Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On Stepping Away


The combination of my dad's shocking diagnosis with cancer in December and the decision to go back to school full-time caused me to step away significantly from social media.  Prior to my extended time away, I had been blogging regularly since 2006.  I was never in the league of "famous mom-bloggers" (by any stretch of the imagination) but writing regularly, keeping up with what other women were contributing to the blogosphere, and connecting with interesting people from all over the world was a tangible part of my life. I even made some real dollars at this writing gig.

As a stay at home mother of four young kids, I truly enjoyed this link to the outside world.  When I think about blogging, and specifically female bloggers, overall, I'm grateful for the voice blogging has brought to a demographic of women who have normally been excluded from the marketplace of ideas.  There was a time when stepping away from the workforce to stay at home full-time meant saying good-bye to actively participating in big ideas that are shaping our culture.  I'm grateful for the awareness female bloggers have brought to women's issues in particular, and that as a whole, motherhood has been celebrated and honestly talked about in public while I've been raising my children.

Returning to school (and I anticipate the same will hold true for entering the workforce) has never felt like I was walking out of a cave into "real life" again.  Fortunately, my life felt just as real and valuable as that of the woman who enters an office building every day.  I think women bloggers and even social media have had a hand in elevating these precious years of child-rearing and keeping stay-at-home moms connected to the world and to each other.

Stepping away from the constant presence of social media offered me a wonderful opportunity to really consider what I want to allow back into my life.  Do I want to blog as regularly?  Do I want to blog at all?  Do I want to keep up with other bloggers and the wide scope of issues I followed prior to December?  What about Facebook?  And Instagram?  How much time do I have for Pinterest?  As a whole, do these neutral tools tend to make me a healthier person?  A better friend?  A happy wife and mother?

This idea of social media and how it affects us is particularly interesting to me as a woman and someone walking into the field of women's health.  I'm predicting (if there aren't already) there will be countless women sitting on the couches of therapists, unaware that they are there because of interactions they have had with social media.  I could easily be one of them.  It would be interesting to know how many women have had noticeable shifts in their health and personality since the prevalence of social media has skyrocketed.  I think a time is coming, if it isn't here already, when those in the medical field will have to address clinical symptoms for women that can be traced back to time spent online.

Now that I've had some time away (and I also have a couple of school-free months) I've given myself an assignment - to really think through what I want my interaction with social media to look like upon reentry.  On one hand, I'm thankful for the way women in particular have shaped me over the past eight years.  I've learned a great deal from not only reading the stories of others, but also writing in this space and being corrected. My perspective is a lot bigger and richer because of many of you who have offered your thoughts and have even disagreed with me right here in this little corner of the internet. I've pinned recipes my family loves.  I've planned activities I took great pleasure in recreating for my kids in my own home.  I've become aware of issues I never knew existed - complex issues that have made me a better person and a more sympathetic human being.  I can't describe how valuable these aspects of the internet have been in my life.  I've also walked away from the computer hating myself, my hair, my back splash, and the light in my hall.  I've spent afternoons (maybe even days) wishing my life was something it wasn't - and never will be.  I've wasted time.  I've given strangers more than their fair-share of my attention.

I refuse to see the internet as bad or throw it all out.  There are good parts worth holding onto and incorporating into our lives. I'm not a victim.  I'm the boss of how I let social media shape me.  I control what I let in.  I'm the one who will answer for my own health and whether or not my interactions with social media encourage and inspire me - or leave me feeling empty, discontent, and unhealthy.

I truly believe as females, if we're not considering these ideas and more importantly honestly talking them through with the people around us, our health will suffer significantly. I remember when blogging was the only thing.  Remember that?  Now there's Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and just when we thought we could not share more of our life - along came Instagram.  Now we can't even leave the internet at home anymore. Remember when we could?  I stick the entire world in my purse and take it with me to the store. Isn't that odd?  I'm sensing a trend here, and I don't think it's one that will naturally help us actively look at our social interactions and thoughtfully decide what is healthy for ourselves and our relationships. Social media is a never-ending party, and it's not going away or going out of style.  Without intentionally stopping and evaluating what I want to participate in and how often, I can easily get sucked into every gathering.  With social media, I'm always invited.  So are you. We have choices about what we let into our lives and what we don't, but I think I give away that power too readily.  I'm sure there are whiz-bang marketers out there who are paid a lot of money to make sure I forget I have choices about how I let social media shape my life and personal health.

