I feel like on average, there are approximately uhmmm –umpteen BILLION notifications sent and received every day through social media, texts, emails, phone calls, whatEVER. I honestly don’t even know how in the world we even begin to keep up with them. And how did we even live life without them in years of our not-so-distant past?
Constant chimes, beeps, ring tones, flashing lights, vibrations, and pop-up windows are interrupting our meals, conversations, leisurely activities, work, study times, and even our sleep! Gasp. As I’ve written these first few sentences, I have received four texts and one Facebook message. Oops– make that five texts. Love you, mom. And your never-ending chain of text messages.
The notifications just keep on coming. Someone liked your picture? Insta will make sure you are notified immediately. Someone sent you a Facebook message? Cue the pop-up window. Oh, you read that message? We’ll make sure the sender is informed that you saw the message and opened it. Text message? Trusty iPhone will notify you not once, but twice. Phone on silent? No worries, your phone will vibrate. Just in case.
It’s the norm. I remember when I started a job a few years back, and was told that we couldn’t have our cell phones out. I had a quick little panic attack thinking about everything I might miss in those EIGHT HOURS of time that I could not be looking at my phone. A lot goes on in the world within that stretch of time. At first, as difficult as it was, I was really diligent. But over time, I slipped a little. Yes, me, Ms. Integrity herself, would peek at that phone every now and again just to make sure everything was ok, and that there were no catastrophes or huge bits of information being missed.
Finally I realized just how often these notifications chime in. I mean really, it’s pretty constant.
Now don’t get me wrong here, I love social media. Before I send the inadequate message that I don’t absolutely love all the awesome people who are the actual cause of all of these notifications, let me explain!
I LOVE being connected to my friends and family, and I love seeing what’s going on in everyone’s lives. I love looking back at my own timeline and seeing what I posted or what I was doing a year ago, two years ago, beyond. I love the interactions. I love the “just to say hi” texts and posts on my timeline. I love messaging back-and-forth through the day with my besties and people who share some of the same things I’m passionate about in life. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!
A few months ago, I deleted every social media app from my phone. I had some other things I needed to focus on and needed to get rid of some of the extra distractions. I kept my texts, emails and phone calls coming, but everything else… gone. I mean, not gone forever. Let’s not be extreme here. But at least gone from my phone. I even decided not to pull them up on my computer. Gasp. Why in the WORLD did I do this?? You must be wondering by now.
It was my daughter. My daughter, completely unknowingly, made a huge light bulb shine brighter than the sun in my brain for a moment.
For a moment, I put myself in her shoes. I saw myself through her eyes. I listened to myself from her perspective.
There she was, this sweet, adorable, three-and-a-half-year-old, spicy little pumpkin pie, staring up at me with big, blue, inquisitive eyes, just waiting for my response to what she had just said.
But wait… what did she say again?
Now. My kid talks. She talks. I mean she talks and talks, and talks. Let me just put myself all the way out there and say that sometimes I wish there were a mute button. That girl never, and I mean NEVER runs out of words. Lately, if for some reason (and trust me this is rare) there is like a five minute gap of time where I don’t hear any talking, I have to look over at her and ask her if she is ok. At which point the talking starts yet again. I’m not the type of person to tune things out, so naturally I am always trying to be proactive in responding and having meaningful conversations with her. But I found myself in a constant downward spiral of saying things like “just one sec…” or “wait, please” or “uh huh” or “what’d you say again?”
I get a little feeling in the pit of my stomach just thinking about how she must have started to engrain this image in her mind of her mommy. Constantly looking down at a cell phone. She, three-years-old, was too young to realize that my constant stare at my phone was just a simple means of staying connected in the social realm of life! It was just an outlet. A way to socialize.
But her social-emotional maturity hadn’t reached the level of that understanding at all, really.
Every time she talked to me, she was looking at me directly, intently, and trying to connect and converse with me. And instead of making meaningful eye contact with her (for more than three seconds), actually listening to what she was saying, thinking about it, and responding, I halfway listened, and kept looking down.
And of course there is more than that. There’s my handsome toddler, who likes to smile and giggle with me every minute of the day. He holds his hand up and gestures to “‘mon!” (come here), whenever I’m not with him. When I glance over at him and smile for a moment, he flashes the largest, most heart-melting smile across his sweet face.
Then there’s my husband and other people with whom I spend my time. Times as simple as walking through the grocery store, getting together for lunch, or meeting for coffee. Even that special time of laying in bed, completely exhausted, ready to drift off to sleep any second.
And I get it! Life is busy! The people around us want a lot of our attention. Sometimes picking up that phone lends us a few moments of escape! But I wonder what would happen if we found more balance, so that those amazing moments are not lost in a sea of social media stairs.
What did I learn during those three weeks without constant notifications flashing across my screen?
I learned that life is beautiful. Well I kind of already knew that. But I realized that it got a little hazy when my mind was in a never-ending, dull scroll through a host of notifications. And I don’t want to see life through a lens of haze.
I was reminded that I want to see life for what it is. Crisp, beautiful colorful moments. Some fun. Some not-so-fun. I want to know, really know my husband (*cues romantic music). I want to cherish the moments with my little ones, knowing that one day, they won’t be so little. I want to get old and wrinkly and have a sharp mind that remembers the moments I shared with my loved ones, and know that I did so by soaking it in like a sponge. Using all of my five senses. Seeing my growing children, smelling their freshly washed hair, hearing their profound make-believe storylines, holding their hands as we walk to the park, and of course tasting the delicious(ish) snack put together with love by my preschooler for her mommy.
I want to soak in the real deal. Every chance I get.