Last Wednesday, my wife and I took our daughters to the new American Girl Doll store in Nashville.
My kids had gift cards from a friend and were eager to snatch a doll from the cold hands of the grave. That sentence took a dark turn but American Girl Doll will “archive” dolls, taking them off the market for years if not forever. My kids have decided this marketing method is akin to killing the doll. Occasionally they will say chilling sentences like this to me: “They killed Samantha but now they brought her back, so she’s like zombie Samantha.”
While we were in the store, I took a photo of my daughters and was going to post it on Instagram. I was planning to caption it with this:
“How do you balance business travel and home life? You take your kids to the American Girl Doll store at 10:45AM on a Wednesday.”
That’s a true idea. I’ve learned in the last two years that part of the key to travel is that when you’re home you need to really be home. I need to take time during the week to be present with my family. Morning daddy/daughter dates, early afternoon adventures and summer Fridays when I stop working early help offset the days I travel. It helps with parenting and it helps with marriage, too.
Right before I posted the photo, I asked myself in the middle of the mall, “Why am I really doing this?”
I wasn’t posting the photo to help other business travelers with an idea that worked for me.
I wasn’t posting the photo to share a fun family moment.
I wasn’t posting the photo so that years later I could dig back through digital archives and remember that time at the store.
I was posting that photo because I wanted strangers to think I was a good dad.
I was posting that photo because I was worried that strangers thought I traveled all the time and was a bad dad.
I might not have vocalized it, but what was really going on in my head was this:
“I bet some people think I’m never home. I post photos of my travels, but not a lot of my home life so it probably feels out of balance. If I share this photo of the American Girl Doll store, maybe people will think I’m a good dad.”
That thought in itself is ridiculous, but here’s where it gets super stupid.
I was ignoring my kids to write a caption for a photo I was sharing in order to convince people I was a good dad.
In summary, I was being a bad dad in real life in order to look like a good dad on social media.
Hitting pause before I hit publish gave me a second to realize a few things.
1. No one online has ever said I’m a bad dad.
2. Even if strangers online said I was a bad dad, who cares? They don’t really know me.
3. Sometimes I miss moments in my attempt to document them.
That third one is a bit of an epidemic right now and the reason is that a significant shift happened in social media a few years ago.
We used to use social media to document moments we experienced. Now we use it to create moments so that we can document them.
We stage our lives because the whole world is a stage.
Instead of being present to a moment with my kids, I tried to use the moment to create a message about who I was as a dad.
Don’t do that.
Post lots of photos. Share lots of updates. Have a ton of fun on social media. I love it and will continue to use it in healthy ways. I am going to wear out the Acuff family hashtag, #WickedAwesomeAcuffSummer but only when my motives are honest.
Hit pause before you publish.
Don’t perform for strangers you’ll never meet. Be present to the people you’re actually with.