I'll be continuing to ask myself some big questions over the next couple months.  Questions about balance and if there is such a thing. How can I participate in this world without stealing from myself and the people I love? How can social media help me connect deeper to the real-life people I'm actually connected to and help us celebrate, together, this beautiful life we've each been given?  How can I engage in a way that makes me a better person - someone who is inspired and informed - not overwhelmed and discouraged.  How can social media enrich my life instead of taking from it?

So tell me friends, are you asking the same questions?  How do you stay healthy and sane in this world of screens and a constant buffet of images and information?  How do you make sure your interactions are leading towards overall health and well-being?  What steps are you taking to protect yourself and the ones you love from social media robbing you of what's good, real, and true?

18 comments:

Tanda Maguire said...

I have definitely asked these same questions over the last couple of years. I currently write on my blog when I have time, and subscribe to Pinterest and Instagram. I closed my facebook account almost two years ago and have never entered the world of twitter. And it STILL feels like too much! Thanks for putting this out there!

Holly said...

Thank you so much for this post. I struggle with many of the same issues. I think over the last 5-6 years as we have lived overseas and then moved back to the U.S., loneliness has been a real struggle. Social media has helped me feel like I'm not alone in the world and I have met new friends through it as well. However, I feel like it also creates more loneliness as this is a virtual world, not a physical person next to me or group /community of support. I fight this battle a lot. Reaching out in social media to feel less lonely and more connected, and then feeling more lonely and less connected on many levels at the same time. I have chosen to only have a small flip type phone, no internet. I also don't use pinterest, twitter, instagram. I feel like I struggle too much already with facebook/blogs and trying to engage in the physical world already. I like how you brought out the tension between the two and how eloquently you examined the issues. I agree that I can certainly see women's health impacted by social media. (And teenagers health!).

Rebecca Stanley said...

I really love this, and cant wait to see where your journey leads.

beth lehman said...

i most definitely have a love/hate relationship with social media. there are so many things i won't do (facebook, twitter), but there are others it seems hard to go without. i LOVE reading blogs... it's like a magazine subscription, but so much better content with such a wide variety!! and i've been made to think deeply about things i may not have before... but i wonder at the cost... and at what my children see me doing. i have started to limit certain things... but sometimes it still seems like too much.

Crystal said...

I think this post is a clear mandate that as you decide what (if anything) to eliminate, it should not be your blogging. You are always thought-provoking and we all need that.
Crystal

Renee said...

First of all, I have so missed your posts, but I totally get it. I personally only blog and frankly it's not that often, but I see so many people who can't go an hour without getting on some kind of social media. I think you are so right about the fact that it will somehow affect our health. Some people can take it or leave it, while others feed off of it.
I started out reading about your journey as a missionary and I just loved reading how God has worked in your life, so for those reasons I hope you will continue to blog but if you don't I get it.

Flower Patch Farmgirl said...

Since you asked so nicely, I will share my secret right here. The key to my social media sanity? My flip phone! Well fine, I have a slide phone now. But it doesn't have internet access...so when I'm away from home, I have no email, no facebook, Insty isn't an option. I sort of love it. (And it saves us $$!)

When I AM home I struggle sometimes to stay balanced. It has been too easy to check my blog roll out of boredom to see if anyone has posted something new. So...I deleted my blog roll. Now I get my updates at the very end of the day and go through and read a few all at once. Sounds strange but it saves me time and sanity and keeps me more focused at home.

I really like this, Heather. You speak the truth (as usual) and you're right, we might as well start figuring some of this out.

You are one of my most favorite internet finds EVER, by the way.

Bye.

Flower Patch Farmgirl said...

One more thought: Us moms talk about feeling guilty that our kids see us on the computer often. I suppose it's true. But I don't know that it's the end of the world (assuming we're being wise and reasonable)(I make it sound so easy - ha!)

I don't remember ever seeing my mom on the computer...but I DO remember seeing her on the phone. Or watching a soap opera in the afternoon. (ha) I never thought it was strange or that she didn't love me or that she was lazy, undisciplined, etc...

