over-sharing

A few days ago I saw a headline on people.com, “Kristen Bell’s 5 year-old is Still in Diapers”. Very quickly many thoughts went through my head.

First- judgement. I can admit it. 5 seems really old to be in diapers.

Then, secondly- solidarity. My 5 year old daughter is still in diapers overnight. Her pediatrician shook off any concern I had at her wellness appointment and told me not to worry at all.

Finally I was a bit horrified at the entire thing. I was mad at myself for clicking the link and also disgusted at myself for being part of the problem with celebrity gossip. I was also fairly sure Ms. Bell was probably going to have some explaining to do with her husband, Dax Shepard, about the whole thing anyway.

For those of you who don’t know about Ms. Bell and Mr. Shepard’s family, they have been extremely protective of their children while maintaining their own chosen celebrity lives. I really admire this. I’m a huge fan of Mr. Shepard’s podcast, “Armchair Expert”, and many of his views on a child’s right to privacy have reshaped my own views with my own children and how I expose them online.

Like most women my age with children, I’ve shared most aspects of my kids lives with the extended “friends” and “followers” I have on social media. There’s really nothing better to do during those hazy days of newborn babyhood. I didn’t really give it much deep thought, I’d post a picture of my kid with a funny caption and that was it. Being a mother made my own identity feel “less than”, after all, I no longer do much beyond taking care of my kids, and my kids are infinitely more photogenic than I.

Around the time I created this blog I did have some trepidation about how exactly much I wanted to share- at least when it came to giving out their full names and posting pictures of them. I know if I go through the archives there’s a few photos of their faces, but I think I’ve avoided using more than their first initials to identify them. While I don’t have thousands of readers or anything on my blog, it does feel like a uniquely personal space that is really open to anyone to read, and I felt like my children deserved a bit of anonymity when it came to it.

It was a few years ago when my eldest started requesting I stop sharing every picture of him on Facebook. He was around seven at the time. He didn’t mind if I shared some, but he wanted to approve of them first. This request sort of blew my mind. He had the understanding of privacy and I had to honor his request.

As time has gone on, I’ve completely deleted my Facebook, but I still maintain an Instagram account. I’m souring on using it as much as I did, because, after all, it’s part of the big beast of FB anyway, but I’m still addicted to the photo-scroll. However, this year I heard a podcast (Armchair Expert) where it was discussed on social media companies and ‘big data’ may one day (or even are currently doing….) be able to make predictions and judgements on our children through just photos alone. Like, in the movie Minority Report. Like, my innocent children being pigeonholed from birth.

They didn’t ask for that. They didn’t ask for any of this.

So I’ve made a conscious effort of block as much of their faces as I can with my social media. My posts have gotten a lot less cute, but I’m okay with that. I haven’t resorted to using emojis to conceal their faces (like the Bell/Shepard family does), but this very subtle change makes me feel like I’m sharing my life but not exploiting them.

I’m probably being an alarmist. I’m paranoid and I love a good conspiracy theory. But at the most basic level, I’ve come to terms with the idea that my children do deserve some protection online and my own decision to share my life online extends only to my own self. Yes, my kids are a part of myself and my identity, but I respect them as individuals and once they are old enough they can put as much (or as little) of themselves out there as they chose.

This brings me back to the Diaper-gate headline with Kristen Bell.

The day after the first headline, People published a new one. “Kristen Bell’s Daughter Only in Diapers At Night”.

Hooray.

Why this was ever newsworthy is beyond me. She had made the statement on a podcast with a fellow mother and they pulled out a throwaway story and made a huge deal out of it. I feel bad for her.

But these are our times we live in. I’m writing in my little read, but deeply personal blog (I’m not writing for any other reason than for myself) but one day someone could take a line or post and make a story about it. I as a parent have a delicate line to balance. I love to share my life with people who know me, and I enjoy writing on this platform whenever the mood strikes me. I have a nagging bother at the back of my mind to erase the line at the beginning of this post disclosing my daughters overnight-diaper needs. It’s perfectly normal and not anything to worry about, yet, why share?

Ms. Bell only told the story as a way to explain how every child is different. Her first potty trained extremely easily at 21 months old, and her second is throwing her for the loop. I have similar results with my kids; all potty trained at different ages with varying degrees of success.

