I have always been unsettled with technology. Okay, not always. Since about circa 2010 when I first was able to log in to Facebook from my QWERTY capable slide phone.
Jesus, I’m old.
Since then, I have been unsettled with technology and more specifically with social media and to be even more specific: with Facebook and Instagram.
Over the last few years (and especially over the last few months) whenever I have opened those apps on my phone I have thought to myself:
“What are you looking for?”
That’s a tough question because I haven’t wanted to give an honest answer. I have had to spend a lot of time in reflection and meditation to candidly answer that question.
My gloss over the facts, surface answers were: “I’m just forming friendships and networking with other social media players” or “I’m just looking for funny memes because I could use some laughter” or “I am going to watch some mindless videos because I have had a long, hard day” or “I am going to be a good consumer and fellow blogger and support others I follow on social media.”
While I believe that was all true and potentially harmless, I’d step away from my phone (after having laughed my ass off and having left all the encouraging and supportive comments to boost my online friends in the algorithm) and I would feel as drained and empty as this iced coffee I am currently slurping through a straw as I try to get every last drop off of each ice cube in this mug.
And then I would feel angry.
I wasn’t rejuvenated and refreshed. I didn’t feel connected or productive. I didn’t feel anything that social media promised it would offer me if I gave it the things I could never get back: my time and my energy.
So step two was to really start acknowledge how I felt after mindlessly scrolling through the news feeds and again ask myself:
What are you looking for?
Ok fine. I guess I am looking for a break. Because I would grab my phone when I was feeling stressed or overwhelmed. I fluster-ed-ly use my pointer finger to flick through the news feeds absorbing hours of information in a matter of seconds; but here’s the kicker: not processing it.
Predictably, I returned to the real world with a mind full of nonsense and anxiety from all the bad news and envy from other people’s accomplishments without having done a damn thing that filled my metaphorical cup and I would find myself still needing an escape.
But what are you looking for?
Here is where it got ugly because I didn’t want to be this person. I didn’t like it or myself for thinking it but if there’s one thing I have learned through therapy and yoga it is to allow the thoughts to pass through you without judgement.
And what’s even more difficult is to acknowledge said thoughts.
I wanted a “big break”. A viral post. A way to make money without having to do a damn thing for it. I was looking to prove that my writing wasn’t for nothing. Because if my page had hundreds of thousands of followers or my videos had millions of views then obviously I mattered more.
That brings us to step three and question two: why did these things matter to me?
Ultimately, I still hadn’t answered my question.
What are you looking for?
Here it is folks. The bottom line. I have been looking for acceptance. And validity. And I have been looking to prove to myself and my family and my friends and my fellow writers that I can be successful in this industry.
Success would mean that I have actual talent and that the shit I have been through was meant for a larger purpose than just my own suffering. I have been looking to be a part of something bigger than myself.
But in the process, I lost myself.
We truly have equated the internet’s response with the validity of our story. The more tragic or unbelievable or obscene, the more shares and comments and responses. The more we are given the illusion of connecting through each other’s pain when really, it’s just being used for mass entertainment and industry sales and follower fodder.
Here is a fact that I should feel embarrassed about but weirdly I don’t: my last post on this blog had nine views.
Views. Not even visitors.
If I am being honest, I probably accounted for three of those views because if I’m being even more honest, which fuck it, why not tell all at this point, I like what I post.
I assume that by everyone in the industry’s standards I am a big fat failure. My words have essentially reached no one. My story basically doesn’t matter. To sum up: I am an idiot for exposing myself in this manner.
The other assumption I am making is that said people are silently brainstorming tactics that I can use to spread my words and gain more views and find more followers. After all, we have been led to believe that quantity in this manner equates to success.
Let me digress for just a moment.
When I started his blog I named it Rebel Housewife because I was rebelling against all the norms of what it meant to be a mom in a
“we have all-access to each other and therefore can compare ourselves to every other mother in the universe who had it together”
and I was calling bullshit because I knew the secret that no one had it together and we should just be real and honest about that. We shouldn’t have to conform to invisible social media pressures.
And since I’m not 100 percent committed just yet to not finding ways to up my views and promote my work, you can read my first post here.
You know what sucks? I did conform.
I put those with platforms on pedestals and aimed to be just like them.
The truth isn’t pretty, folks. But at least when we are honest with ourselves we can make our decisions from a place of mindfulness and intention. We can gift ourselves with a choice. And that choice is: do we want to keep fading into the online lives of others or do we want to be present in our own real lives?
Maybe for you the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but for me, they are.
I have felt the nudge to pull away from social media for years. If you have been around for any length of time then you know I have done this back and forth dance before. I have deleted all the socials and committed to the blog but then got sucked back into the idea that having a social media following would equal a book deal and all the aforementioned perks of a big page.
The cycle would continue in this circular manner because I struggled with the fact that I was a hypocrite.
My shtick is about being more present and being online less but still the goal has been for all y’all to spend more time on my social pages and illicit an emotion from my words that would inevitably call you to share my posts and comment on my pictures and then the algorithm would find me relevant and I would grow.
The words haven’t exactly matched the intentions.
I have had to admit that I am addicted to my scroll. I hate using the word addiction for something so many of us do but just like I learned in middle school: just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t make it right.
Also, I feel this would be a good place to insert no judgement for everyone who finds actual and authentic joy in social media.
Now that we have that out of the way….
Dropping the socials means that I will likely never get an agent or a book deal. I have spent a lot of time wrestling with those facts.
Irregardless, I am going to write, right here, in my little corner of the internet. After all, a New York Times bestseller doesn’t validate my story.
It’s not about the numbers.
It’s about the impact.
I don’t mean the impact that I could have on my readers. I mean the impact that I have on myself.
Writing fuels me. And when I’m fueled, I am more present and more grateful. And when I am those things, my family is the same. After all this time, the one thing I have come to realize is that the impact that I have on my family (read: my kids) is really the most important one of all.
So here I am. Rebelling again. Telling Facebook and Instagram to fuck off. Telling the voice in my head that the viral stories are not marks of validation. That being published doesn’t make my words mean more. That social media hasn’t made me more social. Here I am facing the ugly truth that, for me, those platforms suck my joy.
And I’ll be damned if I give another minute of my precious time and limited energy to anything other than what brings me the absolute and purest form of joy.
And if you are reading this: I encourage you to do the same.