girl copying off boy's paper in school

Time to Stop Looking

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” (Matthew 5:29)

This pretty much sums up Instagram for me, some days.

I like some things on Instagram. One of my kids shares photos of mountains he’s climbed (though sometimes the views are a little scary for me), and another posts little videos of her silly cat. I like the graphics with encouraging phrases. I like the prayers. I like the pictures of delicious dinners (and cookies) with links in bio to recipes.

What I don’t like so much is my reaction to the other stuff on Instagram. Since Instagram has become a replacement blogging platform, it’s populated by women who fill it with their perfect homes, perfect furniture, perfect flowers, perfect perfection. Their heartfelt 800-word articles accompany these illustrations.

“So beautiful!”

“Such an inspiration!”

“So vulnerable!”

“So wise!”

The comments go on and on, and I’m over here feeling left out in all that beauty and all that sentiment.


girl cheating off a boy's paper at school


We had our house repainted in December 2019 and the pictures are still not back on the walls. I had this grand idea that I wanted to re-frame them in all the same frames (I probably saw something like that on Instagram), but was only able to find half of the sizes I need when I went shopping for those in January, and that project has simply stalled out. That pile of new frames and the pile twice as high of old pictures? There’s no beauty there.

Maybe if I spent less time on social media and more time cleaning my house, it would look like something out of a magazine too (oh, who am I kidding – it’s never going to look like that, but it would look better for sure).

Maybe if I got off the couch and used my phone to play an exercise video instead of tormenting myself with other people’s salads and waistlines, I’d find my waist once again.

And I guess I’m just not the sentimental sort, but I’m just about driven to tears here by all the moms who are weeping on Instagram about back-to-school, especially those sending children off to college. Maybe it’ll hit me after my kid actually leaves for college, since he’s my last one, but at this point I’m just glad for the prospect that he’ll get to go live at college at all – homecolleging is not the best way to go, especially when you’re a science major. But I see all the moms lamenting their babies leaving home and wonder what in the world is wrong with me.

My coping mechanism is to “keep it real” and post something self-deprecating (or – worse – something that makes someone else in my house look bad) because this way I shame myself before someone else gets the chance. I do this way too much for that to be considered a healthy strategy.

Is my right eye causing me to sin? When it’s looking at Instagram, yes, I think it is. I find myself giving in to envy about other people’s homes, stuff, appearance, and emotions. I don’t resent that they have what I don’t, but I wallow in self-pity because I don’t have what they do.

I think it’s time for me to take action in two ways.

I need to go to confession. And I need to start using the unfollow and mute functions on social media until I can have a better attitude toward the total strangers whose carefully curated lives I’m comparing to my own, and falling short every time.


sad woman looking at cell phone

Copyright 2021 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images: Canva Pro

On Barb’s Bookshelf: “Detached”

detached review
Image created using

I’m fighting my way through T.J. Burdick’s Detached, which is a good sign that I really needed this book.

Detached: Put Your Phone in Its Place (OSV) challenges readers to rethink how they use their phones. Awareness is key to the whole process, and I’m becoming painfully aware of my own lack of self-discipline when it comes to using my phone.

  • Waiting in line at the supermarket? Check email.
  • Before putting my car key in the ignition? Take a quick peek at Twitter or Facebook.
  • Waiting for the water to boil for tea in the morning? Cue up Instagram.

All those times, there are other, better things I could be doing. I’m not going to say that email and social media are bad things. Facebook and Instagram allow me to keep in touch with my cousins, many of whom live far away, as well as friends old and new. Social media is also job-related for me.

It’s really easy to give in to the temptation to use my phone unnecessarily. I pick up my phone a lot. And I do not intend to get rid of my phone or stop carrying it around with me. Here’s why:

  • My husband and kids text me during the day about changes in plans, or with questions about plans.
  • I like being able to check the weather.
  • If I miss a call on our home phone, voicemail forwards to my phone as a text message, so urgent calls can be answered immediately.
  • I enjoy listening to podcasts while I fold laundry, wash the floors, or drive.
  • One of my sons has type 1 diabetes, and we use an app to monitor his blood sugar. While he’s a quite independent teenager, we keep in touch frequently (by text, usually) regarding adjustments he needs to make (insulin dosing or snacks).

