2017 was a tough year. The stress of watching the world burn around me from my comfortable suburban home really dampened my spirits and made me a less attentive and engaged parent.
So, in an attempt to turn things around in 2018, my New Year’s resolution was to untether from my phone and live more in the moment. Toward that end, I embarked on a 24-hour social media break to start the new year. That’s right. No Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat for one whole day!
It was more difficult than I thought it would be because, as it turns out, checking social media is about the only thing that brings me happiness and soul-crushing dread. On hundreds of occasions, I had to fight the urge to grab my phone so that I could scroll through content and let a wave of ecstasy and self-loathing wash over me.
How was that hilarious tweet I sent last night about Trump doing? Had it gone viral yet? What was Linda on Facebook doing about her raccoon problem? Had anyone on Instagram eaten anything fun for breakfast or did it snow? And did my niece go out last night or what? Those snaps would be gone by the time I was back online and a whole day of her life would be forever lost to me.
I was completely out of the loop and it was driving me crazy.
To make it through, I turned to mindfulness. I centered myself by watching my children at play. It was fascinating to learn that these little people I share a home with have interests and personalities and names. I watched for hours with wonder and awe as they played with various toys in their playroom, inventing imaginary worlds that were very boring. Then we went outside and felt the sun on our skin as they covered themselves in dirt and refused to engage in any meaningful or interesting activities such as ball throwing or lawn care.
Later, we sat down together and watched an animated movie as a family. I almost broke when I recognized the voice of one of the leopards, but I couldn’t quite place it. I hopped up to get my phone so I could check IMDb, but stopped myself because, while it’s not technically social media, it seemed like a dangerous gateway. I may never know who that leopard was (it was probably Jenny Slate), but the uninterrupted time spent with my family was more than worth the sacrifice.
After putting the kids to bed, instead of catching up on what I missed online in the previous twenty-five minutes, I chopped a few logs in my backyard (I’m really into outdoorsy things now), used them to start a fire in the fireplace, and settled down in my favorite chair with my cat on my lap to draft my declaration of world domination.
“I was once a slave to social media and an unwitting puppet, content to let the technological giants who have co-opted our society pull my strings and control my every movement,” the declaration began. “But, no more! I have taken a day off from social media and now I am the world’s best parent, greatest expert on mindfulness and seizing the moment, and ruler of all that lays before me. I look forward to spreading my message of simplicity and indomitable power with all under my rule in the months and years to come.”
That’s as far as I got because the clock struck midnight and I was able to hop back online. But, because I was a changed man after seeing the other side, I didn’t waste hours catching up on other people’s trivialities. Instead, buoyed by my new-found energy and focus, I got straight to work implementing my reign of dominance.
One tweet. One Facebook post. One Instagram photo. One Snapchat whatever.
The dominoes are beginning to topple.