A few month ago when I made the decision, to take myself off social media for a year, I did so for various reasons. Not least because my two-year-old had taken to running up to me with a worried expression, shouting “mummy, your phone!” whenever he found it not in my hand for more than minutes.
Having amassed some 5,000 Instagram followers as editor of Motherland, the online parenting magazine I ran for three years, I had watched myself mutate from the sort of person who purposely only ever uploaded photos of my kids in an “ironic” way, and only ever occasionally (“See my child being a total monster as we queue for soft-play on Mother’s Day!” sort of thing) to the kind who seemed to be obsessively spamming my various online profiles across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, with fragments of my life.
These days I have become emotionally incontinent about almost every aspect of my life and that of my two children. I was also interested in social media to see how stepping away from the constant objectification would affect my everyday behaviour and outlook, as well as my relationship with my kids who, as with many modern offspring, are used to being photographed approximately 380 times a day.
According to the research people take on average five photos before choosing a selfie to post online, while young people can take as many as 10 almost of those posting selfies say they edit the photo before they share it online. That is particularly troubling as I very firmly don’t want my kids to be conscious of how they look. I want them to be free to play and be kids for as long as possible.
When I found myself regularly walking into a room, seeing my kids embroiled in a lovely imaginary game and shouting. Heavy-hearted, I would watch them shuffle into what they assumed was a more appropriate position, awkward smiles etched on to their faces while I sighed and snapped, and directed them to look more natural.
I’ve had from people about my self-inflicted social hiatus is why don’t I just stay on the sites but stop uploading so many pictures? The sad truth is I began to feel that I was becoming a real-life manifestation of the old philosophical quandary about the tree falling in the woods when no one is there to see it; without an observer, did it really fall at all? The problem for some of us is that even when you know the reasons why you shouldn’t, you do it anyway.
Ultimately, I began to wonder how many times I’d missed out on a special moment with my kids because I was too busy trying to capture it for social media. A month into my exile, I am happy to report I rarely know where my phone is any more – and my kids now don’t bother delivering it back to me.