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.)