It is invasive in our homes, our families, and our personal lives and it is because of the things you and I are doing! It is our blog posts, our Instagram updates, our Facebook statuses, our Pinterest boards and our lives that are causing all of us adverse reactions.
Although, I am just as guilty as the next with the amount of influence I allow social media and the Internet to have in my family’s life, I have done my best to narrow its influence and exposure just a little. Here are a few ideas:
How much time do we spend reading about the minutia that fills the life of friends we rarely see and often care little about, versus picking up the phone or (heaven forbid!) walking across the street and talking in-person to a good friend and neighbor.
The Internet is fast, easy and oh, so convenient. But when was the last time you thought first to crack open your grandmother’s old favorite cookbook you inherited instead of immediately going to the Internet to find something to do with that expiring carton of buttermilk in your fridge?
Recently my dear cousin called me at a somewhat inconvenient time as I was fixing dinner. I debated ignoring the call, but decided instead to multi-task, and I’m so glad I did. She was calling me to ask if I knew what could be the problem with her daughter’s clarinet — it wasn’t making any sound when she blew into it.
What? Does she even know me? I have very little (if any) musical expertise, and I have never even touched a clarinet before in my life. When I suggested she “Google it” her response was obvious that this particular idea had never entered her mind! I loved that. She obviously uses the Internet sparingly enough that she doesn’t think of it as a solution to every single problem. Though our phone conversation was brief, we connected a little about our lives the last few days, and put one more deposit into that proverbial relationship bank. Among other things, she consoled me about a recent upsetting day I had, (which ironically she had read via the Internet) and I left the phone conversation feeling grateful she didn’t think to “Google” the clarinet problem, first.
I’m sure all of our social media feeds have been recently inundated with the notable “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.” Whether you’re for or against the specific phenomenon, one can’t really argue with the awareness it has raised and the groups of people it has banded together for a common cause. The whole thing brings to attention the public nature of everything we do for a good cause.
Which, in and of itself, is wonderful. Goodness should be shared. After all, everyone likes a feel-good story. But there should be a careful balance between doing the good acts, but not always publicly announcing them. It seems one can’t pull up the Yahoo homepage, or read a social media feed without seeing stories of waitresses getting large tips, or somebody serving a homeless person. Perhaps we’d all be better served to do a lot more things quietly and secretly. Meaning, can’t one leave a large tip, or pay for everyone in line behind you in the drive-thru without bragging about it on social media? I know those stories are inspiring and often contagious, but so is the ‘pay-it-forward’ mentality in general. Keep some of the good deeds quiet. Dump the proverbial bucket of ice on your head if and when you desire, but don’t always feel the need to post the video.
Don’t let that heading scare you off. I know we should be thinking of others, but not in the way the Internet and social media causes us to think of others. Think of others when you are looking to serve someone, looking for a new friend or looking for someone to share a tray of brownies with. Forget others when you’re wondering if your children are the only ones that aren’t having their birthday party at the latest and greatest go-kart park, or if you frequently start planning your meals at 5:45pm instead of having the month’s menu written out on a nicely decorated printable in your “I Have It All Together” binder. And most certainly forget others when you’re secretly eating a piece of chocolate so you don’t have to share with your pre-schooler, while you read online about your friend’s success going sugar-free for a month.
There is so much good out there in cyberspace. You know it from experience, as do I. But we also know all the over-stimulation and feelings of low self-worth, and general dissatisfaction that can come from spending too much time with our faces in front of a screen. Bask in the moment. Watch and bask in your children’s excitement about their new first day of school outfits without having to share it with the world. Be present and enjoy the lunch with a friend without photographing your meal to share with people that probably don’t even care what your Paleo diet can include.
We know generations before us survived just fine without the presence of the Internet in their lives. I’d love to say “adios” to all things online besides finding something last minute to do with my bag of thawed cooked chicken, and my treasured contact with old friends living across the pond. But I know that isn’t a possibility, so, instead, I’ll re-read this article and incorporate my own advice. Hopefully some of you will do the same.
Question: Do you frequently evaluate your internet and social media usage? How do you balance the use of it in your life?
Challenge: Next time you have a “my clarinet isn’t making any sound” type question, call a friend instead of going first to Google.
(Tiffany and her husband Mike are the parents of five children; 5-15. Tiffany loves the laundry five children generate, but could do without the sticky floors and dirty dishes. Tiffany blogs at www.ourmostofthetimehappyfamily.blogspot.com.)