My Commitment to Slower Tech and the Making Life
When my middle son, who has a serious heart defect, was a baby, I remember his cardiologist talking about how his medical needs would vary throughout his life. His early years, the cardiologist correctly predicted, would be intense, and at times scary. (He had three open-heart surgeries and suffered a sudden cardiac arrest by the time he was four.) Once he got through this stage, he would enter what his cardiologist called the Golden Years: a middle childhood characterized by relative normalcy and good health.
The Golden Years will likely be followed by an increased need for medical intervention as he becomes an older teen and then a young adult. At this point, it’s science fiction; we don’t know what kinds of medical technologies will come online in the next decade. (He’s 10.) We feed him well. We keep him active. But that’s where our power as parents ends.
It’s true that we are currently in the Golden Years. My son’s only medication is a daily chewable aspirin. He plays recreational soccer, though he doesn’t quite have the running stamina of most kids his age. He lives a good life.
But I’m worried that I’m squandering his Golden Years scrolling on my phone.
I used to have a pretty good grasp on my screen limits pre-pandemic
I would post to Instagram, be active in the comments for about an hour, then put it aside. I even incorporated my personal guidelines in my course, The Mindful Wardrobe Project. I thought I had a balanced relationship with tech.
Enter the pandemic, and, quite understandably, my parameters started to erode. Like many of you, I was lonely. My kids were bored. We were bored. And stressed. So I reached for my phone, both to forget it all, to attempt to connect, and to follow any whiff of drama, as the algorithm so adeptly points us toward. Instead of spending my “extra” moments following creative whims and making something with my own hands, I started to feel lethargic about beginning any project, other than the ones that were necessary for work. There were too many options. Too many choices. Too much external input clouding my creative path. Instead, I watched others make things, and I felt shame for being on my phone, for not being emotionally present for my kids, and for not doing much of anything with my hands.
In contrast, six years ago, when I started posting to Instagram after having blogged regularly since 2005, it felt like a welcome relief for my tired mom brain. A quick picture, a few words – it was the perfect platform for that time in my life, with three little kids afoot, one of whom had serious medical needs. We were all recovering from emotional (and in his case, physical) trauma. It was a place where I could follow my fellow fiber friends and feel like part of a community. The posts were chronological, seemingly unmediated by the platform itself, and it felt supportive and encouraging.
Now, I don’t see my friends’ posts with any regularity. Ads are more common. Posts themselves are more likely to include influencer ads. And the Instagram algorithm is much heavier handed, deciding what I see and when.
I’m grateful to Instagram for being a tool for connecting and inspiring folks in the sewing and making communities, but it is no longer serving my needs as a human and a maker. I harbor no judgement of those for whom the platform is still serving as a connector and a source of inspiration. If that’s you, then I’m legitimately happy for you! It’s how I used to feel, too, so I totally get it.
But for me, I’m putting down my phone and picking up my knitting needles, so to speak
I’m planning to spend less time on social media, particularly Facebook and Instagram. But I’m not backing out of an online presence – to the contrary. I will be back to blogging. I’m interested in more in-depth, nuanced writing and reading, more creative photography, and more mindful making. This is not about increasing my productivity, in my small business or in my personal life; it’s about living fully present in The Golden Years – my son’s, my other kids’, my parents’, my partner’s, my friends’, my animals’ – and my own.
I do predict that I will end up with a more robust, fulfilling making life, though that won’t necessarily mean sewing more and more, faster and faster. Since I started preaching the Slow Sewing gospel back in 2015, my views have not changed. It is still about slowing down, enjoying the process of sewing one seam at a time, and balancing your fiber creativity with the other ways your creativity naturally manifests in day to day living, be it getting dressed every morning, parenting, writing, cooking, thrifting, or wherever your interests perch for the time being.
What does this mean for Sew Liberated
It just means that my (and Meredith’s) thoughts and presence will live here, on the blog, and excerpts of our writing and photography will be published to Instagram and our newsletter. You may not even notice a difference, but I hope – for those who are feeling the weight and the pressure of social media – that our commitment to the longer form here will help you stop feeling the pull to scroll, to consume inspiration at a frenetic pace, to “keep up” while your personal mindful making practice suffers.
Sew Liberated’s goal is not to sell more and more patterns and grow bigger and bigger. We are small and will stay that way. I never want my personal creative practice to be a source of overwhelm for you. My greatest desire is for our online presence, sewing patterns and courses to enrich your life, lessen your overwhelm, and help you find that contented flow that can only be found in living a fulfilled, creative life.
To us, you are not an engagement statistic or a potential customer to be funneled into purchase. You are someone who enjoys making things with their hands. And our commitment to you is to help you do just that, in a way that is wholesome and supportive of your overall mental health. We want to be a support to you as you take needle and thread to the fabric of your Golden Years.
(I watched the documentary The Social Dilemma with my oldest son and partner recently. It’s a good exploration of some downsides of the current social media landscape.)
I wrote a very similar post on my blog recently. I too miss the days of long inspiring blog posts sometimes scattered with pictures. I still blog – I feel much more connected and yes I do post on Instagram but never stay long. I’d rather read posts like yours
This resonates to me so much. I had thought about it but never put words onto my thoughts.
