One week ago today, I read this post and decided to take a break from social media. The post itself was not what convinced me; I’d been thinking about it for a long while and had actually considered getting rid of my smartphone altogether in the new year. The post was written by someone who shares my personality type and also homeschools, and it just gave me the push I needed to go ahead and disconnect. I posted a “time out” photo on my Facebook and Instagram pages and shared that I was taking a 12-week break. Then I deleted Facebook and Instagram from my phone and logged out of both on my phone and computer. Those were my only two social media accounts.
So, what’s changed?
It took me four days to stop looking at my phone every fifteen minutes or so. I was constantly grabbing it and turning it on, thinking I’d just…
Oh wait. Nevermind.
Over and over again all day long, starting as soon as I rolled over in the morning and opened my eyes and ending with one last click before I put it on my bedside table to charge. There is nothing really to look at now, but I still would pick it up and click that circle button. Maybe I’ll just look at the weather forecast. Again. It made me very upset with myself for letting it get to that point. If I replaced my phone with anything else in my house it would have been absolutely absurd to be grabbing it that many times per day to look at it, yet here I was, grabbing for this tiny screen to stare at. A phone is a tool and shouldn’t be anything other than that. I had made it a source of self-medicating, zoning out from real life, creating a loop in my mind that sought approval and feedback from others to get through the day. On day five, frustrated with myself, I logged back into Facebook and deactivated my account.
It took me five days to stop spending the day thinking in terms of Facebook or Instagram posts. Photo captions, funny thoughts, little quips would pop into my head along with the impulse to share them. Because I’ve seen and read so much about the dopamine release that happens in our brains when we receive “likes” and comments on our posts, I knew that this is what my brain was craving. I wasn’t having complete thoughts or just enjoying my day. I wasn’t having mental peace and quiet. I was looking for the shareables. Instead of just soaking in the beautiful sunrises or the fifteen inches of snow we got or my three-year-old’s birthday, I was thinking about how to photograph and phrase things in a way that I could post. In a way that people would like. It’s hard to describe, but I knew this was what I was doing in my head. I didn’t like it. I still catch myself doing it occasionally, but I’m not spending the whole day doing it now. It’s hard to be present in the moment when I’m thinking about posting the moment somewhere else.
And yes, there is something to be said about the fact that I’m blogging here and still sharing things and getting comments, but there is something different about this. It’s sustained thoughts and complete ideas. It’s self-examination not for approval but for its own sake. There is something more journalistic about blogging than the way I was using Facebook and Instagram. Or at least what it had become, because I think they did honestly start out as places to document our days – the ups and downs and the funny things that happen. There is something fun about sharing those things with other people and knowing that you’re not alone in the sometimes isolating aspects of motherhood. But it had become something more, I could tell, and I wasn’t happy about the effect it was having on me.
So this week, my youngest turned three, we undecorated for Christmas and started our school routine again (much to the chagrin of my school-aged kids), we had family come for dinner and we played lots of Monopoly (the junior version is much more fun with this crew). I started a Bible study on the Fruits of the Spirit (if you haven’t ever done one of Sonja Corbitt’s Bible study series, I highly recommend), and have spent some more time in prayer than I have been. I have also been using this video to pray the Litany of Humility, which I can honestly say has been life-changing for me, even before this decision. I found it last year when I asked someone for some information about how to really pray for people who have been hurtful in a more meaningful way than just a half-hearted “God bless so-and-so.” More on that change and great healing work, which also involves another of Sonja Corbitt’s series, in next week’s post.
I feel like I still have some deprogramming to do. I still think about my phone too much. However, I’m looking forward to being with my kids during the day in a way that feels different. Not like they are the “work” that I have to do in between my “breaks” on my phone. Breaks are important, and the kids are work, no doubt, but they are my vocation, my calling, and my treasures. I was spending less time thinking about them than I was about my phone, and the balance was just not right. It feels like it’s starting to swing back in the right direction.
How do you use social media? Do you limit yourself to a certain amount of time? Have you taken periodic breaks from it, and if so, have you found them to be helpful? I’d love to know what’s helped you to find a balance that works for you.
Update: As of May, 2022, I have closed my Facebook and Instagram accounts altogether and it I won’t look back.