In theory, social media sounds like a wonderful thing. Through the miracle of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram we post pictures of our kids with their grandparents and reconnect with long-lost friends. We share inspiring videos and sayings. We can uplift, we can inform and we can inspire all with the click of a mouse. Using Facebook, we can even rally around the downtrodden and lift the burdens of others. There are so many great reasons to welcome social media into our lives — in theory.
In reality, social media is a double-edged sword. For every good thing we do on social media, there are a million little ways to waste time and check out of reality. We fritter away hours reaching the next level of a game or scrolling through endless status updates, all of it completely mindless and even relaxing. Social media is seductive. It offers all the perks of reality television voyeurism with a cast of characters we know in real life. When we use social media, we can reconstruct our reality to show our best side; only the greatest pictures and most inspiring moments make it to our pages. Through social media, we can paint the best picture of ourselves for the entire world to see.
What's the harm? Who are we hurting by indulging in a little mindless social media? Sometimes, unfortunately, the answer is our children. Social media, with all its appeal, has assumed a 24/7 presence in our lives. At home we can use our laptops, when we're waiting we can turn on our tablets, and our smart-phones give us unlimited access to our 500 friends' every thought and action. Because, of course, how would we make it through the day not knowing our cousin got a new haircut?
All the while, our children play around us, growing up too often without us noticing. As we escape into social reality land, there is a temptation to check out of the wonderful life that is blossoming all around us. To those of us with young children, we're kidding ourselves if we think the little moments don't matter. There will always be time to find out what that long-lost BFF is making for dinner, but no matter how many times we press the “back” button, we cannot recreate lost moments with our family.
Something amazing happens when we power down and get down on the floor with our children. Through the eyes of a child, we're reminded of the wonder, the unbiased awe, that is childhood. Our children's astute observations will cause us to question the validity of our “perfect” social media profile. Only through spending one-on-one time with our children will we finally see that perfection is over-rated. It is the daily, monotonous, messy, imperfect moments that make life with children equal parts frustrating and captivating.
We only have so many years when our children want to play with us. Fort building, shadow puppets and story books all come with an expiration date. In the blink of an eye, our children will pass into the next phase of life, and they'll do it without our consent. If we choose to ignore the magical little moments that color childhood, we may well find ourselves wishing we could go back. Parenthood is much more about the daily finger painting and block building than big birthdays and vacations. Every day we have the privilege of crafting irreplaceable memories with our children. It would be a shame to waste these precious days.
There is nothing inherently wrong with social media. Before you delete all of your accounts, consider the media restrictions we often impose upon our children. If we see fit to limit our children's screen time, doesn't it also make sense to limit our own? If the kids are awake, consider powering down. There is no status update so important that it can't wait until after bedtime. Really, the only thing that can't wait is our children. Besides, scrolling through Pinterest is much more fun without a horde of screaming kids clamoring for attention. No one is suggesting neglecting “mommy time”, but let's make sure mommy time isn't impinging on memory-making time. There is room enough in your life for both.
Make today the day you choose to get off Facebook and go play with your kids. Whether it be for an hour, a day or a permanent lifestyle change, you won't regret the time you dedicate to your kids. Don't trade sticky smiles and nursery rhymes for a world that approximates but will never fully captures the beauty of what lies right in front of us. Your kids will surprise, astound and amaze you as you get to know them. Don't miss out on the opportunity.
Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Family Share. It has been reprinted here with permission.
Heather Hale is a fourth-generation Montanan, mom to two crazy boys, and wife to one amazing husband. You can learn more about her eco-conscious lifestyle at moderatelycrunchy.com.