I’ve been keeping a journal as I go through Detached. I will admit that I did not (and will not) sign on for a full-on 21-day technology retreat. (Again, social media is job-related.) Also, I’m not yet done reading the book. But this process is definitely making me think twice about how, where, when, and why I use my phone.

For several months already, I’ve had an email boundary in place. A change in mail servers meant that email for one of my jobs was not longer accessible on my phone, and I decided to turn off phone access for email for my other job as well. This means that I can only use my work email when I’m on my laptop, and I have not missed the ability to reply to work emails from the checkout line in the supermarket (yes, I have been guilty of doing that). So the boundary has been good for me.

While the author recommends a total 21-day social media fast (involving deleting the apps from the phone), I didn’t go there, as I said above. I did, however, find out how to use the Screen Time feature in iOS to keep me accountable for the time I use on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. There was a bit of a bump in the road with that, because I use Skype to communicate with my coworkers, and that was counting as social media time. But thanks to some helpful replies to an SOS I sent out (on Twitter — oh, the irony) I got it figured out, and that little popup reminder telling me that I have 5 minutes left for the day is a good indicator for me that I do need that extra help setting boundaries.

I like having a tiny but mighty computer in my pocket. I like that I can keep in touch with family, friends, and coworkers easily — no matter where I am. I like that I can help my son stay healthy. I like knowing when that predicted thunderstorm will roll through. I like listening to podcasts that edify, entertain, and educate me while I do repetitive chores. In Detached, T.J. Burdick isn’t asking me to give up any of those good things. He’s challenging me to be more intentional about whether I am efficiently consuming and producing content (11), or just wasting time.


Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Why are Catholic Women “Mean Girls” on Social Media?

I won’t name names because it doesn’t matter.

On any other day, it could have been someone else.

Or you.

Or me.

But that particular day, it was a high-profile Catholic with a follower count to match and a big social-media footprint who got the whole thing started.

User 1 mocked someone — a stranger — who was in no position to defend herself, and several hundred more users piled on with likes and comments, maybe hoping for a coveted sign of approval from User 1, such as a like, a retweet, or maybe (gasp!) even a personal response.

That’s how these pile-ons get started, after all. One person tosses out a tweet and we all jump into the fray.

Why do we do this? Why are we taking a page from “Mean Girls” in our use of social media?

Is this how Catholic women support each other?

We jump in. We pile on. Maybe we even make that statement that starts it all. We do this out of our own desire to be heard. To be seen. To be acknowledged.

Can’t we find ways to be seen by modeling kindness?

Can’t our voices be heard more clearly when we offer a positive word? A compliment? A cheerful greeting? A joke that isn’t at someone else’s expense?

I’m not saying there’s never any room to be snarky, but I am saying you need to be careful about your target. That target is a person too.

Probably at first, kindness won’t get you too far in growing your follower count. But if you get (or keep) followers because you tweet mean stuff, you need to re-evaluate your social-media strategy.

Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more. (Luke 12:48)

Use the power of your platform for good. Please.

Otherwise, you scandalize the rest of us — at best — and hurt others.

And if you’re going to use the power of your platform to exclude those who don’t fit in with the rest of your tribe, then that’s a tribe I wouldn’t want to join.

Photo credit: By Molly Belle (2016),, CC0/PD

Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Tech Talk: Prayer and Social Media

I’ve been a regular at Eucharistic Adoration for just over two years, and it’s taken me this long to find a way to use the time as a prayer intercessor for others.

For too long, I’d gone to the Adoration Chapel with an agenda and a tote bag: a spiritual book (or three) to read, a rosary, a journal, and my iPad so I could pray Liturgy of the Hours. It was getting to the point where Adoration was another task to check off my list, a quiet hour to read a book I’d promised to review. Check, check, check.

Checking off tasks is not what Adoration is supposed to be about.

I’d been noticing for a while that my friend Allison Gingras would share on Facebook that she was heading to Adoration, and offer to pray for any special intentions people posted. I knew she wouldn’t mind if I adopted her idea, so I created a graphic with a photo from our Adoration Chapel and shared it on Facebook for the first time in late February.


The response was tremendous. Over 40 likes. Over 35 comments. And a whole host of messages with private intentions. And I wasn’t just hearing from Catholics. I filled 2 index cards, both sides, with intentions posted in under 3 hours.

