, shoved, and ran amok. And, I judged. Oh, how I judged.

But then I had two babies in a little under two years. Suddenly, the playground as a destination because a “trip”, a big “deal”. Beyond that, I started to see the play areas as a place for “them” and the benches along the side of the structures as “my” place. The luxury of sitting back and watching them do whatever it is they wanted seemed like a no brainer.

And my eyes were opened to the phenomenon of “parents of one”. I don’t judge them, because I was them for four and a half years, but looking through the playground scene with my new lenses of a “mom of three”, I started to realize how different I was from them. Usually its Mom and Dad following every step of little Jr and their adventures in the structures, with lots of “Be Careful!” And “Oh look at you!” Meanwhile, I’d be in a corner, trying to appear forgotten. I want my kids to play, but I don’t feel the need to follow them everywhere.

This brings me to today; another playground trip on a warm November afternoon. The sun was bright. I have a quiz to study for and three kids under my watch (as the hubby is flying for a few days) so I foolishly thought I’d have time to look over notes at the local playground. I forgot it’s a weekend. I should have realized every other parent in our suburb had the same idea as me: enjoy the sun while we can. And I should have realized that while I’m perfectly okay with watching the 2-year-old climb up a slide the wrong way, the vast majority of parents out there (especially the ones with only one kid) frown upon such behavior.

So, what should have been a relaxing escape from our house, became an internal struggle of my own. I don’t want to be “that mom” whose children are causing issues, I don’t want someone to see my little L and H seemingly alone and assume their parents aren’t mindful of the abduction risk of unsupervised children, but I also know that particular playground, being fully fenced, is pretty safe. I know that kids want to climb up slides backwards and I know that they don’t need me there “just in case”. So it becomes a show, and I have to act. Because I care too much about what everyone else thinks. Their frantic anxiety becomes my frantic anxiety.

After an hour or so I was sick of chasing H so I told the kiddos it was time to go home. To play in our own backyard. And guess what? In the privacy of my own home, confined in the fully fenced back yard, I can sit and study over the pulmonary system and even read a novel without worrying about H and L taking turns going upside down, down the slide. I guess it’s true: there’s no place like home.

Creeping of Christmas

I just stood in line 20 minutes for a cheap red plastic cup. It was free. It has a major corporate logo on the side, and if I use it after 2pm between now and January 7, 2019, I will receive fifty cents off every $5 “Holiday” drink.

If you are in the know, you know I’m talking about Starbucks.

In my defense, I needed coffee this late morning anyway, as I am currently sitting in the college library prepping for my third exam of the year. I have the expensive habit/routine of needing my ‘bucks fix prior to studying. I get the drink, I find the quiet corner of the library with the great view of a large oak tree out the window, I put on my beats and I get to it.

Because Starbucks has my email address and knows how Basic I can be, they sent me the reminder last night of their latest marketing ploy and it stayed in my mind. Honestly I’m not a big latte or mocha drinker, I tend to take my coffee iced, cold brewed, with just a splash of sweet cream. But learning the holiday drinks are back and I could get something free out of it, I braved the line and ignored the mobile ordering option.

I was one of the last to get the free cup before the store ran out; according to the Starbucks Subreddit, other stores were out by 6am. I felt that consumerism smugness come out, mwhaa ha ha I got something you didn’t! – but now I just feel like a corporate cog.

Ladies, gentlemen and everyone in between, today is November 2nd. We still have a freshly carved pumpkin on our front porch and the leaves in New Jersey are just starting to turn into spectacular shades of yellow, orange and red. Can we all enjoy fall for a few weeks before the whitewash of red and merry take over?

On one hand, I’m excited for this time of year. The anticipation build up, seeing my kids enjoy the holiday season, listening to Christmas music and decorating our home is so much fun. I do love it. But our culture is creeping these darn holidays out sooner and sooner. School started in September and the store loaded themselves up with Halloween decor. Christmas crap was on shelves before Halloween even started.

Yesterday I used a free hour without kids to check out Marshall’s and Home Goods, I had the idea of purchasing Thanksgiving swag since we are hosting this year, but the stores were all Santaed out. Really? Really? I can’t buy some fake leaves or a stuffed Turkey to display on November 1st?

Beyond this frustration, I also hate how we are supposed to spend an insane amount of money every year to show how much we love one another. It’s nearly an American Patriot Act, this obligation, and each year the pressure is more and more. My kids don’t need anything. They still play with the wooden train set my oldest has had for seven years. They putter around with crappy old toys all the time and they are happy.

So it’s with excitement, resentment, cynicism and optimism that I end this post with a “Happy Holidays!” This one phrase is loaded and you can take from it what you wish. I’m going to focus my next few weeks on FALL and cover my ears if I hear a Christmas Carol until the day after Thanksgiving – expect, of course, I’m in line to get my .50 discount on a holiday cup of cheer.