It’s another day in my home, and it feels the same as all the others. I’m a momma to a 3 and 2-year-old. In other words, I’m a professional toddler translator, emotion regulator, tantrum tamer, diaper changer and not to brag, but I know all the words to the Chuggington, Spiderman, and Blippi theme songs. It’s crazy to think that not even four years ago, my world didn’t revolve around play dates, fruit snacks, superhero battles and scraping out those darn play-doh crumbs from the cracks in our table.
The days are long but the years are short, that’s what I keep hearing. However, right now, in the thick of it, all I feel is the weight of the long days. I wake up every day with the same ambition: keep my cool, practice being present, and don’t give the kids too much sugar. However, five breakdowns and four fruit snack packs into the morning, I find myself checking out and looking for something to numb the frustration that I feel building from the inside out. This is about the time I grab my phone and get on Instagram.
Immediately my feed is flooded with filtered squares that deliver a message before I even read the caption.
I see the post with the toddler reading to themselves, and I wonder why my kids won’t sit still. I see the couple on a date, and I get frustrated that my husband and I don’t get to go out as much as we used to. I see the new homebuyers and long for the day that we’ll have our own place. Why doesn’t my son listen that well? Why does my daughter not talk that much? Why aren’t my kids as sweet, why don’t they share like them? Maybe they’re behind, and maybe they’ll never catch up, maybe it’s all my fault, maybe I’m a bad mom.
Any joy I had before I logged on is replaced with comparison, and even though my account says I have a certain number of friends, I have never felt more alone.
I played this game for too long and ended up having to take an extended break from all social media platforms to reassess my values, reconnect with my people and ground myself in the truth that I matter, I am enough, and I am doing the best I can. During my hiatus, I came up with five guidelines when interacting on social media, and if I ever find myself veering away from those, I know it’s time for another break.
Spend more time with people than on their page. I often mistake likes, comments and views on my feed as a deep connection. I forget that nothing can replace the compassion that grows from face to face conversations.
Balance authenticity and creativity. Social media is just a part of reality, and we get to choose what part we show. Within these squares, we put ourselves in a box and create an image that isn’t really us. We show the sweet with no sour, the beauty before the breakdown, and peace after the panic. I love the beauty in any aesthetically pleasing feed, and I believe it can be a great creative outlet. When I go to post, I consider if I am falsely representing myself. Friends, this is the hardest one for me. However, I have found that within the captions, through humor, or real-life stories, I can help alleviate the illusion that I have it all together.
Don’t make up stories. I’m not talking about Instagram stories, I’m talking about the stories I can create in my brain when someone doesn’t respond to a comment, or like a photo, completely ghosts me or posts pictures hanging out with people that aren’t me. It’s easy for me to take things personally, and if I find myself feeling left out, questioning my friendships or just plain thinking poorly of someone, it’s a good indicator for me that I need to log out, gather facts, and find peace in my reality.
Stay out of judgment. Just like it is easy to make up stories about what you see on social media, it is just as easy to move into judgment. We’re all doing the best we can, and that is the lens I choose to look through in real life and on social media. I combat any temptation for judgment with encouragement, whether that’s a like, a comment, a DM or face to face on a coffee date. I practice this on myself and others, and I can honestly say my brain is changing, slowing but surely, in the way it perceives people.
Take a break. As I mentioned, if I find myself straying from the guidelines I have made for myself, I take a break from social media. With that, I have scheduled breaks that I take, no matter what, to remind myself that life goes on with or without social media. Sometimes my breaks look like a full day without my phone, sometimes it’s a weekend without logging into any accounts, and sometimes it’s a full 30-day social media detox to help clear out any comparison and connect with people in real life.
These guidelines are something I’m experimenting with, and by no means a one size fits all solution. We all have our own tendencies, insecurities, and frustrations with social media, and I’m grateful when other people share with me how they are tackling Instagram fatigue. My hope is that by pausing to think about why I’m posting and engaging, I can exchange some of the pressures I feel from my little squares for the joys of these little years. I’ve heard they go by fast.