I have not posted, nor I go to Instagram as often. It is just not the same anymore. It used to be friends’ postings mostly and now more and more ads that I am not interested in. I have moved on to reading and knitting as well.
thank you so much for this post. as a mom and craftswoman, i feel overwhelmed and preassured by the speed of social media. i feel like i’m never really present and mindfull at my work, at my role as a mother, at anything.
i truly hope we can change this and make the algorithm work in our favor, not the opposite.
thank you for writing this. 🙂
I love this so much. So many of the ideas you share here are things I share as well. So excited to see your work here on the blog (where you’re not working for Mark Z for freeeeeee!!)
I love this, Meg. Thanks for giving voice to what many of us are feeling. XO
I commend you. I left FB several years ago, and I’ve not once regretted it. I started to feel the same way about Instagram, and so I left Instagram at the end of 2020 after watching The Social Dilemma. I tried to simply minimize my usage for awhile, but it just didn’t feel like the Instagram of y’or. As you said, I no longer saw my friends posts. And even when I did or they saw mine, we mostly just liked and moved on.
The only social media I deal with at this point are Pinterest when I need to create an idea board (and recipes, because there are honestly some great ones on there) and YouTube, and I don’t post on either. As an aside, I have learned how to do SO MANY THINGS from both of these platforms, so I have to give credit where credit is due. Some may find that silly to completely opt out of social media when it’s such a huge part of culture these days. Life is much quieter, to be sure. For me, it was a good thing. I spend more time living life vs watching others live theirs. I don’t do the shoulda dance anymore, comparing how much/how often/how "well" I’m making with people that don’t know me and i don’t know them.
Instagram was harder to let go of, and I do sometimes miss it. But there are blogs, newsletters, phones (gasp!) and many other ways to stay in touch. I actually write pen-and-paper letters back and forth to a friend in Oregon about once a month. Will I be happy when it feels safe to hang out face-to-face again? Even this introvert is excited for that at this point. In the meantime, though, quiet makes room for creativity and reading and cuddling my pets.
Everything about this post felt so in line with how I feel these days. Instagram keeps giving us more more more (Stories and reels and who knows what next?), but the reality is it is, for me at least, taking so much more than it gives. Taking my time. Sucking me in so that I don’t "miss" a story that will disappear in 24 hours. It starts to feel like a game, and we are cogs in a wheel. Easily entertained cogs. I noticed that the blue story + is much more visible these days than the b&w + to add a post. They want to keep feeding that need to "be at the top" of the backlog of someone’s story feed. And stories to inform about new posts…oh my, this just doesn’t feel so good anymore. I have been following your blogging and sewing and knitting since you were setting up a baby room for Lachlan. People keep coming back for the real and the true. Keep doing what you are doing, your creativity is an inspiration.
I love blogs – I feel like I really get to know the crafter and the thoughts behind the craft. and I am with you on IG/FB – I still like to see what people are doing, but I need to remember – If I am looking at what others are doing, I am not doing myself. Very thought provoking post – thank you!
This is beautiful and such a wonderful reminder to slow down. You are absolutely right about how instagram has changed – both in itself, showing more ads and un-asked for content, and in how we do social media, prioritizing quantity over quality. I also have 3 little ones and have been affected by the pandemic in the same way – hours spent scrolling have started to creep up and I feel guilty, but now I know when that feeling comes over me to just "zone out", I should step away from the phone and pick up an activity where I can "zen out" instead (knitting while my oldest son reads to us, watching the kids play in the backyard during the golden hour, or just snuggling on the couch for a family movie). Thank you for this post. Also, your photos are breathtaking! I want to hire you to photograph my dog, hahaha!
Having dealt with similar issues and come to similar conclusions, I appreciate your sharing.
Thank you for mentioning The Social Dilemma. After watching this documentary I am even less prone to spend hours on social networks. I also miss the chronological thread of IG posts. Adds every three posts make me want to run away. I hate You Tube recommendations. Under the pretext that you once watched a video on tiny houses you are bombarded with videos on the subject.
I am a Seamwork member, and another member suggested that I look at your blog after I told the story there of my most meaningful sew. I remembered having previously seen a picture of your “healed heart” piece posted to FB (I am guessing through Instagram?) shortly after my son’s Glenn procedure.
I also have a little boy with HLHS. He is my youngest of three and daily life with this diagnosis feels like uncharted territory to me—less so since the Glenn, but no major life transitions have happened yet.
It has been refreshing and kathartic to read your older posts about Lachlan, your collective life, and your sewing practice. My husband was homeschooled and we also plan to homeschool. I was a public and arts charter school student and satisfied with my education, but I missed my parents and our connection, especially as we grew up and life became increasingly less explicable. I found it sad as I grew that we as a culture have just largely accepted that most of the family is forced to spend most of their day apart for most of life. But even having made that commitment prior to having our son, George, something about the known and anticipated fragility of his little life added a depth and richness to our need to invest fully in our connections with each other.
Funny story: before I had seen your picture—likely the reason that I am connected to Sew Liberated on FB—I had just purchased the Lichen Duster to replace my favorite cardigan. I lost a thrifted linen cardigan on his pre-op (Glenn) screening appointment day at the hospital and looked and looked and looked for it before I left to no avail. I had been eying up the duster pattern anyway, but jumped when I realized that I could recreate my cardigan with some details altered to suit my preferences.
Thank you for sharing a window into your life and art with another HLHS mama. It is beautiful.
As an HLHS dad, I found your beautiful post very touching. It means a lot that you were able to connect with Meg’s posts about our life and this journey.
Lachlan has had a wonderfully smooth childhood after the Glenn and I hope the same for George.