It started sometime in January of 2017.
Almost two years ago.
I remember I was standing in the banquet space at the downtown market, representing my business at a bridal show. I never do bridal shows but I did this one to test out the waters. I was scrolling my instagram feed in the midst of an attendee lull, and it hit me. It hit me so hard that I often recall that moment even two years later: scrolling my feed made me feel icky. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it then but there was something about the content I was seeing (nothing specific but social media content as a whole), the experience I had while engulfed into my feed and the lives of others, the habitual scroll of my thumb, the way my head tilted down, shoulders hunched over my screen; something finally started to feel off. The sameness glared back at me. I don’t think I ever recovered from that day. It’s been the catalyst for where I’ve landed.
Now to be very, very clear and I hate disclaimers but I’ll give this one. There are so many positive rewards to social media, rewards I have enjoyed and accepted with open arms. Whether or not the rewards are a result of strategic social media use or simply how social media is wired to work, my life would look different without it. My business, how I market myself, and the work I do would look quite different. Some of the greatest friendships and opportunities I’ve enjoyed over the last almost decade, both personally and professionally, wouldn’t have happened without social media. FaceTime with my father, Facebook with my Aunt, seeing what my little brother is up to on Instagram, wouldn’t be possible without the connection of social media. Friends in Canada and all over the world really, would be out of touch. That thought alone, that some great sources of joy in my life wouldn’t be possible without social media, makes me feel sad.
More transparently, some of the ways I and others measure my success and validate the things I do and say, positive or otherwise, wouldn’t be possible without social media either. I’ll admit that. I think part of the solution to the problem I’m about to lay out here is ownership and honesty. The double-edged sword of social media. When you put yourself out there the feel good parts come hand in hand with the parts that feel icky.
In the past when I’ve shared my opinions on social media I’ve been told I’m too sensitive. Too negative. Too focused on what doesn’t matter. Too worried about what others think. Too this and too that. And perhaps those statements hold weight. But perhaps they don’t. I realized right around the time Ev was born that my feelings towards social media aren’t ones I need to justify or try to pair together with trending hashtags to create a movement online with other people who may feel like me. I don’t want to be an it-girl or viral sensation or ambassador for change. Instead my thoughts and feelings are what they are.
Real. Strong. Deep. Imperfect. Inspiring. Thought-provoking. Honest.
And it was after Ev was born, when life again became so different like it did the first time I had a baby, and someone asked when I’d be sharing the news of his arrival online, that I instantly became unapologetic about these social media feels. The way I feel, the thoughts I have, the things I do, make me ME. That’s a powerful thing.
They don’t require any justification.
But for me all of this required a change.
So how did we get to 2019 and my radical thoughts on social media use?
Somewhere over the last two years I became inspired by the thought of living a peaceful and joyful life, and running a thriving and inspiring business, without relying on social media. Or rather, without believe the illusion that I ‘need’ it to be successful. The thought, a life with less time engaged in social media, seemed so harmonious. Somehow I, and ‘we’, ran businesses and did inspiring work before social media through other ‘social’ practices, and I suspect we will continue to do just that in the future when technology and society drives the next change in how we communicate.
But I wanted to explore what it would look like for me. I remember at Making Things Happen Lara asked us at the end of our second day together, “What do YOU want to make happen?” I didn’t even raise my hand but I remember being the first person to boldly blurt out, “I want to run my business and live my life fully without depending on social media.” I remember so many attendees nodding in solidarity. I got goosebumps remembering that moment.
Another odd thing happened when Ev was born.
I started experiencing this urge to pull back. I wanted to disappear. I was actually wanting to delete my social (business) accounts all together but a wise friend advised against it for reasons not important to this post. Many of the usual things I share started to feel tremendously private and not worth the time of other’s, let alone the time it was taking me, away from my treasures to share. My finger would hoover over the ‘post’ button and I could FEEL this physical and emotional urge to resist touching my screen. I would ask myself, what good is coming from sharing X? Am I sharing to boast or brag about something good in my life? Or am I sharing to inspire, educate, or bring happiness to others? Am I sharing to fit in or feel validated? Or am I sharing because there’s inherent good in my content and this is what I’ve been called to do? There were endless thoughts about motive, the things I share, and why (I partially blame hormones). So I put my phone to the side and I’d usually determine that being present, keeping my experiences private or at least sharing them here on the blog in a much more personalized way, was the best and most calculated way for me to use social media. It felt like an exhausting way to approach my social media use.
As such questioning my every scroll, post, photo, word, and story still felt like a temporary, if not overly complicated, way of using social media to achieve maximum contentment in my business and life. And remember I’m all about making things as simple as possible this year? Are you with me still? Good.
