thirty day chip

Thirty days ago I posted my last status on Facebook.

I then drove my family three hours from our home in the city to a remote cabin in south central Pennsylvania for an off-the-grid weekend in the wilderness. For seventy-two hours I lived in complete ignorance of the world beyond our tiny house in the woods. There was no cell service, no internet, no social media, no functioning toilets. As someone who enjoys the conveniences of the modern world, to say nothing of proper indoor plumbing, this was roughing it.

But I survived.

Actually I did more than just survive, I thrived. For the first time in a very long time I was not distracted by phone calls or texts or the siren call of social media. With nothing left to steal my focus I was forced to live in the moment. I participated. I was engaged. I listened to my children play and rather than dismiss their exuberance as “just noise” I heard their words and I understood their language. I celebrated their creativity. I laughed and I smiled and I saw my kids again for the first time.

I’m not saying three days without Wi-Fi and suddenly I was Father of the Year, but in the days and weeks since that weekend I believe I’ve morphed into a solid second runner-up. The truth is even without the distractions of the modern world I struggle to be fully engaged every minute of every day. Sometimes I phone it in. I want to be Super Dad, but by the time the end of the day or the weekend rolls around I’m so exhausted and done with it all that I’ll settle for being the out-of-shape lazy-ass beer-drinking sidekick to Super Dad.

But then even being the fat drunk Robin is easier once you make the decision to unplug.

The world is a strange place without Facebook. I have no idea what people are doing or feeling. I don’t know what they ate for dinner last night or what movie they watched on Netflix last weekend or how they plan to vote in some distant primary. I don’t know what issue to hashtag or if black lives still matter or if that clerk from Kentucky is still a thing.

Even worse, since I can no longer use memes and shared links from Reddit as a barometer for one’s level of mental illness I’m forced to trust that every person I meet on the street is perfectly normal even though I know deep down they’re all fucking crazy.

I’m a stranger in a strange land.

I’m not complaining. Life is simpler without social media. I’m less concerned with things that have nothing to do with me. I spend more time enjoying all of the amazing things I have in my life and less time telling people about all the amazing things I have in my life. I’m not concerned with reliving the moment five minutes from now because I’m living the moment now. And while choosing to disconnect in a connected world can make you feel isolated I find that I enjoy living in a bubble.

It’s very quiet.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here. Why haven’t you bought it yet?! Seriously.

we aren’t friends

Social media is a funny thing. We use it to share cat videos and photos of our families. We use it to show the world how clever we can be in 144 characters or less. We use it so everyone knows exactly what we are thinking on every subject all the time.

We use it without thinking.

But then again social media isn’t real. We don’t have a thousand friends. Or five thousand friends. Or, if we’re being honest, even a hundred friends. The majority of these imagined friendships exist in a distant world of interconnected routers and servers. They are code. They are not tangible. These friendships are cute and a great way to waste time, but 95% of our dealings on social media are conducted with people we barely know or people we knew a long, long time ago or people we never knew in the first place. And while it’s great that we’re all connected and we live in an age where we can share information, we are not required to be friends simply because the opportunity has presented itself.

I see people complaining that their news feed is clogged with friends who are racists, misogynists, homophobes, and I wonder: Outside of this distant world of interconnected routers and servers would you actually be friends with any of these people?  Honestly. In the real world where people look each other in the eyes and speak with words would you as a black man be friends with a person who thinks that black people deserve to be shot by the police? Would you as a woman have drinks with a man who thinks women should not work and if they do, they should make less money because they’re inferior? Would you as gay person invite into your home the neighbor who believes you should not have the right to visit your dying spouse in the hospital?

Personally, I refuse to maintain some virtual friendship with a virtual stranger who thinks my life as a gay man is wrong. Because someone who thinks your life is wrong is not your friend. At least not in the real world that exists beyond the tap-tap-tap of your smartphone.

You cannot fundamentally disagree with who I am as a person and honestly think that I’ll be okay with that because really you’re a good person you just have different views. No. Voting for Jeb Bush instead of Hillary Clinton is a different view. Preferring Target to Walmart is a different view. The view from your backyard compared to the view from my backyard is a different view. Believing that you are superior to me and sitting in judgment of my life is NOT a different view.

Also, you’re not a good person. I know that’s harsh, but you should hear it. All of your “love the sinner, hate the sin” bullshit is just what you tell yourself so you don’t have to admit to being what you really are: a hateful bigot.

