I only have a handful of pictures from our family vacation last week. We escaped the "Snowmageddon" that dumped more than 17 inches on the Northeast for what is now our annual trek to Florida in February. The weather was as close to perfect as we could have hoped for, the sunsets were spectacular, both of my children had a wonderful time and my husband and I finally got a chance to reconnect away from the rushed and harried life we live at home.
And I have almost nothing to show for it.
It's not that I was making a conscious choice not to take pictures, it was that I was making a conscious effort not to post them on Instagram, or put them up on Facebook or tweet them. I was taking a much-needed break from social media -- something that is neither original nor uncommon these days. Some people have "Digital Sabbaths" rules of no tech at the dinner table or after a certain time of day. For me, this felt right... and necessary.
The fact that by the third day of our trip, I turned to my husband and said "I haven't made you pose for a single 'selfie' with me yet!" and was somewhat shocked by it said a lot to me. It made me ponder the reason and the audience I take all of those pictures for. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I realized that the hundreds of photos I usually make my children and husband and -- well, chickens I roast and pies that I bake -- pose for are not for us. They are for them. Those people out there that are also spending a lot of their time looking down at the phones they have glued to their hands. The time I spend with those hundreds of photos I cull through trying to find the one that looks the best, then searching for the perfect filter to further enhance it, writing the witty/sarcastic/touching caption that is most fitting -- while I am going through all of those steps for these photos I have taken, I am looking down. I am missing the rest of it. I am impatient and only half-listening to my children or my husband in the moments after the photos have been taken while I go through this process. That's not even counting the embarrassingly high number of times that I repeatedly go back to check how many "likes" and comments the photos have garnered and by whom. It's self-centered, insecurity-based and shameful to admit... but it's true.
I not only suffer from the widely discussed FOMO (or Fear of Missing Out), but I apparently also suffer from the much lesser known conditions FOBI (Fear of Becoming Irrelevant) and FOBF (Fear of Being Forgotten). These conditions are not widely discussed, mostly because I just made them up (the latter of the two clearly needs some work based on the awkward pronunciation challenges it presents).
There were many things I missed while I was away -- most notably a monthly Writers' Salon at a friend's home that I look forward to. Adding insult to injury, the writer that was featured this time was someone whose work I really respect and whom I have gotten to know personally. There were plenty of other writers and friends that I knew that would be there that I either hadn't seen in a while, or had never had the opportunity to meet in person as of yet. And I was disappointed to be missing that, among other things. And I took this break from social media partially so I wouldn't feel badly about the things I was missing while I was gone.
And when I stopped looking down at my phone to see what I was missing, I looked up -- and saw what I was missing.
Instead of grabbing my phone to put the funny quip my husband just said onto Facebook, I laughed until tears sprang out of the corners of my eyes. Instead of Instagramming photos of my kids digging in the sand together, I dug moats and looked for shells with them. Instead of using my phone to shield the sun from my eyes as I scrolled through tweets and Facebook updates, I put my phone away, silenced the ringer and simply closed my eyes -- listening to the sounds of the bay (and the woman incessantly talking in a rather shrill voice about the horrible weather in the Southeast and how many times it had snowed in Texas in the past 20 years -- I mean, really?? It's called the "Calm Pool," lady!).
But I didn't tweet about her. Instead, my husband and I made little jokes about it and rolled our eyes together. And my children kept saying "mommymommymommy" to me all week, but it wasn't because I was tuning them out while looking at my phone -- it was because I was busy talking and listening to one of them and the other wanted my attention. I had more patience and less guilt, more fun and less bickering, more connecting and, well, more connecting. The FOBI and FOBF targets I should be worried about were right in front of me.
And there were some pictures taken -- a handful of the kids at the beach, a few of me attempting the trapeze (apparently I am afraid of some heights -- the guy who assisted me at the top didn't recognize me the following day until I reminded him that I was the one who kept repeating the mantra that only had one word in it -- and it wasn't "luck"), some stunning sunsets, one or two "selfies" my husband and I eventually did take together and just one single photo of all four of us together. It is a bit blurry, and some of us have red-eye, and the flash was too bright, and my son's eyes are half-closed and he is looking away, but we are all smiling. Real, genuine, we-are-enjoying-each-other-and-this-is-not-the-seventh-time-we-are-posing-for-this-picture smiles.
And I am looking up.
This post originally appeared on Dot Complicated.