I revisited the idea of LESS social media or rather, using it differently, in December. Celebrating the holidays in a transitional season gave me space to do that. Being up in the middle of the night, a lot of times more than once, sometimes more than twice, gave me space to think clearly. I remember making myself a promise before Ev was born: I would not once bring my phone into his room to mindlessly scroll or do whatever in the glare of my screen while I was nursing him. This was an especially important rule to apply to our nighttime nursing sessions when it’s hard to myself away from a cozy bed and peeling my eyes open feels impossible. But I knew I needed to do it to start using social media in a way that puts my most important roles on a pedestal above less important ones. And I’ve done just that over the last 13 weeks. It’s been the greatest promise I’ve made to myself. It has inspired me to dig deeper into this phone and social media use conundrum.
I’ve shared my feelings about social media with a few close friends. I’ve asked friends for messy truths and hard-earned advice. I’ve prayed for guidance. I’ve greatly enjoyed reading this woman’s perspective on social media, trends, the wedding industry, and so much more. After reading Sarah’s blog posts, multiple times, about her 2018 without social media I started to greatly ENVY her! I wanted what she had. Maybe not days spent on the farm in New York with sheep and whatever else lights her fire, but I wanted her unapologetic nature and her brazen, trailblazing ways of living out what brings her contentment and magic. I wanted that. I still do.
We were standing in the kitchen in December, me on the brink of going back to work which is always the most bittersweet of experiences, when I told Andrew wouldn’t it be nice (poor choice of words but I digress) to do this whole life-online differently? If I could strategically find a way to connect with others (the heartbeat of my brand), share what I do and what I love (another pillar of my business), and manage friendships, colleague relationships, and partnerships, WITHOUT feeling like it’s all contrived and distracted and part of the sameness I especially find to be suffocating in my industry and in motherhood, that would be the hot spot. The space where contentment, not happiness, but contentment exists. And where peace, contentment’s close cousin, likes to hang out.
Hello peace! My name is Rhiannon and I think I know you from somewhere?
I also read this post. I immediately bookmarked it and found myself, as I often do, down the rabbit hole of overthinking. What if the very emotions I feel are the ones my sharing causes others to feel? What if we’re (again that ‘we’; I’m generalizing) simply sharing or doing things, making decisions, because of the influence of others? Social media googles. I don’t want to feel like this anymore but I also don’t want to do, say, share things if they’re going to make others feel the same icky way I’ve often felt. I laughed as I read that post. Felt reflective as I read it a second time, wondering if I’ve been ‘that’ person. And felt sure about embracing change as I read it a third time. I’m in agreement! I don’t want to know about so and so’s date night and Starbucks visits! And they probably do not want to know about mine. How can we inspire better? How we can guard our treasures better?
So back to that day in the kitchen with my husband as I tried to avoid all of the dairy-laden holidayish things at my fingertips in hopes it would/will help sweet Ev cry less during the day. He doesn’t say much after I make my bold statement, a typical response from my husband when I throw out big ideas. But he instead tells me, in a bit of an emotionally detached way, it sounds like a good idea. I simply nod my head. And as I nod my head and feel my anxiety start to slip away so too do visions of pristine interiors, manicured hands and perfect foamed lattes, half open smiles captured in perfect headshots that can’t be real smiles but they look pretty and approachable, OOTDs (you know, outfits of the day) that rival my maternity sweats and always make me wonder how environmentally friendly all those clothes are, and flat lays of all the pastel hued things. Actually, flat lays of ANYthing. I realize these aren’t the problem. They are a part of it. I AM a part of it. I am contributing more blush and imperfect-words-paired-with-perfect-imagery to the pile. There’s photos of me, many, with half open and posed, but joyful smiles. It’s not what I’ve done but what I plan to do moving forward. I want to rework this.
. . . . .
My plan is simple in theory but will be hard to execute.
Just two weeks into things now, I feel like I did for most of my life as a high level athlete. Always having to say no, sit out, miss out, be late, or be absent in favor of doing something harder that will help me reach a big end goal (for me that was an athletic scholarship and once that was checked off the bucket list, it was committing to the promise I made to Michigan State University as one of their varsity athletes). Practices, competitions, runs, weights, weigh-ins, meetings, travelling, a specific GPA; these things meant turning down sleepovers, dances, parties, dates, classes, trips, other sports and creative endeavors, and sometimes even basic tasks like showers, normal meal times, family or extra sleep. Small problems in the grand scheme because I think my character is hugely reflective of the sacrifices I made being a gymnast for 20 years but still. There’s part of me that feels like being online less, means I am going to fall through the cracks, and with it will go all of the things I’ve worked hard to cultivate. Or that I’ll be seen, or worse, start to feel, less empathetic towards others. I worry I’ll know less about people and lose connections I’ve created over the last eight years. This isn’t about FOMO. There’s no fear. Just a little bit of the melancholy that hits when you embark on change and experience the unknown.
