I sit in the same corner of the couch every night after my kids go to sleep. I curl up under a blanket, crack open a fresh Diet Coke, and power eat M&Ms while mindlessly scrolling the emptiness of social media. Pre-pandemic, I would find some posts mildly annoying, but overall they served as a pretty harmless distraction.
I would smile, laugh, sometimes roll my eyes, and leave feeling entertained. After two years of a completely upended routine, where in-person is always fraught, everything feels assaultive. From the house tours to the museum trips and everything in between–each post feels like a personal attack on my motherhood and I am left feeling like shit.
I feel resentful when I see someone on a tropical family vacation. I feel inadequate when I see a friend homeschooling her kids and confused when I see large indoor celebrations. I feel angry when I see loud political posts and memes, and I feel annoyed when I see people acting carefree.
Within a few moments of scrolling, I decide that my kitchen is too small, my thighs are too big, and I need a complete wardrobe overhaul. My four-year-old needs to learn how to ride a two-wheeler, my boys need ice skates, and my husband needs to learn how to build me a desk from the pile of old wood in the backyard. I leave feeling frustrated with myself and aggravated with everyone else. So, what is really going on?
Social media was once only a sliver of my experience with people. I saw them in person, chatted with them, observed them, and felt their energy. But for too long now, I have isolated myself. With three young kids and a 2020 baby, I have kept my family mostly at home, except school and a few safely-run activities. I have replaced coffee dates with deep dives into Instagram accounts. I have traded fits of laughter at the indoor playground for Tik Tok dancing. I have foregone real human interaction and replaced it with small brightly lit squares filled with insufferable content, littered with divisive opinions and loud commentary.
Oh, you hiked three miles with four kids and found a baby salamander and a golden goose egg? Cool.
Is your kid swan diving into the infinity pool on your all-inclusive Caribbean vacation? Awesome.
Are you foregoing plastic toys for Christmas and forbidding perishable water bottles at your child’s birthday party? Congratulations.
I am just over here trying to get my daughter to engage in a virtual speech session while hand-washing my sons’ masks, downing a quick CBD gummy, and power-pumping antibodies for my baby.
Everyone feels so loud and phony, and the content feels infuriating. Even text messages and daily drop-off interactions feel strained, like bursts of impersonal information exchanges loaded with opinions and not-so-subtle bragger. But is it the content making me hate people–or is it me?
Except pandemic-related posts, much of what is being shared is the same self-indulgent bullshit it has always been. But maybe my lens has changed. Maybe everything hits a little different when you feel isolated and angry.
Now when I see someone doing something exciting, instead of feeling happy for them, I immediately feel the weight of all my family’s missed opportunities. Hearing someone’s accomplishments reminds me of my insecurities about choices I have made during this time, rather than allowing me to share in their joy. And the annoyance I feel when I see someone’s newly renovated mudroom or perfectly balanced breakfast–well, that is likely a product of my burnout.
So how do I make sure I don’t develop a complete aversion to human beings before this is all over?
I believe my first step is to recognize my feelings for what they are–highly exaggerated sensitivities to everything due to two years of pandemic bullshit. You know, it’s not you, it’s me approach. Limiting exposure to social media should also help, especially since we know it’s primarily mind-ruining anyway. Also, re-finding the joy in real-life human interaction. And, of course–therapy. Because in 2022, we could all use it.
Let’s see how it goes.
Samm Burnham Davidson is an ex-lawyer mom of four who swears a lot. She lives in Beverly, Massachusetts and can be found on Instagram @sammbdavidson.