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👶🍬 Newborn Naps and Junk Food

I’m a new dad. My wife and our son are both doing well and I am grateful for that. We like this gremlin a lot and are excited to raise a Portuguese Texan who code switches based on the way someone pronounces football.

Friends and family, including my wife, have asked me if I feel a profound change as a father. Did I feel that overwhelming sense of purpose the first time I held him? Am I a new man?

You see the celebration of this theme on Trad Tech Bro Twitter more and more, but it’s a trope older than tech or bros or tradition. And I partially get it. I do feel this immense wave of joy when this small child reaches his hand out to me as I make a face. I lose track of time when I hold him while we play music by the Canadian band Stars. I cannot imagine anything more wonderful than the moments when I look over and my wife is dancing with him in the kitchen. I’m just not sure that I felt some singular moment of change.

Except for Reddit. And Twitter. And sometimes even LinkedIn. My usage of those apps has changed. My child has spurned on my worst technology habits.

I have spent the last couple of years fighting my mild Internet junk food addiction. I was lucky enough to just barely miss social media in high school and even most of mobile social media in college. When we used the Internet, we went to the computer in our room to upload 140 photos from a digital camera and then went back outside. We couldn’t just pull out our phone like a pack of cigarettes anytime we were still to scroll Twitter or Instagram.

I’m grateful to have spent those years in the moment. The highlight of phone usage was a text message. I miss those days as I have succumbed to mobile social media over the last 12 or so years.

I have made progress recently to reverse that trend. I religiously read the print edition of The Economist for news. I put guard rails up on app usage. I leave my phone out of reach when I can. And then I had a baby.

Which I thought would help! I assumed that this profound moment of change would make Reddit so trivial. I was wrong. Keeping a baby alive only works alongside short form content.

If you have a newborn you know that your life becomes a cycle of monitoring, feeding, burping, soothing, bathing. And that’s without family or friend visits. A solid two hour nap is something of a miracle. You just don’t have unbroken hours to sit down with a book. A deep work block is hilarious at this stage. I wrote this blog post on iOS Notes in a mix of dictation when walking dogs on a trail and typing with my thumbs while sitting next to my son’s crib trying to stand by while he finally napped.

What you do have are ten minute windows that could be disrupted at any time. Perfect for mobile social media. When I’m sitting in my son’s dark room with his sound machine roaring to make sure he actually goes down to sleep I am not about to break out Lawrence in Arabia. I’m going to peruse Reddit until I hear him grunt about gas. When I’m holding the baby monitor while eating breakfast I’m not going to open up The Economist - I could be interrupted at any moment - I’m going to scan Twitter.

One important note - Instagram. I live far from a lot of friends and family and Instagram continues to be the premier way to casually stay in contact with folks who sit one level of familiarity beyond group chats or text message conversations. People who will comment on a Story but with whom I’m not close enough to text with a photo of my son in Sintra.

I have broken streaks that ran for nearly 100 days without using social media for more than 20 minutes since becoming a father. I expect that will change as my job becomes less about being on call to keep an infant alive and more geared towards helping a toddler explore the world. I think I’ll be better at that. When our boy is awake (or supposed to be awake at least) my phone is pretty good at disappearing. This kid is more interesting and I think that will only grow.

Published Mar 14, 2024

Austinite in Lisbon. Emerging Tech at Cloudflare.Sign up for emails