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$1800 or Social Media

by Jennifer Smith 4 months ago in social media
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Breakups hurt, but they are worth more than money

$1800 or Social Media
Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

When my son was around four, we did our first Whole30. If you are not familiar, a basic description of the program is that it is designed to change your relationship with food, for the health benefits and the emotional ones. For thirty days, you eat nothing but real, whole food and eliminate the ones that are processed and known gut disrupters. The program forces you to recognize the importance of food, especially its quality, and acknowledge the habits we form around consuming it. 

I wanted to do it for health reasons, but the knowledge and power gained through the challenge were equal, if not more significant. It is not a diet; it's a lifestyle change.

What usually begins with a public declaration as a form of accountability - guilty - ends in private celebration to the discovery that we are more than capable of doing the things we have improperly labeled as hard. I can go back to eating crackers and candy after the thirty days, but do I enjoy it? Nope. They do not taste the same. I know that chocolate chip cookies made with almond flour and natural sweeteners like maple syrup or honey taste infinitely better than the packaged stuff. Food made in this way is more satisfying and flavorful than packaged ones unnecessarily sweetened with sugar and preservatives, and bonus, it is cheaper! 

I also know the physical discomforts if I indulge or give in to temptation. 

F-you, bean dip.

What does this have to do with social media? 

It is the same thing.

---

A story circulated last week celebrating an 18-year-old who cashed in on a challenge wagered against him by his mother six years ago. The challenge was to stay off social media until he turned 18, at which time she would give him $1800. 

The mother was inspired by another who made a similar agreement, but her motivation was personal. She had the experience of watching her older children - daughters - fall victim to the pitfalls of social media.

As a parent of quickly aging young children, I applaud this young man and the intervention by his mom. 

I also must say, it did not seem too much of a hardship for him. He had other interests and never had the experience of social media before.

It would be easier to give up bread, cheese, alcohol, etc., etc., etc. if you never had bread before. Bread. That's all I'm saying. 

The teen missed out on nothing. He benefited from lessening the distractions and manufactured drama of his peers.

---

Let me explain an unfortunate side-effect of eating clean and recognizing how crappy you feel after eating less than ideal food. You sometimes become a complete asshole to those you see indulging in said food. You want everyone to experience this euphoria and cannot fathom why anyone would choose otherwise.

Insufferable, I know. I never felt it out of a place of superiority. That was simply what my accountability looked like at first. For the most part, I kept all judgments to myself. The only exception was with my mother. 

Sometimes mothers also need a firm hand to guide them in a healthier direction - with food and Facebook.

My son was young when we started eating healthier. As a result, he knows the importance of what he eats, and we didn't have to break any bad habits or take anything away. He understands the purpose of food, the harms of unhealthier forms of cooking, and he enjoys the process of making meals and baking. We have been honest and hopefully educational with him about our choices. Our two-year-old has only known this way, and you will always find her beneath her dad's elbow as he makes dinner or sneaking carrot sticks as I make her brother's lunch.

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What I admire the most about the social media challenge the mother in this story gave her son is that it came from experience, not just unknown fear. She witnessed the struggles of her teen daughter, took her phone away, and watched as the pressure and depression dissolved for confidence and focus.

Know better, do better, as the saying goes.

My first experience with social media was MySpace. I was an emotionally charged 24-year-old, and that was still too soon. 

There was a comfort, albeit creepy, in knowing where your friends and loved ones were - at all times. Those of you that sit in a ballpark of 40-ish years, you remember that flashing little light that told you you were not alone. You could turn it off, but where was the fun in that? How else would your off-again ex know you probably just saw the pictures his dumb new girlfriend posted on his page. It was the perfect time to make one of those articles you could set to only his eyes, and know dumb girlfriend knew he knew it was there.

Oh, yea, we knew it would be harmful, but if you were like me (or all the guinea pigs at Harvard with Zuckerberg) living thousands of miles away from home, it was comfort and connection. 

I craved the simplicity of early social media sites such as MySpace when Facebook got more complicated and commercial. We got to act as our own page designer (do you remember how proud you were when you figured out how to change the wallpaper?!). We even had the opportunity to add a widget to play a musical greeting like a mood ring for our humble piece of the internet.

The best part was that people had to come to you. The creative simplicity of those early sites meant that any chaos created was of our own volition.

Kind of like bean dip. 

I wish I could eat the bean dip. 

---

Sixteen years later, I have finally left Facebook. 

And, I'm back on the bread. 

---

Leaving Facebook took six soul-crushing years of watching previously sane, loving friends and family abandon all rational thought. As they embraced dangerous and extreme ideologies - and enthusiastically promoted them, what started as amusing, even a bit entertaining, turned stressful and toxic.

At the end, I was slinging insults.

I hold no regrets for that, as I did it in the name of innocent kids and people that have done nothing to deserve rumors, hate, and cowardly attacks.

But it was not sustainable.

Nobody asked me to come to their defense, and worse, those exchanges and even the casual daily scrolling began taking a toll on my health.

I developed stress knots between my shoulder blades, and my eye would twitch from a lack of peaceful sleep, all for what?

Those people felt zero shame, and I took that as a challenge. My body was manifesting that loss before my mind and heart agreed that they no longer were deserving of my time.

Like all other parents out there, I have plenty of unknown fears. But with this one, I have experience. I have it as a consult for future choices.

---

Before you think of me as a monster, my son has recently tried McDonald's World Famous Fries®, and we treated him to a cinnamon bun at the mall (you know the one). He thought they were just ok. 

I will keep the gloating to a minimum.

Those foods are so delicious to our memories, yet, they failed our tastebuds miserably here in the present.

He - we - needed that experience. 

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. -Maya Angelou 

I am back on the bread because I know what ingredients and brands my body can tolerate - and it was a pregnancy craving two years ago that I have yet to give up. The body, mine at least, likes to mess with me from time to time. Fools me into thinking I can do wild things, like eat dairy and sandwiches regularly. It's super fun, and I do not recommend it. 

But habits and comforts are hard to let go of. 

So you take a break. 

---

While I write this, I am glued to yet another tragedy unfolding in the world, so it would be a lie to say I could give up all of the social media. The same device used to fuel disinformation and discourse has brought a world together, united against a common enemy. It is a wonder and a tragedy to watch a war play out on the other side of the world.

I would never deny that opportunity to my children or choose willful ignorance for myself. Social media facilitates so much good, in the form of connection to people, resources, and information, that we cannot wish for it all to go away. 

That is an impossibility, not worthy of our thoughts and wishes, which turn out to be our time and health.

What is worth our time is self-reflection on how we use these sites and the way they make us feel. How might we prepare the young people in our lives, growing up in a society addicted to its content and usage?

Many discussions about the negatives of social media revolve around the sense of belonging it gives people. The mothers issuing social media challenges stopped this line of thinking before it could root.

Their kids instead connected. Connected to their academics, sports, and friends in person. 

I am no longer in high school, and those family members I was fighting with on Facebook haven't been in my physical life for over twenty-three years. I no longer belong to those groups, not really. It was simply Facebook. 

The connection was not healthy. I broke it. 

What could you give up or take a break from if you were promised a financial reward at the end?

What if all you got at the end was a healthy glow and better sleep?

***

Originally published for Motivate the Mind, a Medium publication.

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About the author

Jennifer Smith

California girl, living my questionably best life in Hawai'i. Wife and mom. A lover of sports, books, craft time, black coffee, and overthinking.

Reading and writing helps me make sense of the world—big W global one, and little w mine.

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