A Picture is Worth a Thousand “Likes”

What this picture says about my life:

IMG_1609The sun was shining, the water was perfectly cool, the kids were happy and ready for their first day of swimming lessons!  I was obviously cool and collected, smiling happily at the kids as I said “Say ‘First day of swimming!'”  They did so willingly, and then they jumped in the pool as I lay back on a beach chair, my infant napping peacefully in his stroller beside me.

The Truth:

In order to get to swimming lessons, I had to load 4 kids into the car, remembering to bring suits, towels, sunscreen, new diapers, a double stroller, water bottles, and car snacks, although the car snacks were obsolete as the kids refused to eat them and begged (I mean begged, like it was so loud that things sound like you’ve just left a concert for an hour after) for McDonald’s.

Lessons were an hour away IF I got lucky and didn’t have to stop at the road construction.

Oh, and Calder only got in the water 2 out of 8 days that were already paid for.  Basically my head felt like it was going to explode every.single.day.

What this picture says about my life:IMG_1034I potty trained my twins!  Yay for me!

The Truth:

My twins are not potty trained.  Not even a little.

What this picture says about my life:

IMG_2217Ohh the wonderful summer memories my children will have some day as they sit around Grandma’s house (that’s me) talking about their days of climbing trees and swimming in lakes, catching frogs, and eating choke cherries.

The Truth:

Where did this picture come from?? I sure didn’t take it.  I would never let my kids climb a tree.

What this picture says about my life:IMG_1656Our summers are filled with exciting adventures like this one, followed by putting our exhausted kids down to bed so the grown ups can sit around playing cards and laughing.

The Truth:

Adventures like this one are extremely few and far between.  And when they do happen, they mostly consist of me standing at the shore, panic stricken, because one of the boys just stood up in the canoe.  I probably had just yelled at them to all sit their butts down, but then said “smile for a picture”, which is why Aaron is the only one smiling.  Soon after this I motioned for them to come back to shore because it was getting late and no one had eaten dinner yet.

What this picture says about my life:IMG_1404My wonderfully supportive husband gives me many opportunities to escape the rigors of everyday parenting to get together with best friends and remember the good old days.

The Truth:

Well, that is actually very true.  But this particular day something dreadful happened that was out of both of our control, which is why my memory of this day has been spoiled.

It rained on and off all day and as these wonderful girls and I tried to catch up I couldn’t help but think maybe I should cut the visit short and head home (it was over an hour drive).  But I didn’t listen to my intuition, and shortly after this picture was taken I was on my way home in a torrential downpour that ended up doubling my driving time.  About halfway home, I pulled over into a parking lot and just cried and prayed that I wouldn’t die.  This was a very real concern of mine.  I thought seriously about spending the night in the car, but decided to just forge ahead.  I was sore for several days due to my tight grip on the steering wheel.

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I have to admit, about a month ago I found myself logging back into my Facebook account with every intention of only using it for the “important stuff”.  After 6 months FB free I was sure I could handle it.

I was so so wrong.

I have been more unhappy in this last month than I remember being for such a long time.  Why?  Because every single picture I see of a life glamorized by social media makes me wish MY life was different, or worse, over.  No matter how many times I remind myself that pictures don’t always represent the reality of someone’s current situation, I find myself being dragged into the pictures as if they were laughing at me and telling me my life isn’t good enough.

I do love pictures — I have a gazillion of them and keep getting pop ups that my storage space is almost gone — and its not always the way I describe above.  Many times I am taking pictures to try to capture a very special memory that I hope will still feel as special when I look at it some day down the road.  But my point is that just like I shouldn’t judge someone else’s situation by the pictures they post online, my pictures don’t always show truth either.

I do appreciate having beautiful pictures of the difficult times though because usually the experience seems much sweeter when I look at it through refreshed lenses.

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The Pen Pal Challenge

Freedom!  You’d be amazed what you SEE when you no longer have something blocking your periphery.

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I made the long overdue decision to “cancel” my Facebook account.  I say “cancel” because on the final page of the cancellation process it says “to reactivate, simply sign in using your username and password”.  So I guess the only thing holding me back from permanent deactivation is that I still remember my username and password.

I did, however, remove the FB app from my phone and the bookmark from my computer toolbar.  My biggest problem has been how easy it is to stay signed in 24/7.  My phone has almost become an extension of my arm, permanently attached, my eyes glued to the screen.  Yesterday I made the comparison between my addiction to screen-time and a bug to a fluorescent bug zapper.  And its equally detrimental.

The day that I decided to make this change I posted a status update alerting people to the impending deactivation.  Ironically, the majority of the feedback I got was that people wished they had the courage to make that change, but that they were scared of how much harder life would be.  They’re too addicted to it to imagine their life without it.

