The other day I told John that I find it exhausting to play "pretend" with our three-year-old. Duchess can go on for hours making up new scenarios for us to act out. "Now you say ____. Now I say ____. OK, now pretend you’re a ____. Now I be a ____." There is no end to the random combination of things she wants us to be or say. Recently I've found myself able to stick with her for maybe 10 minutes before my brain is just too tired to pretend anymore. This never used to be a problem. I could have tea parties that lasted an hour or more. So why is it now that I’m having such a hard time using my imagination?
Then, completely unrelated to my imagination fatigue, I made the decision to unplug from social media for a while. In the last year, the amount of time I have spent on my phone has increased dramatically. I don’t play on my phone when I am playing with the kids, but I play on it immediately before and immediately after. So when I made the decision to put my phone down, I didn't even think about the fact that the two were related. And yet, when I made that decision, an amazing thing happened. I found my imagination. When I wasn't worried about Facebook, I was Robin Williams in "Hook." I was seeing the food fight. When I wasn't picking an Instagram filter, I was Ariel in "The Little Mermaid." I could hear the invisible baby that Duchess and I were looking after crying for the strawberries we were in the process of picking from next to the couch. I was playing pretend again. I believed.
I've realized that my lack of imagination and my dependence on my phone are completely and unequivocally related. Before, when I would play with Duchess, in the back of my mind I was thinking about my phone. I was thinking about how I wanted to sit on the couch after my long day at work and catch up on the goings-on of my friends. I wanted to see all the ‘likes’ I had gotten on the filtered picture of me interacting with my child, instead of just interacting with my child. My ability to imagine anything was stunted by the ability to readily access the “reality” that was my Facebook news feed. No wonder I was exhausted after 10 minutes of role-playing. That part of my brain never got any exercise. It didn't need to. I never had to pretend anything because I could feed it with all the "real" updates and news stories it could handle.
And for what? What was the point of looking at my phone so often? It was just habit. It was a terrible habit. Like biting my fingernails or smoking, only instead of inhaling smoke, I was inhaling quippy statuses and cute pictures of babies, hashtags, and “Keep Calm and Do Things” macros. It was constant. Without even thinking about it, I was picking up my phone. Stopped at a stoplight? Check Facebook. On the shuttle? Read ALL.THE.BLOGS. Trying to fall asleep? Better check Instagram again. Forget talking to my husband; did you see that Chris Christy story on Huffington Post! There was never a moment that I was disconnected from the lives of everyone around me. And in doing so, I disconnected myself from the lives I should be MOST connected to. My family.
So, over the last week, I decided to change. I deleted my social media apps. I deleted my news apps. The only games on there are the ones that Duchess likes to play on occasion. Unless I want to play Letter Lab on my iPhone, there’s no reason to even pick it up. I worried about how I would do. And I’ll admit, it was really hard that first day. I didn't look at Facebook the entire day. No Facebook. No Instagram. When John went to put the kids to bed, I finally logged on to get caught up. You know how long it took? About 5 minutes. Within 5 minutes I had read my entire news feed, divvied out my ‘Likes’ and moved on. Hours out of my day spent thinking about what was on my news feed, all to be condensed into 5 minutes of time by myself.
I don’t really do “resolutions”. But here I am, resolving to be a better parent. To be my daughter’s dance partner. To get out from behind the phone and into the pretend picnic Duchess has set up for me. Sorry Facebook, you’ll have to wait, my tea is getting cold.
Love, Mom (Stevie)
P.S. John here. I am on board with all of this. I too have deleted all social media apps from my smart phone. If that doesn't work, I'm going to sell it and find a circa 2005 flip phone. So keep an eye out for me and my bad-a## Motorola Razor.
Don't worry, the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page isn't going anywhere, I'll just be operating it from desktop during non-ninja turtle tea party hours.