People are hungry for that intercessory prayer. People carry secret burdens and don’t always know how to ask for help, or even prayer over their situation. It’s a comfort to know that someone else is holding them up in prayer.

I took those two index cards and my rosary to the chapel. I always pray the Franciscan Crown rosary, and it’s a good thing it has 7 decades, because at one bead per intention I needed all those prayers to cover my list, plus my family and one general prayer for any late-breaking intentions (I wasn’t checking Facebook in the chapel.)

Later that day I got an email from one of the deacons at our parish, who’s my friend on Facebook. He wanted to let me know that he and his wife were going to begin inviting their Facebook friends to share intentions, to be prayed for during their Adoration hour.

He also said that this is a great way to evangelize. I hadn’t thought about that, but it’s true. Originally I’d hesitated to mention on Facebook that I was going to Adoration–but this has shown me that it’s something needed and appreciated.

I created a rosary prayer intentions printable to use each week to list intentions: my own, as well as those of my friends on Facebook. It’s also a Franciscan Crown Rosary tutorial. Download this printable and set it up for your “intentional rosary.”

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Of Prayer, Twitter and Red Minivans

Yesterday I was tagged in a tweet with an emergency prayer request.


After promising to pray that Emergency Novena for Christine’s friend, I messaged her to ask what color car her friend drives.

That may seem like a weird question, but I use visual prayer cues for special intentions. When I see a car that resembles one belonging to someone I know and love, that’s a reminder to me to pray for that person.

Christine told me that her friend drives a red minivan.

This morning at Mass, I remembered her friend in prayer, then resolved to turn off the radio on my way home and pray that day’s Emergency Novena.

After Mass, I got into my car, turned off the radio, and prepared to leave my parking space. The car in front of me moved away, revealing that the car parked in front of it was a red minivan.

A couple of miles later, I saw another one.

In your kindness, when you see a red minivan, say a special prayer for Christine’s friend. If you commit to doing this, I’m quite sure that God will make sure you see plenty of those cars.

Photo copyright 2016 Lisa M. Hendey. Title added by author. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Talk, talk, talk, talk, bicker, bicker, bicker

I can’t wait until the election is over.

It’s gotten to the point where I hesitate to go on Facebook, and I’ve been avoiding Twitter.

I know plenty of people who have sworn off social media entirely. I don’t know if that’s helping; it’s certainly not helping those of us who are still there are who are seeing proportionately MORE political stuff, because the folks who don’t want the political stuff aren’t there posting other stuff.

In her Conquering Twitter in Ten Minutes a Day handbook, Katharine Grubb observes,

Facebook is like having a big meal at Applebee’s with your buddies from high school, your college roommates and your parents. Twitter is like going to a sold-out professional football game in Gillette Stadium and having a conversation with the people next to you, while yelling at the guy on the other side cheering for the other team (4).

I’ve always enjoyed social media, and I use it for my job. But right now it’s become a chore. Facebook isn’t like a big meal at Applebee’s right now. It’s more like a bar brawl. I expect chairs to fly through windows any minute.

I’ve maintained that this election is going to be won through the media. Not social media. I still believe that.

But if you are still on social media, would you please do something besides bicker?


This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

Small Success: Less Jealousy, More Compassion

Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

Several months ago, I got a Facebook friend request that surprised me, from a mom I’ve been acquainted with for several years through school. Our paths have crossed through various sports and school parties, but we don’t know each other at all and normally wouldn’t get past that “how’s your kid doing?” type of conversation.

This mom is a confident woman. She’s successful in the business world. She’s comfortable in leadership positions.

In other words, she’s the opposite of me.

My own bad experiences in high school (I was the middle-class kid in a very small school populated largely by the Ivy-league crowd) lead me to instinctively fear people like this mom. And by “fear” I mean “do anything I can to avoid having to be near” such people.

That’s not conducive to getting to know someone.

That doesn’t help you dispel the crazy illusions you have that someone else, someone you really don’t know, leads a charmed life where everything is perfectly perfect.

My fear of confident, successful leaders, it turns out, is born of a bad combination of social anxiety and jealousy.

There. I said it.

Anyway, I accepted the friend request and didn’t think anything of it.

Over the past few months, this mom has shared some things that have opened my eyes.

She does not live the charmed life I thought she did. This is not because she was ever lying about her life–it’s about the assumptions I made given the little I knew.

