Last week was one of the worst I have experienced in a very long time. The germs in my sons’ schools spun completely out of control and though every other member of my household ended up with only a mild cold, I fell victim to the mother of all flus. Each day I was graced with a new symptom and a new body temperature. Every morning I would stagger to the bathroom, avert my eyes from the frightening image in the mirror, pull out the thermometer and perform a quick assessment of my symptoms. As I pushed the power button on the thermometer, I felt like I was pulling the lever of a slot machine. I swear I could almost hear the gears fall into place, sealing my fate for the day as either passable or quarantined.
During my ridiculously long recovery period (SEVEN days!!!), I discovered something rather concerning about myself. Not that I have homicidal tendencies or a bizarre fetish, but in my book, it's still pretty scary. Being trapped in a prostrate position with extremely diminished mental capacity forced me to acknowledge something I hadn't been able to admit to myself yet. My blood ran cold as I realized that I have a very serious social media addiction.
I honestly have no idea how this happened. I had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into joining Facebook five years ago. (Thanks again, Kel.) For the first two years, I simply existed as an observer. I was still working full-time outside the house and found very little time for anything associated with my laptop other than emails or online shopping. When I occasionally had time to stop by my Facebook page (which was BARREN), I was baffled by the wide range of “Facebook personalities” - from the person who posted EVERYTHING (we’re talking morning grooming routines and daily menu plans) to the person who simply posted thought-provoking articles about the latest social issues. The former was one I wanted no part of and the latter intimidated the crap out of me. What was a girl to do?
Once I had my second child and decided to be a stay-at-home mom, I thought I would finally have time to figure out the mystery of Facebook. Was it really worth my time? This took another year since my younger son didn't have much of a penchant for sleep, which meant I was a sleep deprived mess. After he decided he was no longer a vampire and I had more than two seconds to myself, I decided it was high time that I got my feet wet and joined the world of social media.
Just a couple years later, I have found myself drowning in the sea of cyber communication. Before my days as an author, I was happy to splash around in Facebook and Instagram. Since writing my second book, I have found my way to Twitter, Pinterest, back to LinkedIn (which used to be for just the corporate types) and a variety of book related blogs. The amount of time one can spend posting, commenting, conversing, coaching and debating is absolutely INSANE! So by pushing myself to keep up with the latest of modes of information exchange I now have the massive conundrum of figuring out how to share my time between social media, writing and oh, my family. My children and husband have many needs to be met on a daily basis by Supermom. That’s me. Imagine that?
So now we return to present day and my insane need for the intimate connection to my cyber crew which I get through social media. Let me paint a picture for you. I was almost delirious with fever, sweat was pouring from my brow (and a variety of other places, thank you very much) and I was so dizzy that I could barely lift my head from the pillow. Yet I continued to reach for my phone every time the damn thing beeped, buzzed or chirped. And it makes some kind of noise every freakin’ two seconds. This is completely my fault since I've set it to notify me every time I get a tweet, an email, a text, a Facebook post, a Google Plus post, a Pinterest notification or any other form of communication that currently exists.
I kept trying to ignore the myriad of sounds coming from my phone, but to no avail. Every time my eyelids drooped and I was about to drift off to dreamland, that tell-tale beep, buzz or chirp would emanate from a table just above my head. First, I tried moving the phone out of my reach, reasoning I was too weak to get up and check the notification. I knew I had to keep the phone within reach since either one of my sons could have an emergency at school, but moving the phone further away from myself only meant that I was now risking falling over from my dizzy spells as I got up to retrieve the source of the notification.
On the rare days when my husband was home, I put the phone on a different floor of the house than I was on, knowing he would get the calls from the schools if I didn’t answer my cell phone, but I could still hear the calls of my notifications. I know what you’re thinking: Why not just turn the sound off on your cell phone and make sure that your son’s schools call on your home number? I'm afraid that due to the nature and duration of my illness, I no longer had the mental capacity to use any form of logic. Which leads to the next question: Why didn’t your husband do this for you? The answer to that, my friends, is though my husband is one of the most intelligent people I have ever come across, he can sometimes be clueless. Sigh.
As I lay on the couch, nestled blissfully under the covers after FINALLY finding a position in which my head did not throb so badly that I wanted to rip it from my shoulders, my thoughts would wander back to my digital connections. This would then cause me to fall into a shame spiral as to my patently obvious social media addiction. Why did I feel the need to know exactly what everyone in my network was doing? Why did it matter that I was missing book recommendations, priceless quotations and hilarious stories? And the photos!!! Why did I have to see each and every one of the photos? What was my obsession with all of the silly animals and adorable children? I couldn’t help it; they just did my heart good. And not that I don’t love my own (both animals and children), but sometimes, you need a break from them and you would just like to look at a picture of a cute kid that doesn’t suddenly make you think of the asinine thing that he/they did earlier in the day…
And clearly I couldn’t even claim that my interest was purely in my professional posts and I just happened to glance over at my personal items, you know, since I was already on Facebook and Twitter and, um,…Pinterest… I am an author, after all (chest puffs up). There are so many important things which I simply must do each day so that the world doesn’t forget about me. Because people will notice if I don't post witty comments on my Facebook author page, pipe up with my sage opinion in my author chat boards, post on my blog and tweet insightful comments to my massive following. As if!
If there was anything I took out of my reluctant realization of social media addiction, it was this: the power of social media should only be wielded by healthy people. (I'm able to make an ass out of myself while both completely healthy AND sober! So why take the chance?) No one is going to miss you if you duck out for a week to heal yourself. The world will keep on turning and people will go about their lives, leaving various Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus comments in their wake. Your voice will remain silent for the time being and that’s OK. Your cyber posse will wish you well and will welcome you back happily upon your return. Then it will be someone else’s turn to bow out for a while. And so the cycle continues…
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