Ever since the election, I’ve been feeling especially worn down by social media. I have found myself frequently annoyed or even angry by the things I have found on the screen of my smart phone. For weeks, I’ve been threatening to throw in the towel and quit social media altogether, but never really had the motivation to follow through with my threats. Last week, I finally had enough. I deleted the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram apps from my phone and tried to live my life a little less connected.
Embarrassingly, it wasn’t all that easy to back off from being online. The first day, I found myself reaching for my phone, swiping left and right on my home screen a few times before I remembered that I had deleted the apps I was looking for.
By day two, I was feel bored and a little bit lonely. I spend a lot of time at home with my three kids and when I’m not with them, I’m usually staring at a computer screen for work. I think I had been using social media as filler for a social life I haven’t been able to keep up with since I started working from home and had my third child. It is easy to hop online, find a conversation I’m interested in on Facebook or leave a few comments on Instagram photos and call that my human interaction for the day. Scrolling through my newsfeed is an easy way to fill up time during the hours each day I spend nursing my baby or watching my big kids play. Giving up social media forced me, in the best way, to reach out to a friend to talk on the phone or find a screen-free way to entertain myself when I had a few minutes to spare.
These were the lessons I expected to learn. I knew I was going to need to start putting more effort into my “real life” friendships and I had hoped the boredom that came with quitting social media would force me to pick up a book in those quiet spaces of my days. But on day three, I noticed something I didn’t expect—quitting social media was making me a better mom.
Checking my notifications and keeping up with conversations on Facebook hadn’t simply become a boredom filler, it had become another task in my life. Instead of hoping on my phone when I had spare time, I felt obligated to respond to each comment and private message quickly and it was making it harder for me to keep up at home.
Before my social media fast, my phone would always be at my side, one more distraction during the hardest part of my day. Now that I wasn’t checking in on social media regularly, I left it back in my room and suddenly felt less distracted and stressed out.
Without social media begging for my attention, I could focus on the tasks at hand. I could cook dinner and manage my three children without feel impatient and on edge. I could focus on what they needed from me without feeling like I was pulled in multiple directions.
Quitting social media wasn’t a fix-all, making me instantly more patient and more attentive to my children. Mornings are still difficult, getting three kids fed and dressed is still stressful and that special time from four to six each evening when everyone is crabby is still the hardest part of my day. Still, there was a noticeable improvement in how I responded when I was feeling overwhelmed. It was easier to slow down and take things one at a time without my phone calling for my attention.
At the end of my week away from social media, I am now making decisions about how to move forward for the long term. I enjoyed my week away but also use a few aspects of social media for my work. Moving forward, I definitely want to spend little to no time online during the weekdays when I am home alone with my kids, reserving checking on social media for work related tasks. I want to live my life more fully present, less distracted and more in-tune with my kids’ needs and social media has only been getting in the way.