Once a week. More if needed during seasons or weekends where work responsibilities call for it and less if I’m busy living life, but posting once a week on Instagram is my plan for 2019. That gives me 52 opportunities to bless, inspire, educate and share via my public Instagram account in whichever way feels the most genuine, and more importantly, worth my time. I don’t go to the gym to sit in the lobby and watch people on the ellipticals (tempting but still). So I don’t want to sit in the lobby of my account and watch other people live out moments that I too have in front of me. ‘Time flies,’ they say. And I say, it sure does if you let it.
I’m working with a new life coach to better hone in on my brand message now that I’m almost a decade in and how all of the things I love and am good at (wedding planning, caring for others, managing details, flower design, writing, making soap, being funny, cleaning, etc; how’s that for self confidence?) make sense for my brand. To do this right I believe I need to start from the ground up. I’m being cognizant of the very humbling reality that this sharing is largely a part of my efforts to run my business and reach many professional goals. So whatever it is I share, I want it to be good and worth my time and yours. While I’m doing my best to live life outside of those squares I want to in turn inspire you to think long and hard about it too.
I also want to be hyper aware of how I can be a better colleague and friend with less time online. To continue flourishing in my career, cultivating relationships, and maintaining friendships with long distance friends, I believe I’m required to show up on social media and lend support and encouragement. But perhaps I can show up less where others see it and instead get creative with ways to lend the same support OFFLINE. More networking events, phone calls, handwritten letters, referrals and thank you notes, dinner parties, hyperlinks back to vendor’s websites when I blog about them, random acts of kindness; that’s a start right? I don’t want to reinvent the wheel but perhaps an old fashioned approach to staying social will help me to maintain and continue building valuable and treasured professional and personal relationships.
Next month marks ten years of blogging. My fiery appetite for writing and nurturing this space has not wavered. Some days I open my computer and feel like the 22-year-old version of myself, sitting at a terribly tacky dining room set (you know the bar-height, square ones with awful matching stools?) in a Chicago apartment creating a blogger account. The rush I felt then drafting up my first post and putting a little piece of me out into the world, is the same rush I get now when I sit down to my couch to blog. Sometimes I sit at my desk to blog and sometimes it’s on our bed because it’s closer to the nursery. Sometimes it’s in the driveway too, because the baby fell asleep before we got home and I know I can pull the Wifi signal from the house and maximize that last little bit of nap time. But that rush! I still get it. I’m still hungry for more. I know there’s so much more out there.
Something about the blog feels incredibly more personal. Not only do I obviously have the space here for many (many, many) more words than an Instagram caption allows, but here I don’t feel so contrived. I feel like my vulnerability, a big part of my make up, isn’t such a target on my back but instead a strength I can play to. There less of a pull to the things it seems everyone else is doing or sharing; here I can resist the temptation to do what’s easiest to fit in and flourish in sharing what I want. There’s an emotional and timely investment people make when they read my blog. And perhaps that’s what I love so much about the relationships I’ve created here versus the ones on quick touch social media. I feel connected to my readers. I feel a sense of community. I feel like this is home. And I never want to leave.
. . .
I was working in my office the other day, at 5:00 am, tackling some emails for an August client. I was working hard, focused on my end goal, when I looked up and realized the beautiful circumstances surrounding me. I’m so grateful for my home studio. It’s really quite lovely. ‘How can I share this on Instagram in an inspiring way?’ I thought. And I determined I couldn’t. I won’t. So I kept working.
I was standing in the bathroom getting the Nose Frieda ready for Ev (our family has been sick on rotation now for six weeks so snot sucking it is!) and Andrew walked in with that little butterball of a baby. He was smiling at himself in the mirror and we were giggling at the cute factor. Lachlan soon found himself in the bathroom too so I picked him up and we all started to giggle together at our reflections. I looked for my phone. Andrew checked his pockets. And as luck would have it, we were blissfully in the middle of a joyful moment that will need to be kept close to my heart instead of my camera roll. It was a pocket of peace.
I was taking a video of Ev the other day because he recently started to giggle. Well, it sounds like he’s trying to giggle and it’s adorable. I’d have a million babies just for their giggles if it weren’t for the sheer absurdity of wanting a million babies. As the camera was rolling I realized he wasn’t smiling so I peeked to the side of my phone to make silly faces in hopes of catching one of those first giggles. And I realized his eyes darted back and forth from the phone to me. His mother. The phone. Back and forth his steel blue eyes went. One thing can be saved for another time. One thing matters most. And so I quickly put down my phone.
Head down, work hard, maintain momentum, seek out peace and embrace it.
I forgot to add: savor that life in front of you. It’s short, my friends.
To new strategies and radical approaches to being social in 2019. Much love, xoxo