Sharing these stories is important so other mothers don’t judge themselves. How I wish I had read testaments from women on how difficult breastfeeding could be when I struggled with my first; I reached out to every person I knew for advice and mostly heard back, “It wasn’t hard for me!”. We are already so hard on ourselves as mothers and in the glossy picture perfect world of social media it is nice hear from other women that they don’t have it all figured out and no one is perfect. But it just goes to show how easy the story can twist from being a personal story of mothering to direct judgment on the child itself.

There is no easy answer. You can’t avoid online life and data tracking and even though I’ve deleted accounts and photos of my kids from social media, I know they aren’t really gone from the “cloud” and everything I put on the inter webs is out of my control once I push post. But I am going to make a conscious effort to continue to be mindful about how I share my children’s lives online and I think this whole diaper-headline is a perfect example of why it’s important.

Online Debates & Social Media

What’s the point, right? Who in their right mind engages with internet trolls to prove a point, when you know on the other side the person you are typing against will never change their own heavily one-sided-and-bias minds? Why do we do this?

Since I’ve deactivated my Facebook account I’ve not had to worry about these comment wars folks get into. A voyeur within me does love to stand on the sidelines and watch drama happen (this is human nature I think) but when it’s my dear old Auntie Doris verses a Stay-at-home-mommy Karen verses that chick I used to know from Psych 101 class it becomes far more personal and nauseating. Plus, many of these arguments serve zero purpose. We’ve all boxed in our own beliefs and prefer the comfort of the echo chambers attached to the point of view we’ve assigned to ourselves.

This morning my darling husband “went at it” with a relative anti-vaxxer. I adore the woman; she is a dear friend to me and I’ll never not love her. That said, I also refuse to bring vaccinations up with her, so while I was sipping my morning coffee and the hubs read aloud each point and counterpoint, I started asserting my view to him, which he then in turn wrote. It was a FB debate by proxy, I suppose.

This is the thing about anti-vaxxers- I totally understand how one can be lured to their point of view. When I had my first baby, the fears of taking care of him and doing things right were always there. So, on FB or whatever, when I saw posts decrying vaccinations and “evidence” against it, I wondered if I was a bad mother for allowing him to get stuck by needles so often. My ignorance about medical science and my unconfidence in my own parenting led to me feeling guilty for not having a strong stand. I also had a nagging voice in me which knew anti-vaxxers were using junk science and personal anecdotes as evidence, but it’s really hard not to believe a story written by grieving mothers about how one vaccine essentially ruined their child’s life. Stories are more compelling than statistics and evidence and critical thinking.

I did vaccinate my child, of course, but with the first kid I did it on a “delayed schedule” (look I’m NOT mainstream because I don’t follow a schedule!) but by the time I had my second and third kids a lack of time and energy sucked out any desire to go into the pediatricians office more than needed so they followed the standard schedule. And guess what, they are fine. Of course.

My point is, as I turned away from reading social media I really don’t think about anti-vaxxers. Or vaxxers. Basically, it’s just as common to me as when the doctor looks in the kids’ ears or mouth during an exam. If they are due for a vaccine I just nod my head, try to comfort the kid, and then move onto other more interesting thoughts like what’s for dinner or what show to watch once the kids are in bed. You know, important things. I’m not passionately for vaccinations, but the majority of parents probably aren’t.

Until a preventable disease is spread because of anti-vaxxers, of course.

Even still, I just shake my head and pat my own back because I know my kids are as protected as they can be because they had their MMR shots.

But in the massive steaming cesspool of social media, the debates are ever present and start to leak into my peaceful morning coffee time and I get empassioned.

Once you engage with a troll, though, there is no winner. Nothing is gained or lost from it (except time and energy). The anti-vaxxer from this morning actually told my husband the link she shared wasn’t meant for him to read at all; it was for other anti-vaxxers. Why did she say that? Because he had cornered her with actual facts and it was the only argument she had left. It also just proved my view; she didn’t want a debate. She didn’t want her beliefs challenged. She just wanted the echo chamber of outrage to continue as she sees fit.

