One of the best things about attending women’s social media conferences is the “normalizing.” If we can stay out of fear and scarcity (I’m not enough / I’m not doing enough / my blog isn’t big enough), we can really sink into the important truth that we are all in this together.
We’re all afraid, brave, excited, anxious, loving social media, and sick to death of it.
I had the great privilege of giving the closing keynote at the EVO 10 Conference on Saturday. I say privilege because:
1. The conference was amazing
2. I had the honor of sharing the stage with the awesome Karen Walrond (who is one of my real-life BFFs, but it was our first co-presentation)
3. The audience was incredibly kind and generous.
Karen and I talked about authenticity online and I shared some of my research on worthiness and courage. We didn’t have much time for a Q+A, so folks have been tweeting and emailing me great questions.
I thought it might fun to unpack some of the questions over the next couple of weeks. I don’t necessarily have answers or solutions, but I can share what I’ve learned from my work and how I’m trying to apply it in my life.
It seems like one of the biggest issues is about time, boundaries, and family, so we’ll start here.
Social media is like gas – it expands to fill whatever space you give it. The questions become:
1. Are we so busy blogging about our families that we’re actually ignoring them?
2. Are we so consumed with sharing our experiences that we’re actually missing out on our lives?
One of my greatest fears is that my children will remember me like this:
Or they’ll write a poem about me that includes this line:
Her hands were smooth and delicate. She could text 50 words per minute.
Here’s what I’ve learned (and desperately struggle to practice):
We don't need to apologize to our children for working. They don’t need us to be sorry, they need us to be present.
It doesn’t matter if we engage with technology and social media to feed our families or to feed our souls; it’s our work. It’s important and it’s not the problem.
The problem is being constantly distracted and never fully present.
Here are my fears and hopes:
1. I don’t want my kids to feel like they’re competing with my computer for my time or attention. I’ll NEVER forget when Charlie was about 2 years old and he said, “You play with Chawlie or you play with com-poo-der?” Crushing.
2. I don’t want to force myself into a false dichotomy: It’s not give up my awesome work and the ability to do it from home OR be a good parent.
3. Sometimes I ask myself When Ellen grows up and has her own therapist, what will she say about my career? (I know it’s crazy, but it’s job hazard in my line of work). Last year this answer bubbled up in my heart and it changed everything: “My mom loved her work but she was always so anxious about being a 'good mom.' Her work was great, but her anxiety was contagious.” I’m really working on this.
4. I don't want to constantly buy more technology time for myself by sticking my kids in front of technology. Mommy has 20 more minutes of work, watch TV.
5. I do want to model the importance of hard work and persistence. These are two of my core beliefs and also my strengths - I want to hand them down. In my work I see how privilege and entitlement eventually crush a child's self-worth. I don’t want my kids to be afraid of disappointment and work. My work is demanding and I want to model rising to the challenge.
6. I want to teach and model that loving what you do and doing what you love is wonderful, but still requires mindfulness.
Here’s what I’m working on:
1. No computer in the morning before school. UGH. I love waking up and checking Twitter, Facebook, and emails while I drink my first cup of coffee. I’ve decided that I can’t do that unless I’m willing to wake up before my kids. Once they’re up - no technology until they leave for school. No checking emails on my iPhone while I pack lunches or corral the teeth-brushing.
2. I’m employing the Nordstrom method of engaging. The salespeople at Nordstrom always walk around to the front of the register table to hand you your bag. They never reach over the counter. I’m trying to do the same thing. I’m trying to never talk to my kids over the top of my laptop or while I’m staring at the screen.
If I’m working and they need something quick (e.g., Where are my goggles?), I’ll pause, look them in the eye and tell them. If they need more attention, I say, “I want to talk to you about this. Give me ten minutes to finish my work.” Obviously, if it’s important, I shut the top and physically turn my body toward them. I started this a few months ago and now both of my kids will often say, “When you’re done can you . . . “
3. In addition to the morning technology break, Steve and I are thinking about implementing technology Sabbath around here. Time when there’s no TV, iPods, computers, iPads, etc. We're big believers in the family dinner and we’re thinking about extending tech-free family time to later in the evening a couple of nights a week.
These issues come down to respect and connection. As a college professor I see many young students who struggle to connect – to look people in the eye, to carry on a conversation without checking their phones, to walk across campus without talking, texting or listening to music. It’s a problem.
We need more authentic connection.
In this accidently controversial post about cell phones and customer service, I shared this quote by Martin Buber – I love it so much.
“When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.”
I believe this is true.
As you can tell, this is a huge issue for me. I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts and learn what practices work for you.