Her life is not perfect. She has problems too. She has trials and struggles and difficult situations.

She’s just like the rest of us, trying to make the best of things.

This mom has been gifted with confidence and leadership abilities. She uses them at work and she uses them as she volunteers to help her children’s schools. She’s a hard worker, not standing on some perfect pedestal.

Small Success dark blue outline 800x800

So for those people who say that spending time on social media is useless, I’m sharing this story. If I had not made this Facebook connection, I’d never have learned that someone I thought was so perfect, who had it all, has problems too.

I’d never have had the opportunity to feel less jealousy and more compassion.

I’m still working on the social anxiety part, but this is a big step in the right direction.

Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

#WorthRevisit: Unplugged Vacation

Last week we were on vacation. I didn’t tell you we were going.

There’s a reason for that, as I explained last year after our family vacation, in a Tech Talk article at CatholicMom:

We just didn’t want to let the whole world know that nobody was home at our house. It’s a safety thing.

You might think that if you mark your Facebook posts “friends” instead of “public” that you’re safer. And you are. But you never know who’s looking over your friends’ shoulders. As for Twitter and Instagram, everything you tweet and ‘gram is broadcast for the whole world to see.

And it’s not like we have a common last name. So we chose the “better to be safe than sorry” route this vacation. My photos never did make it to Instagram. That’s OK.

Caribbean Sunrise, August 2016.
Caribbean Sunrise, August 2016.

I just pulled the vacation photos from my camera’s memory card this morning. It’ll take a while to go through them, but I do hope to share more of the beauty we experienced.

As for the tweets, I’ll bet you didn’t even miss them.

I actually stayed unplugged (no cell phone except for the camera function, no Internet, no text messages, no email) for over 7 days. No, I didn’t get the shakes! I read 7 books, played board games, ate too much fancy food, admired scenery, napped, and stayed out of the sun.

Good times. Even without Instagram.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Monday Recap 09-14-2-15

Monday Recap-What I've been writing

Not much writing this week–though I got a good bit done in this space, for a change! Between a “day off” for Labor Day, a half-day spent getting TheKid’s insulin pump started, and two Secular Franciscan events in the same weekend, my schedule was packed. In a good way.



Tech Talk: Breaking the “Instagram or It Didn’t Happen” Rule. For my monthly Tech Talk column, I talk about our semi-unplugged vacation. Yes, we still used social media, but we didn’t tell anyone we were out of town.


Half-Joke, Half-Vent: Facebook Interpretations

The other day I lived through an example of how things said online aren’t always what they seem. After a Murphy’s Law hour, when everything that could go wrong did, I blew off a little steam on Facebook and then got down to the business of dealing with All The Things.

My oven is broken and there’s a mouse in the back porch. Also, I’m all out of Milky Ways.

Yes, I was whining. And venting. And trying to make light of the situation, all at the same time.

After the fact, it was interesting to do a little people-watching in terms of the reactions.

Some people sympathized.

  • Boo.
  • Oh no!
  • Dislike!
  • Triple trouble.
  • Noooooooo
  • What a bummer of a day for you.
  • Disaster!

Some people got the joke. And the need for chocolate at a time like this.

  • The worst was the last one. 🙂
  • Me: I’d definitely be dealing better with the first 2 if that last thing wasn’t also a factor.
  • That’s some serious <redacted> you’re dealing with!! lol
  • Without the chocolate, I would not be able to deal with the other two issues! LOL! 😉
  • Me: EXACTLY.
  • You can’t handle all that stress without chocolate!!
  • Local friend who understands my weakness for ice cream: Guess you need a trip to The Meadows
  • That last one is the deal breaker really
  • Noooooo!!! Not out of Milky Ways!!!! I’m sorry for loss.
  • This ranks as a State of Emergency.
  • Barb, you were on the Nightly News no Milky Ways !!! lol
  • Local friend 2 who likes my homemade cookies: It was the Milky Ways that really make this sad! Oh, and your oven, too (no cookies)!
  • Crumb. Any other chocolate?
  • Oh no! Out of Milky Ways!!!Yummy

Then we got down to solving some problems.