The problem with mixing personal beliefs with medical science is, well, they are totally different things. I think it’s all fine and good to have personal beliefs about god, how to live a healthy life, the best way to style your hair for your face shape, whatever… but unless you are a medical doctor, researcher or scientist who really understands the way the body works and the immune system at a molecular level, your belief means absolutely nothing. This seems like common sense but, as we all know, the majority of anti-vaxxers cite their “hours and hours” spent researching as just as important those who have committed time and money towards a medical degree. These things are not equal.

My husband claims he enjoys debates. I mean, I do too. But, these sort of debates are just never going to be won or lost. I am 100% confident I’ve made the right choices for my kids regarding vaccinations, and the anti-vaxxers are too. I believe they will regret not vaccinating their children one day… but as far as I’m concerned with my kids now aged 2, 4, and 8, I’m past any “danger” point for them and I know in my bones they are perfectly safe and protected against any disease or ill effect from inoculations.

And with this outpouring of a blog post, I’ve said my peace into the oblivion of the internet without offending anyone I personally know in real life, which is great. (unless of course they are reading this now, and to that I say hi! I love you! Peace!)

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.

color me wrong

In my last post, I dreamed of an app on my phone that would keep me accountable for how much time I spend on my phone.

THIS APP EXISTS AND IT IS FABULOUS.

It’s called “Moment”. It even has sound alerts if you’ve been on the phone too long in one sitting (I have mine set for 10 minutes). If you pay $4 you can set daily time limits and even goals for how much time you want to spend on each application on your phone. “Moment” is still in Beta so it’s realitively new, but I already am loving it.

If you, like me, want a tool to help you better manage your time and stop that stupid, endless scrolling, look into Moment and put your phone down!

https://inthemoment.io

slow weaning process

When does a habit turn into a bad habit, and a bad habit turn into an addiction? My husband and I had a very colorful debate about this last week on a beautiful family walk, probably making quite a scene of ourselves to all the other foot traffic on the path – although I was certainly the more dramatic of us.

The case: is social media addictive? Can one be addicted to social media?

Without a doubt, this is true for me. How many times does my finger find that link on my phone, without my conscious decision to start mindlessly scrolling? How much time have I wasted looking at stuff that doesn’t matter, how much attention have I taken away from my kids to read pointless click bait?

I have tried to end my Facebook relationship for years. I haven’t had the app on my phone for at least 2 years, I refused to download the messenger app, and yet the need to read it overpowers my own self-control. I accessed FB through the Safari browser of my phone just as much as I ever did the app- and as I said before, I can’t even explain exactly why it feels so important, so pressing.

So, about a week ago, I made the choice to abstain from any FB access through my phone at all. I have kept this promise to myself. I look at it only through our laptop, and this ends up being only 2-3 times a day. And guess what -I’m just as caught up as ever before. And the need to check in is diminishing.

As I’ve recorded before in this here blog, my life feels far too woven into FB to ever completely quit the beast. Be it events, or the fact FB is my sign-in for various other websites, I don’t see a future where I don’t have an account. This doesn’t mean I have to keep obsessively checking it.

On Friday my husband and I challenged each other to zero social media all day. We did it. He claims it wasn’t hard for him, but I don’t have a problem admitting I wanted to look at my Instagram and check in on the WordPress blogs multiple times. When I found myself in those situations where one used to be perfectly happy sitting in silence, with no distractions (like at stoplights, in grocery store lines, etc etc) I just clicked on my NY Times app and read an article. It worked pretty well. If I’m afraid of silence at least I can fill my time with something that will inform me, rather than that mindless social media chatter I usually fill the time with.

The hubs and I want to keep social-media-free-day as a weekly habit – and I’d even like to extend it into the weekends.

I’m glad this slow withdrawal of FB addiction is working for me. It’s really making me question and notice each time I pick up my phone, what am I looking for, and why. I’m hoping to utilize my personal time better by reading books and the newspaper in these moments where I’d usually fill the time with the “newsfeed” of social media. And, now that I’ve documented my goal here, it feels like a contract with myself to my readers to be more aware. It’s a challenge that I’m proud to tackle and I will continue to fight this addiction as best I can.