The Rockwood Files: Social media sabbatical

By Gwen Rockwood, syndicated columnist and mama of 3

An amazing thing happened to us on Christmas Eve. We went to church that night at 6 p.m., and as the service was ending, Tom suggested we take a family picture in front of the big Christmas tree in the church lobby.

“Great idea,” I said. “But we’ll have to use your phone because I left mine at home.

He checked his pockets. “I don’t have mine either. I think it’s on the kitchen table.”

I leaned past him and asked the kids. “Which one of you has your phone with you?” With two teenagers and one tween, I felt sure that one if not all of them would be packing some smartphone heat.

They shrugged their shoulders and shook their heads. No phones.

“Can you believe it?” I asked Tom. “Even the kids didn’t bring their phones. Oh, well. My mom will have hers in her purse.”

But when I turned to ask her, she dug around in her bag and then remembered she’d left it back at my house. Same story for my dad. Even though there were seven of us, there were no phones in sight. The whole family was utterly unreachable… and I kinda loved it. It was as close as we’d get to an old-fashioned Christmas.

I liked it so much that, even after we went home and reunited with technology, I picked up my phone during the next two days only to take photos. But I didn’t post them, share them or text them. I pretended we were living in a time before it was normal to share important family moments on a public platform. I let it be “just us” and didn’t worry about inviting anyone else to “like” or comment on the day.

You know that old philosophical question about a tree falling in the woods with no one there to hear it? Would it still make a sound? In some ways, social media and our increasingly-connected world has become that ever-present observer. If a family celebrates Christmas and no one sees it on Facebook, did it even happen?

I’m happy to report that, indeed, it did. And there was something kind of wonderful about the social media sabbatical. I stopped curating my holiday for a broader audience and enjoyed it purely for myself.

It felt so good that I decided to stop checking my news app, too. The heavy headlines would have to wait. Instead I dove back into reading a novel I hadn’t finished earlier in the year. While the kids were upstairs playing with the gifts they’d unwrapped, I laid on the sofa, read a novel and took a nap. It was a little slice of holiday heaven.

One of the things I love most about the days after Christmas is the pleasant pace of life. The kids are out of school, so there’s no rushing around in the mornings and the afternoons. Tom and I usually have a few days off from work, so there’s less need to be in meetings or in front of a screen all day. Life transitions from a wild ride on the rapids into a float down a more serene stream, and I’m grateful.

I didn’t even realize how much I needed this time to float, to catch my breath after running through the year at breakneck speed. Do you ever feel that way? Like what you need more than anything is a chance to press “pause” on a fast, loud world? So you can rest for a moment and hear yourself think?

I’m guessing I’m not the only one who sometimes feels overwhelmed by the dual blessing and the curse that comes from living with a deluge of information and interaction that’s always a fingertip touch away. So I hope the year’s end has given you some time to float, to breathe, to rest.

And I pray that, in this New Year, we all carve out a little more time to forget our phones for a while and hear ourselves think.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of You can read more of Gwen’s work by clicking here to visit The Rockwood Files.