As soon as my eyes open, I pat around for my phone — usually finding it wedged under my body or on my nightstand. I pick it up, unlock it and immediately click on the Facebook app.
“Mom Photo Bomb!” is the first caption I see. It accompanies a picture of a bikini-clad friend flying through the air behind her teen daughter. “A guise for posting a swimsuit shot,” I judge.
Then I see a former co-worker’s post. “Morning!” alongside a sweet photo of her newborn. “Looks like Mama!” a mutual friend comments. She comments on everything.
I learn a high school classmate’s daughter had pancakes for breakfast as I hear my son’s door creak open and his footsteps pitter-pat down the hall. As he enters my room, I see two friends went to a gallery opening and didn’t invite me.
My son climbs into bed and I put my arm around him, but I’m still holding my phone. “What’s that?” he asks about a selfie of our neighbor Jacques with David Spade. I roll my eyes as I imagine Jacques posting with hopes it appears he’s friends with celebrities.
It’s time to get up so we head downstairs and, as I make him some peanut butter toast, I power on my laptop and intermittently scroll through Instagram.
My Pilates instructor and her puppy are in San Diego. She’s posted “Living my Best Life!!” Most likely, it’s to elicit jealousy from the guy who ghosted her recently.
I look at the microwave and it’s 7:30 am — we’re running late. Phone still in hand, I run up to my daughter’s room to wake her. She doesn’t stir so I turn off her noise machine and open her curtains.
My phone is in my back pocket and I feel it “ding”. It’s my husband texting me a gossip article on Twitter about a notable couple divorcing. His text says, “You called it.”
My daughter’s up now and I read the article while she fishes through her drawers to pick out her uniform. “Do I have to wear leggings today under my skirt?” “No,” I say still engrossed in the gossip.
We quickly gather her science project, brush teeth, fill water bottles and confirm homework folders made it into backpacks.
When we are finally out the door, I look at my daughter and ask “Why aren’t you wearing leggings? It’s freezing!”
“You told me I didn’t have to,” she says. “I did?” I say in disbelief with myself. I’ve lately made a habit of answering unheard questions.
My kids listen to Harry Potter on Audible in the car. While they’re engrossed in Hogwarts’ happenings, I have a second to tune into myself for the first time today: a heart heavy from judging, a pit in my stomach from feeling left out and overall malaise from a constant tug for a hit of what I’ve read is dopamine.
As I pull into my kids’ school drop-off line, I calculate that in double the nine years my daughter’s been with me, she will be out of my house and in college.
“I don’t want to miss this.” I think. “I don’t want my kids to grow up with a phone-in-hand vision of me.”
As I head back to my house, I recall all the spiritual podcasts, books, meditation classes and yoga I’ve consumed to stay sane. Social media pulls me away from these teachings’ themes of relinquishing judgement and being present. Marketed as a tool to connect us, conversely, the more time I spend on social media, the more I feel disconnected.
When I get home, I decide it’s time for a trial separation. I sign out of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I don’t remember the passwords so I know that I can’t access them without effort.
The first few weeks are bumpy. I meet with friends who immediately assume I already know about their kids’ awards or vacations or family news. When I tell them I don’t and why, they often say they wish they could do the same, but social media is essential for their career or how they keep up with out-of-town family.
As the weeks and eventually months go on, I feel better. I wake up and before opening my eyes, I list the things I’m grateful for — my kids, my husband and that I’m safe in a warm and comfortable bed. I start my days lighter and I engage with my kids more.
It’s true that now I don’t often know about the hottest restaurants, or the buzz on new movies or where celebrities vacation. I do know about my kids. I hear all their jokes, worries, likes and dislikes and it’s all so clear I’m truly not missing out on a thing.