There's nothing new under the sun here. We spend our time connecting with others in a different way, that's all.

Sandy said...

I have been asking myself these very questions about social media.
My husband and I share a facebook account and since he is been in graduate school, he rarely gets on and is very happy. It is fun sometimes, but most of the time it is a total waste of my time and emotional energy.
I have made it a point to not get on it in the evenings when we are all home. I am considering deleting the whole darn thing though, because seriously, I will never get back that 15 minutes wasted finding out where people checked in at today.
We only have facebook. I had a pinterest account, but it was overwhelming, so I never get on it.
I have my blog which I will keep. My goal for my blog is to document our family life/my thoughts on marriage/motherhood/what God is teaching me. It is wonderful to go back and read about things that I have forgotten about, to see how my family has grown, to see how I have grown. It is for my girls too. Hopefully one day they will want to read about their growing up and how their momma maintained her sanity--assuming I remain of sound mind :)

Diane said...

I really do not have a grand or succinct answer, but I do know that, at the end of the day, if it's a day I've not even approached the computer, I always feel like it's been one of the better days.

Hodgesgal said...

I have missed your blog so much! I selfishly loved hearing about the people and place I still hold so dear in my heart. Social media is something I too have to think through and be conscious about in my life. Blogging for me, keeps me sane and connected. (I need that now that I am teaching middles school, and blogging about that). I wish you the best and know you will do the right thing for you and your family.
Elizabeth

Dianne said...

While it's fun reading about people's lives and recipes and home decorating, as well as vents and processing of their lives....while God can use those things too...I believe the most valuable contributions are writings from the heart that give words and wisdom and insight to the things we are trying to piece together in our minds and lives.
I believe this is a gift that you have and that God uses through your blogging. You inspire people to *think* what they are doing and what they believe and you bring an honestly and reality to it. I think the day to day posts can become another type of soap opera into lives of people we don't even know. The last few months you didn't give the day to day of school, but the words you shared after it was over must be so encouraging to moms right in the middle of it. The words about the social media help me tremendously in sorting this out for myself. You have an amazing gift, and I will pray for you as God leads you.

amanda busbee said...

I am rarely pulled in to a blog. Actually only one other has captured my attention and that is Ann Voskamps. I could read your blog all day. Your passion for life and family jumps off the screen. Beautiful

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SarahBeth said...

I totally get this struggle. But, I just wanted you to know that your blog is very missed and does make a difference for some of us, even those you do not know! I am encouraged and challenged by your posts and have really missed them while you have been gone. I still refer back to many of your posts and share them with others. I trust that God will direct you clearly to where He wants you to be, but just wanted you to know that if you stop blogging it will be misssed!

Anonymous said...

Hi, it is an interesting think to ponder ( and also to monitor). I generally save the few blogs that I check on a regular basis for after the kids go to bed but often get sucked in and am up later than planned. I have found it so inspiring to read blogs of Christian women who have thought provoking posts and are much more eloquent than I. You have a true gift and selfishly I hope you continue blogging.

Sarah Kuhner said...

This was a great blog post. I try so hard to keep a good balance between work, kids, husband and social media. I think for each person it looks different. I have chosen to stay off of it during the day when the kids are awake. After I catch up on email and stuff, I use my free time in the evenings to read blogs and pin ideas and stay connected on facebook. So many of my friends do feel like they are not that great after being on social media sites. I think we need to be careful to look at the world as God does and not get caught up in the judgement of everyone else. All women need to take a good look at this and see if it is healthy or not. I sure hope you keep posting your thoughts though. Many of your posts have challenged me in my thinking and just encourage me so much.

Livin' the Yeh Life! said...

I just came across your blog, and am hooked! Love it. As far as social media goes, my husband insisted long ago that we couldn't have texting. At first, I was bummed, but I am now proud to say I have never texted and rarely know where my cell phone is. (Therefore, no twitter or instagram) I also closed Facebook, but still love to blog and hit Pinterest once in a while. There are already so many distractions in this world -- I want to live intentionally and give my kids my full attention. I want to be fully present, and for me it has to be all or nothing. Blogging is awesome for me. Pinterest inspires. The rest, I can live without.