  • Me: Mouse-in-the-porch plan: when Street Urchins arrive, promise them donuts if they find the mouse and safely relocate it OUTSIDE. Not that it couldn’t get right back in again, but…
  • Friend: broken oven– I switch to the steel wok on the grill, or a crock pot– but that last one– out of chocolate with nuts– oh that is major bad!
  • Me: I have a toaster oven and a Nesco roaster, so I can make it work (though there won’t be cookies).
  • Friend 2: I have made cookies in a toaster oven…cannot be helped when you have a cookie craving in the middle of a heatwave… Lol
  • Friend 3: First things first: Make a run to the drug store!
  • Friend 4: Tomcat traps are great. You never have to touch the mouse’s carcass —- OR you can get a humane trap and bait it with peanut butter and/or chocolate. You just have to be sure to haul the catch far, far away (3 or 4 miles, or on the other side of a creek or river) so they don’t return.Then follow Friend 3’s advice and run to the store for those Milky Ways! LOL
  • Me: Street Urchins are currently debating whether a donut is “worth it” in this case.
  • Friend 6: You can solve that milky way crisis pretty easily. The others, not so much….
  • Friend 7: Mice hate peppermint and a mini peanut butter cracker on a mouse trap works quite well. you’re on your own with the oven. I’d call a repairman or someone with those skills.
  • World-traveling friend: It is too hot to turn on the oven. Pay the urchin five bucks for catching the mouse. Amazon should take care of the Milky Way problem, unless you want British ones and then I can bring some back next week. Let me know.

And then, a progress report:

Me: Looks like the Street Urchins have prevailed over the mouse! (And killed a giant bee as a bonus!)

Friend 4: HOORAY!!!!!

And then, a ray of hope for my broken appliance:

  • Friend 5: Barb, my husband repairs ovens! What’s wrong with it?
  • Me: Well, it is flashing E2 F3 in the display and burning SUPER hot.
  • Friend 5: I will have him call you! What make oven and how old. Gas or electric?
  • Commence discussion re: make, model and what’s a good time to call.

Further resolution of the situation and other good news:

Street Urchins have been repaid for the safe capture and relocation of the mouse with donuts. And I have a caramel iced coffee, so I think we’re pretty much all set.

For the record, it was decaf. And very much needed.
For the record, it was decaf. And very much needed.

AND things keep looking up. I requested jury duty postponement so it wouldn’t be during TheKid’s summer vacation, and I just got a postcard saying I’m excused!

(And there was rejoicing in all the land.)

Final report:

The urchins caught the mouse for 2 donuts each plus Klondike bars. 🙂

World-traveling friend: Excellent financial negotiation skills! Amp him with sugar and send him home

Further on down the line, after it was all over:

Friend 8: actually, i don’t like this like this. i am saddened by this, but like that you find humor even in the broken mousiness and the absent milky ways…
Me: That’s my survival skill, 🙂 At least we got the mouse safely to the woods down the block instead of my porch.

Friend 9: This sounds like a very bad day! 🙁
Me: Fortunately, it got better. But all that in one hour was not fun.

And then there was this:

First world problems …

Now that’s the comment I don’t know how to take. Because it didn’t come with any emoticon to soften it, and the person who typed it isn’t someone I know in person (but who is a friend of many of my friends, and professionally I do wind up “friending” such people).

I am well aware that the lack of a working oven and the presence of a mouse are not major crises, and that not having any Milky Ways in the house does not constitute a State of Emergency.

So, OK. I was complaining about some pretty minor stuff. My friends got that it was minor, but upsetting, and the back-and-forth helped me get through the afternoon with some semblance of my sanity intact.

But now I feel like I am being judged, like I’m being told, “Suck it up, buttercup! There are starving people in <insert Third World Country here> who would love to have your ‘problems’.”

I wasn’t kidding when I told that one friend that finding humor in this situation is my survival skill. The humor here was that there were no Milky Ways, and bargaining with the Street Urchins for donuts in exchange for safe mouse relocation.

I can’t be sure that this person’s comment was meant as a put-down, but that’s how I interpreted it. Again, it’s hard to tell, just based on text and not knowing the person behind the words.

This may indicate that it’s time for me to evaluate whether it’s a good idea to have people as friends just because we have 47 mutual friends on Facebook. I might need to make an announcement that if I don’t know you in person or work with you, I’m unfriending, and then direct folks to “like” my author page.

(And yes, “work with you” counts because I work with over 100 people whom I’ve never met! If those people send me friend requests, I grant them.)

I’d love your thoughts on this one.