Look, I get it. Your beliefs are important to you. My husband and children are important to me. I understand that the words your god said over two thousand years ago – or at least your interpretation of those words and I’m speaking of those words you choose to acknowledge, not those words you ignore because they’re inconvenient for you – I get that those words matter to you. My rights and freedoms IN THE PRESENT DAY matter to me. And I hear you loud and clear when you say that, while you’re happy for me, you believe marriage is between a man and a woman and that only a man and a woman should have children. Of course if that’s true then why do you keep liking my photos on Facebook, you know, all the photos of me and my husband on our honeymoon and the other photos of me and my husband parenting our children?

I guess it’s because you’re such a good person.

never read the comments

An article I wrote for The Good Men Project was recently picked up and published by Yahoo! This mini-milestone occurred the day after another article I had written had been shared more than 10,000 times on social media. I continue to be surprised and amused that anyone finds my anecdotal tales of parenthood worth the click. I started my blog as a way for me to remember moments with my family, big and small. It was a journal of my journey – a chronicle of my new life as a parent. I wrote it for myself. I still do.

Having said that,  if a few dozen acquaintances or several thousand strangers enjoy reading my stories then all the better. Still at the end of the day those words are mine. They are just for me. They make me laugh when I’m sad. They make me cry when I need to move past a bad day. They remind me how lucky I am to have this life.

The first time someone made a comment on my blog I was genuinely shocked. It surprised me that someone not only took the time to read what I had written, but they then felt compelled to go to the trouble of telling me they enjoyed reading it. Several hundred comments later and I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. People were listening. People were laughing. People were seeing the boys through my eyes.

Not that everyone listened and laughed. I did receive a few negative comments on my blog, but ultimately I dismissed them for what they were: worthless, like the people who wrote them. I’m used to people not always liking me. I think we all are to some degree; yet something about me seems to generate a strong reaction in others. Of course usually when someone doesn’t like me, I know them.  Being hated by strangers was a new concept.

The article on Yahoo! was an innocuous piece about losing touch with friends after you become a parent. It was a self-deprecating post, the tone very tongue-in-cheek. Not exactly divisive stuff. Surprisingly, there were more than 200 comments. I read the first twenty or so. Some of the comments were nice.  The majority of them were mean-spirited, hilariously mean-spirited.

In the post I had made a passing reference to my gay wedding which apparently did not sit well with a few of the readers. The more restrained commentators said my lifestyle was an abomination while the less restrained said I was a pedophile and that my children should be taken away from me.

People are awful.

One women noted that I was an out-of-control egomaniac, supported by my excessive use of “I”, “my” and “mine” in the piece. And while I would agree that I’m full of myself, I would also argue that the article was written in the first person so my use of “I”, “my” and “mine” seems wholly acceptable, if not absolutely necessary.

Eventually I grew tired of the excessive bad grammar, rampant misspellings and the interchanging of “their”, “they’re” and “there” so I stopped reading.

Never read the comments, I told myself. You write for you, not that homophobic bitch in Idaho!

Unfortunately my husband did not get the memo. I found him two hours later, red-faced and out-of-breath with his fists clenched around his phone, screaming about internet trolls and vowing to get every last one of them. My hero.

the week that was 5

The big news this week was black.  As in, Friday. Millions of Americans abandoned their Thanksgiving turkeys mid-meal to crowd local malls in a bid to snatch up ten dollar panini presses and 99 cent poinsettias. Unlike the pro-abortion homosexual 9/11 American-hating terrorists at K-Mart who opened their doors on turkey day at 8 am, family-values store Walmart resisted the siren-call of consumerism…opening their doors at 6 pm.  I suppose this makes Walmart better than K-Mart because, really, if you haven’t finished your holiday meal and lapsed into a post-turkey coma by 6 o’clock on Thanksgiving then clearly you must be a pro-abortion homosexual 9/11 American-hating terrorist.

Despite our pro-choice homosexual leanings, my family displayed patriotic superiority waiting until 9 am on Friday to hit the malls.  And while we did miss out on buying a bunch of junk we didn’t need, we did score some great deals on a bunch of junk we really wanted.