So I issued a challenge.  I DARE you to cancel your account and write me a handwritten letter.  If you are brave enough to just take that step, I promise your life will not be lacking anything.  In fact, taking those blinders off has allowed me to SEE my children more in the last few days than I have in months.  Not just because I’m looking at them instead of my phone, but because the things I read and see on Facebook poison my outlook on almost everything.  Suddenly my patience isn’t so short and my opinion of myself isn’t so terrible.  When you’re not spending all your time comparing your life to everyone else’s, you’d be surprised how great your life looks.

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As I’m writing this, I got a phone call.  It was from a friend that I see rarely except in my news feed.  She said “I went on Facebook to ask you a question but I realized you weren’t there anymore!”  I explained the situation and she said “Good for you!”  She said she thinks about doing that often.  She asked me to help her out with an activity and we set up a date and time.  We had a short but nice conversation and now I have plans to be a part of something!  How fast that worked.

I’m excited to see how my life changes now.  I have no intention of losing touch with the people who mean the most to me, I’ll just have to work a little harder.  Who wants to take my dare?  Even in this fast paced, technology filled world, its still really nice to get mail.  I love the feeling of actual paper.

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How social media has changed the way I think

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I was 14 years old and my mom finally let me sign up for my own AOL account.  Suddenly a whole new world of socialization was opened up to me!  I could actually TALK to people I was way too scared to talk to in person.  I had so many “friends” who I knew better by screenname than I did by their actual name.  One in particular was A Musolini, a boy who never talked to me at school but we would spend hours chatting online.

Eventually our relationship moved to the next level when by the grace of my freshman English teacher we ended up with our desks next to each other.  It was my last class of the day and it made every morning worth getting up for.  Sometimes we exchanged actual words, but regardless I knew as soon as I got home and heard the sound of the dial up modem, we would be besties (a word I wish didn’t exist, much like selfies, totes–as in totally– and hashtag).

This went on for months and by the start of the next school year he had a girlfriend.  I was heartbroken as I was sure our online relationship counted as dating.  It was at this point that I got my first taste of social media fiction when he promised me ONLINE that he was going to break up with his new girlfriend for me.  Of course this didn’t happen but when we finally hung out OFF the internet for the first time, the rumors quickly spread that I was a home wrecker who would do anything to get what I wanted.  Apparently, reality and my perception of it via instant message were two very different things.

I have many MANY stories to contribute to my theory of why social media, and its ability to embellish the truth, is the root of the destruction of interpersonal relationships.  I even wrote a 10 page research paper on this during college before Facebook was even popular, when Twitter was just another word for ignorant rambling, when the only way to share pictures was to take your roll of 35 mm film to Walmart for printing.

I have however realized that I communicate much better through written word than verbally (a talent I inherited from my mom, who inherited it from her mom).  Not to mention my typing speed of over 100 wpm is astounding.  It’s gotten to the point that I’m constantly editing my own thoughts before they come out of my mouth, trying to make them sound as original and interesting as possible, while also sounding natural and not rehearsed.  Many times after I say something outloud I think “Oh man, I should have saved that one for a Facebook status!  Now it won’t sound as clever because its old news.”  I stand in the shower and each thought has to go through revision to be social network ready.

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If everyone else is as OCD as I am about how their thoughts come across in writing, its no wonder that depression and anxiety rates have risen drastically since the onset of social media.  I have a friend whose husband works as a PA in an office that specializes in mental health.  He says that the majority of his patients when asked if and how often they spend time on social networking sites respond that it is their primary source of socialization.  Realizing that these patients who struggle with severe chronic mental health conditions are also socially isolated, one of their fundamental sources of treatment is to minimize or eliminate their use of such devices.

Like many teens in the 90’s, and most likely every decade before and since, I idolized certain celebrities.  I dreamed about meeting them and went through the conversations we would have in my head.  But they were untouchable and unreal to me; of course these dreams would never come true.  That was okay with me and not at all a source of self-deprecation.  Now, not only can you more or less communicate with your favorite, untouchable celebrities, but its as if every normal person on the Earth can put themselves in an idyllic and praiseworthy position.  That is what everyone seems to reach for with every status update or youtube post.  Now we not only have famous people to be jealous of, but hundreds of “friends” posting pictures of their perfect families, vacations, and accomplishments.

I am no exception.  Each time I post to this blog or anywhere else, I hope that somehow this will be my big viral break.  There are plenty of people just like me who started out as stay at home moms and then ended up on Oprah or Jimmy Kimmel/Fallon or the YouTube awards, whether it was for their musical talent, writing capabilities, or something their dog can do.

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The interesting thing, and why I say this has all changed so much of the way I think, is that I have been writing in a journal since I was in 5th grade.  Almost religiously.  I keep a box full of all my old diaries on the highest shelf in my closet collecting dust.  No one has read them and probably never will.  But I wrote the same way and the same kinds of things that I’m writing now for all to see.  I also have a row of large photo albums and scrapbooks on that same shelf full of pictures from the first time I got a camera til the last time I developed film.  So why does it make a difference now how many people see and respond to these things?

Maybe we like who people think we are on Twitter better.  And if our perception of reality really becomes our own reality, then as long as people “like” us, I guess we are liked.

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