Week 2 Reflection
Who We Follow by Erin Loechner
Week 2 Reflection - Week of March 6th
I am sometimes asked why I shy away from social media, from more frequent blog updates. Heck, at the heart of what some might call a career, I was childless and churning out multiple pieces a day, often scattered from end to end of the Internet. So what am I hiding now? Did I not lose the pregnancy weight? (No.) Am I getting old and wrinkly? (Yes.)
But I think it has more to do with the high cost of participation in a medium entirely void of context. Sure, I get resentful over the fact that advertisers know me better than my spouse, twitchy over the fact that my data is selling for top dollar.
And yet: my bigger rub is simply the idea that our phones have become a funhouse mirror. Bend it one way and the truth distorts to oblivion.
The wardrobe expert you follow is trying on a new linen jumpsuit. Your therapist’s posting a catchy Canva meme. Your aunt’s showing off a new bathroom remodel.
Today, an influencer shares her favorite morning practice – a mushroom and cocoa elixir that she blends with steamed oat milk and maple syrup after listening to a 10-minute meditation on Headspace. We are too overwhelmed/busy/fidgety for the meditation, but heck, we could buy the tea! Surely we’ll feel better after we spend $80 and sign up for a 30-day moon ritual challenge? Then we’ll be rested? Content? Have less FOMO? Be more present?
Our influential gatekeepers are not the Mirabellas or the Menkes of the past, nor the intern charging $22 salads to Conde Nast’s expense account, nor the ones “in-the-know.” We no longer look to the ivory towers to tell us how to live. Instead, we look to our cell phone towers. We choose our reigning queen based on relatability, on brassy one-liners, on her best Aw, shucks vibe. She speaks to our level, locking eyes with us, rimmed in a ring light. There she is, another mom of three-under-five with the messy bun. There she is, the kitchen table CEO. There she is, the cheeky progressive with feathered earrings.
She makes us laugh. She makes us smart. She makes us feel better.
We follow her.
And our kids follow us.
Your favorite politician is posing, masked, in front of the courthouse. Your best friend is photographing her braid. Your cousin’s neighbor is at the zoo.
This is what it looks like to pledge allegiance to not one Wintour, but many. This is what it means to swim in a sea of must-haves, must-listens, must-watches. To feast on pre-digested ideas and pass them out like Pez. To fill our carts and our ears and our minds with half-priced tees, half-chewed lessons and half-read stats. To repeat quippy sound bites. To bookmark. To like. To save.
For every mother who has said, “But my daughter found herself on social media!” there is another close by: “My daughter lost herself there.”
In an age in which identity is simultaneously encouraged (Be unique!) and denied (But think/look/vote like this!), the cacophony is at an all-time high. Can we hear ourselves through the din? Or are we too caught up in a pre-recorded symphony – tuning into Insta reels while our daughters dance for Tik Tok one room over?
Your niece is working on a charcoal sketch. Your favorite restaurant released their fall menu. Your sister’s kid is at a pride festival.
We make choices – from lipstick shades to political affiliation – based on the information made available to us. But what happens when we don’t choose the information? What happens when availability is chosen for us, served to us by an anonymous algorithm?
What happens is this: we allow our feed to tell us who we are.
We begin to accept voice as validity. We assume the options we see are the only ones that exist. We take the shortcut toward truth. Our world gets smaller.
So, too, do our lives.
The truth is: I don’t want this for my kids. The deeper truth is: I don’t want this for myself, either.
That girl you met at a conference once is splashing in a tide pool.
You are in your kitchen, scrolling, while the eggs burn.
Engaging: verb, present participle: “To occupy, attract, or involve (someone’s interest or attention).”
So what do we do about it? We leave phones in drawers. Sing lullabies to the baby. Try to get to where we’re going without Google maps. Host friends for tea. Play Qwirkle. Take a walk, watch an ant. Learn how to fix a bike. Run down the dunes. Slurp popsicles. Wave to the neighbors. Write a letter. Watercolor a dog. Tie-dye socks. Spin the tire swing. Get caught in the rain. Live life with both hands, not one dragging a terrabyte of info.
We remind ourselves that our babies begin to follow our gaze at three months old – and they never stop. Where we look, they look. Who we follow, they follow. What shapes us will, inevitably, miraculously, shape them.
So we look to something real. We look at something real. We tell our kids, No devices. We’re trying things a different way.
Sure, technology makes everything easier. Easier to deposit a check. (Easier to spend a check.) Easier to save time. (Easier to waste time.) Easier to send an encouraging text. (Easier to receive a discouraging text.)
Easier to find what you’re looking for.
Easier to lose it all.
Once, my friend – an elementary school teacher – told me why faculty no longer encourages single file walking in their school hallways. “Too many people to follow,” she said. “The kids never could see where they were going.”
Article by Erin Loechner | Designformankind.com
Questions for Reflection & Discussion
As you reflect on the following questions, please keep in mind that there are no right answers. Perhaps you just want to pick one question and reflect on it for the week or maybe you want to spend time on each one, do what feels right for you (and what you can fit in!)
What resonated, caught your attention, made you want to dig deeper or left you feeling conflicted about the above reflection?
How do you see your relationship with media - social media or otherwise - impact your life? What struggle do you experience? Is there a both/and that exists here?
Have you noticed a shift in the way you engage with social media since becoming a mother? Or have you noticed other shifts related to motherhood or just a season of life in general?
The author writes: “We remind ourselves that our babies begin to follow our gaze at three months old – and they never stop. Where we look, they look. Who we follow, they follow. What shapes us will, inevitably, miraculously, shape them.” How might this thought influence the way you engage with media around you? What healthy boundaries or practices do you model? What is something you’d like to do differently?
What do you feel your role is in shaping who your child “follows”? What response does even reading that question evoke?
What are some positives you have experienced from social media? Perhaps feel less isolated as a mother or finding connection or encouragement? Something else?
These are optional prompts you may choose to engage with or not. While we won’t center our conversation on these responses, the process of journaling/engaging in a practice can be a helpful tool for deeper self-reflection.