I just had a baby about six weeks ago, and I am breastfeeding — which means I now spend a large portion of my day sitting on my couch with only one hand free. In fact, I am currently typing this with only one hand, really one thumb. When you only have one hand free, you’re very limited in what you can hold: your phone, the tv remote, a cup of coffee, a water bottle, or the baby’s hand (pick one).
So you can see where this post is going. Naturally I started spending more time on my phone because I literally had nothing else to do. Sophie usually falls asleep after she finishes nursing and she is so precious and cute that I have no desire to get up and move her, so I commit to 2-3 hour shifts on the couch. I’ve always spent a lot of time on my phone. I don’t check the screen time tracker but my weekly screen time notification is usually upwards of 3-4 hours per day (of mostly social media — and mostly Instagram since I deleted my Facebook a year ago).
Suddenly I had all this time to spend scrolling mindlessly through social media and really not feel bad about it, but that’s not what happened.
First, I immediately started getting headaches from looking down so much (not even at my phone, at the baby) and from so much screen time (phone and tv). And probably also from dehydration. I stopped watching tv and turned on Pandora music instead. I set a one hour time limit for Instagram and Twitter (combined) per day. I figured that would be tough to stick to but the first day that I hit my one-hour limit (at about 2pm) I felt such a huge sense of relief.
Sidebar: I have managed to shift my left arm enough without bothering Sophie (who is asleep) that I can now use both hands to type so maybe this won’t take ten hours now.
Anyway, the one hour limit was a piece of cake and it actually made me feel better! I have only hit the limit and/or received the 5 minute warning about three times total. And it is plenty of time! I am still scrolling aimlessly through tons of content and sending hilarious tweets to my ten followers while I’m going to the bathroom.
Another sidebar: Since imposing (is this even the right word?) the social media limit I have read five books on my kindle app on my phone.
So because I was still on the couch with all this time I started thinking deeply about a lot of things. Staring at Sophie’s cute face and thinking about the future and what I want for her and what I want for myself and all of those important things that new parents start kind of panicking about. And what happened was that I started thinking how weird it is that we scroll mindlessly on social media or post our own stuff. I got a MySpace when I was in middle school and I probably had a hundred friends and they were all kids I went to school with and I hung out with about five of them. The other 95 were kids I knew and wanted them to think I was super cool (also it was just the thing to do — friend request everyone who you knew within yours or the neighboring school districts). But geographically and age-wise these were kids who were also in middle school who lived in my town.
Now the majority of people I follow, I don’t even know personally. Which is fine of course, because I want to expand my network and be exposed to a more diverse set of people. Particularly now that I have realized that my hometown is very very white. I also probably follow too many people to even read every single thing they post. I have tried to keep it at 400 or less (people I follow) but even that is too many.
And I salute the people who are making a career out of social media because I could not do it. I think it’s a great place for aspiring entrepreneurs and I think influencers are pretty awesome for the most part. But isn’t it weird that the rest of us are doing it for free? Especially if you’re putting in a lot of hours sharing your life on a daily basis. And why do we feel the need to share the things we do?
I’m not even going to get into the activism and politics side of social media. It is great especially if you have a large platform and a lot of followers but it is not for me. I do not have many people following me and most of them share the same political beliefs so we’re all reading and circulating the same material. I’m better off focusing my activist efforts outside of social media.
Even this blog, I haven’t hardly posted this year because I wonder why I am posting or why I want to post. What makes us want to voice every inner thought publicly? Is social media a public-facing journal of sorts? And now that I have a baby, I think about her as a teenager stumbling upon my social media accounts and reading all this garbage. At the very least, I’m going to only post authentic garbage and not perfectly curated Instagram photos and captions in case someday I achieve social media fame.
I have no advice. I have no suggestions. I put a limit on my social media and it has made me really dive into my history of social media use and question what it is doing for me and what I am gaining from it. I have gained a lot and I know there are many benefits and I know it’s not going away anytime soon so I might as well use it — but maybe use it my way.
I’ll be showing up as myself on Instagram, Twitter and my blog. Unedited. Probably not even proofread. I no longer have time. I’ll be following people and pages that interest me and unfollowing them when they don’t anymore. I’ll probably keep wondering why we spend so much time on social media and I will probably never figure out why we keep doing it even though it’s bizarre.
Maybe I will make a new blog series called the breastfeeding journals that I will likely forget about in a week. Stay tuned.
To summarize: social media is weird and it’s weird how much time we spend publicly journaling about our lives instead of living them, and it’s even weirder how much time we spend watching other people live their lives. I don’t hate it but I don’t love it either.