In the spirit of New Year's Resolutions, I wanted to share my uncomplicated, simple method on how I beat my social media/screen addiction as a mama. Many of us are hoping to make the new year one that is meaningful, fulfilling and productive and excessive social media usage might get in the way of meeting those goals. This tip can help you get there!
My Addiction Journey
I am 31. A millennial. I did not grow up with social media. Yes, there was MySpace, chat rooms and AOL messenger but that is a far cry from what we think of as social media today. I remember when Facebook started in the early 2000’s and you had to be a college student at a participating campus to register. I had a Facebook account but don’t really recall using it much in the beginning. Then suddenly Facebook blew up and completely changed the course of history. It’s kind of a big deal. Tons of other social media apps and sites have popped up since then, giving dear ol’ Mom eighteen different ways to see what you had for lunch. Now I can barely recall that time between opening my Facebook account and becoming addicted to my Facebook account (and other social apps). Where did the time go? Oh…wasted scrolling through Facebook. Touché.
It Started as Finding Support for Motherhood
Becoming a stay at home mom completely changed my usage of social media. Pre-kid, I would use social media to check in with friends, post pictures of events or parties, read articles on the latest Netflix hit.
Post-kid I still use it for those things but also use social media to post pictures of my growing son, read parenting articles and connect with other moms. I quickly found myself in multiple groups where I could post questions (“Does this rash look normal?” “Should my baby be sitting up by now?” “Am I screwing this kid up already?”), offer support and just connect with another adult human being. In the beginning of my journey as a stay-at-home mom I found this to be very comforting. I could basically crowdsource any bit of information I was looking for. I went to my social media for recommendations on everything from nursing bras to baby shampoo to local pediatricians.
No longer did I have to flounder and make decisions on my own! I had a tribe who was walking the same path as I was and they were full of knowledge.
Too Much of Good Thing – My Tipping Point
Once my son hit about two years, I found myself scrolling through social media more than I ever had before. I am not sure if it was the pure challenge of parenting a two-year-old or the fact that he was now able to communicate and let me know what he wanted in his own (loud) way. I needed some mental downtime!
I noticed that I was no longer spending as much time playing with him, reading to him or just simply being with him while he was exploring. If he was playing on his own, I quickly escaped to social media land. I deserved it. I needed a break. Somehow 5, 10, 15 minutes could pass in the blink of an eye and I’d only be snapped out of my haze by a screeching toddler who demanded my attention. I was always so annoyed to be interrupted. By my own precious baby. I didn’t want his first memories of me to be of me looking at a screen. I wanted him to remember me and how I always had time to play with him and be present with him. And look at him, not a screen.
I was Becoming More Isolated
I also found myself less likely to actually connect with ‘real life’ friends and family. If I was keeping up with their every move via social media, then why would we need to catch up in person? I would occasionally use social media to connect and meet up with a local mom but that was far and few between. I was feeling more and more isolated despite being so ‘connected.’ If my husband was driving us somewhere, I would be on my phone the entire time, completely missing a rare opportunity to connect.
I had to change my habits.
I Tried It All
I had read articles with tips on how to break social media addiction.
- Have designated times of the day where you check social media.
- Set a timer.
- Hide your phone out of sight.
- Have your partner change your password.
- Delete the app entirely.
I even installed an app that would block certain social media apps for a time period. You had to wait out the time or restart your phone. If my urge was strong I’d restart and be back to scrolling. I tried it all and nothing seemed to stick. The urge was too strong and I’d end up back to my old habits in no time at all. I didn’t want to miss a thing! I had FOMO – fear of missing out. Straight up FOMO!
What Finally Worked
If you’ve made it this far, thank you. I see the irony here. You’re most likely reading this article on your phone or tablet. But stick with me, because this tip might click with you.
I am the type of person that has to come to their own conclusions about things. People can offer suggestions and help but I am stubborn and want to do things myself. The same goes with my habit. I’ve been able to develop and stick with plenty of good habits over the past years. But all of those things were my decision.
The Key – you have to make a decision, once and for all that you will break your addiction. No one can do it for you. You make decisions for yourself every moment of the day. To use, or not use, social media is one of those decisions we make often. I had reached a low and knew I needed to change something asap. You know if you’re really ready to make a change or not. If you’re not at that place, that’s ok. Save this article and come back to it. On your terms.
Use Your Phone Only When Standing!
I was standing in the kitchen one day, scrolling through Facebook and it hit me.
I could still use social media, but only if I’m standing! Maybe that would help me cut down my screen time. Standing is just not all that comfortable and normally I’d stand for a few minutes, scroll and then move to our nice comfy sofa. Once in a reclined position, I could scroll in comfort to my hearts content, liking posts, reading articles and going down the rabbit hole.
That was it, standing!
I made the decision, right then and there, that I would only look through social media while standing up. Not leaning on the counter, not sitting. Only standing or pacing. I didn’t think about it much or give myself too much time to examine the pros/cons, I just did it.
I didn’t tell myself that I had to limit my actual time spent on social media at all. I could still use it as much as I wanted but only if I was standing or pacing. I have the app called Quality Time on my phone. I had installed it earlier to see if I could guilt myself into using my phone less since the app would tell me how much time I spent per app and would give me a warning if I was reaching a predetermined time limit. That didn't work obviously, but what was encouraging was seeing my time on my phone drop dramatically in just half a day. It was so awesome to see how my phone usage had changed in an instant.
I found myself using my phone so much less, simply because I was standing. I would use my phone to send an important email, return a quick message from a friend or wish someone a happy birthday. I found that I was doing more important things with my screen time. Things that actually did matter to me and enriched my life. It worked!
It's Still Working
And it’s still working. I’ve been able to stick with this and am in such a better place. I am still able to use social media for fun, learning and connection. But it’s no longer using me. I feel so much more in control and now that I’ve been doing this for several months I’ve found that I crave it less and less (it’s a real addiction folks). I even have days here and there where I don't look at social media at all. Something unheard of previously! I have been working on building fewer but more meaningful friendships with local moms. I no longer look at my phone while sitting in the car or a restaurant with my hubby. I have so much more time for true connection with the people that matter most. All with one simple shift.
Do it for Our Children
My son is growing up in the digital age. Younger and younger children are using cell phones and accessing social media. Every new toy has an app or website to go with it. Teachers are using texts to communicate with students. I am not sure how we will handle this with our son as he gets older. It’s a scary new world (wide web) out there and we will learn to navigate it together. One thing I do know for certain is that our children learn by watching us. From very early on they attempt to emulate what their parents do. I want my son to grow up looking at books, birds in the sky, playgrounds to conquer, people he loves. Not screens, at least not excessively. And the only way I can help make that happen is if I lead by example. He is more important that anything on any screen and I want to show him that.
If this article rang true with you, please share via (you guessed it) social media. Oh the irony! If you give my tip a try please let me know how it’s changed your usage.