Glennon Doyle’s third memoir, Untamed, was released on March 10th, 2020. This date was, of course, just days before the world shut down. I had gone on a panic-induced book-buying spree anticipating the lockdown several days prior, and because I enjoyed following Glennon on social media, I purchased Untamed.
This book is nothing sort of a sensation, having sold more than a million copies less than six months after it was released. Doyle is relatable, honest, funny, and downright witty. She has a contagious confidence, which is what I find most appealing about her. I began and finished Untamed in a 24-hour period — with two toddlers to feed, diaper, and play with, that is no small feat. I stirred supper with one hand and held the book in another. What’s more, I am not sure I checked social media one time that day.
Several quotes from that book have remained in my head, like a pesky pop song, for close to a year now. I have been slowly applying some to my life, and just recently I had an epiphany about this particular quote from a chapter on parenting:
When we hand our children phones, we steal their boredom from them. We are raising kids with commodified views of sex, lack of real connection, filtered concepts of what it means to be human. As a result, we are raising a generation of writers who will never write, artists who will never doodle, chefs who will never make a mess of the kitchen.
When I read that quote a year ago, I gave a silent amen. My husband and I have a stricter-than-most policy with our kids about technology, and she echoed our sentiments. But if it was just affirming an idea I already held, this quote has resonated longer than it should have.
Upon reflection, my musings on this quote are evolving: What is my phone stealing from me — not my toddlers who won’t have phones for a decade, but ME?
As someone actively cultivating a career in writing, how does my phone help me put words on the page?
The common wisdom for writers holds that a social media platform is necessary to make it. I understand the business aspect of this — it’s how Glennon Doyle made it work, after all. But what is the point of a platform if there is no writing, content, or stories to send out to it? What if I never get around to writing that book because I was busy writing Instagram posts to “build a platform”?
This was my sobering, and almost embarrassing epiphany: If I don’t put my phone down and let go of cultivating my currently very small platform, I won’t have anything of value to offer readers — even if I ever did create a larger platform. I don’t want my legacy to be the potential of delivering great work to the most people. I want to deliver great work — period.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I have decided to take a break from social media. During this Lenten season, it seems like the perfect opportunity to discern the place of social media in my life moving forward. I really don’t know at this point what that discipline will look like — whether it means deleting social media altogether, or monitoring my use with apps.
It sounds silly, but this is not an easy decision, especially when people tell me my career — and therefore a significant aspect of my future — are tied up in using social media. And I am certainly not giving it up (and writing about it, for goodness sake!) to feel “holier” than anyone. I simply aim to put down one thing in the name of creating space for another, more important thing.
I just have this suspicion that if I don’t put down my phone, as Doyle suggests, I may end up a “writer who will never write.”