After doing our part to keep the economy from teetering off yet another fiscal cliff, we made our annual pilgrimage an hour north of the city to a Christmas tree farm.  Todd and I have been cutting down our own trees for more than a decade now, introducing Chris to the tradition last year.  It’s a comfort to know that nothing changes and every year is the same: Five minutes after we arrive Chris will fall into an icy mud puddle then Todd and I will fight then someone will cry then someone else will storm off in tears and then just when we think it can’t get any worse someone will suggest the other two go “fuck off”.  (FYI: We’re working on curtailing Chris’s potty mouth.)

Of course none of that unpleasantness matters because at the end of the day we gather around our beautifully decorated tree in matching handmade sweaters, sipping homemade cocoa and eating artisan-crafted Christmas cookies.*


It was another week of celebrity retweets, unsourced reposts, and copy-and-paste Wikipedia MLK quotes on Facebook as New York upstaged Missouri. Considering the amount of hand wringing in my news feed, I was a bit surprised when a protest rally parading past my office in downtown Pittsburgh drew just literally tens of people.  Proving once again that while it’s easy to be socially active from the comfort of your smart phone, it’s quite another thing to actually be present in the real world.

From a stalking perspective I love Facebook, but beyond that I just don’t get this hashtag activism or these attempts at engaging others in intelligent discourse.  I mean, how much truth to power and honest change can you hope to affect in a virtual reality populated by anatomically-challenged, overweight 50 year-old men who routinely pass themselves off as well-hung, buff 22 year-old studs?

In the same way we now look back and ask, “Can you believe people used to sit around in wool suits and top coats and stupid hats and dump raw sewage in public streets and rivers and then wonder why it was they had such a low life expectancy?”  I believe our children’s children’s children will one day look back and ask, “Can you believe people used to sit around in skinny jeans and ironic T-shirts and stupid beards and dump raw sewage in public streets and rivers, I mean the internet, and then wonder why it was they couldn’t solve centuries of racial inequality in 160 characters or less?”


*That doesn’t happen.  We aren’t the fucking Waltons.

i unfriend you

In this age of social media — where friendships live and die by the click of a button, where an acquaintance of an acquaintance of an acquaintance of the guy who cuts your hair knows what you had for dinner and how you voted in the last election, where high school never ends — what is a friend?

I have had more than a few epiphany moments since becoming a dad sixteen months ago. Chief among them is the realization that my friendships are no longer just about me. The company I choose to keep also affects my kid.  And some of my choices have been lacking.

I have unfriended people for many reasons — some legitimate, some whimsical, some ridiculous. I once hit the unfriend button because a person (over)used the phrase YOLO, as in You Only Live Once. I’ve unfriended people for political opinions that were deeply personal and personal opinions that were offensively political. I’ve unfriended family members.

I know what kind of person I am and I knew that I would be littering Facebook with personal stories of parenthood and photos of Chris.  I knew I would be that parent.  So in the weeks leading up to meeting Chris, I deleted 150 people from my Facebook friend list (more than half my list).  These were people I knew casually — the girl who acted in a play I directed three years ago but had not seen since; that homophobic guy from high school who I wouldn’t remember if he came up to me and said, “Hey I’m that homophobic guy from high school you don’t remember”; the seldom-seen cousin who stated there should be zero gun control less than 24 hours after the Sandy Hook school shooting.  These people were a no-brainer — they either weren’t really friends or they were people I wanted nowhere near my child.

But in the real world — that ever-shrinking dimension where face-to-face interpersonal communication still exists — ending a friendship is not as simple as clicking a button. It’s one thing to erase a person in cyberspace, it’s another thing to wipe out their existence on this earthly plane.

But sometimes that’s just what you have to do.

So I took an inventory.  Peter Pan.  The “every-other-word-is-fuck” guy.  The slutty one.  The emotional vampire.  The passive aggressive narcissist.  The lunatic.  What was I thinking?    

At one time it was cute. Their unwillingness to grow up. Their foul mouth. Their neediness.  Their dangerous mental instability.  Their overt sexuality so in your face at times you felt like their gynecologist. But what was once colorful now seemed — I was going to say sad, but that isn’t fair — it now seemed, so not where we are in our lives.

I’ve been told that I burn bridges.  That I’m quick to judge. Incapable of forgiveness. Someone once called me an asshole (to my face!)  And while it’s true that I am an asshole, I also think I’m honest. Some friendships go the distance. Some do not.