Sunday 26 May 2019

What I learned when I quit social media

The first day I was constantly picking up my phone then putting it down again, the
habit of looking at my phone was so strong it was like an impulse.

I had decided to give up social media for lent.  Facebook and Instagram were my main vices, they had become a distraction from my children, from my husband, from housework, from life.

I soon overcame my impulse to constantly check my phone, but it wasn't really until lent was over that I began to realise the benefits of avoiding it, and the real negatives of engaging with it.

During my fast the many benefits of not being on social media became abundantly clear.  I was more available for my family, less distracted and the awful image of the mother with her face glued to her phone was gone.  I am not perfect so I did replace the phone with books, but how much more inspiring is it for my children to see their mother distracted, or otherwise engaged with a book than it is a phone!? I was less stressed as I wasn't getting caught up in petty arguments and I was cut off from my main news source, (I even watched the actual news a couple of times during my fast as I had no idea what was going on in the world!) so my anxiety about world issues was massively reduced, and because my mind wasn't overwhelmed by the plight of people and environment in far flung places I felt more available to help with the everyday plights of my children, husband, friends and home, my circle of influence.  I had more emotional energy for them as I wasn't wasting any on things that I couldn't have any impact on.

Not being on social media freed up my time as I wasn't wasting it staring at the screen at mindless junk.  I was tidying the house, I was batch cooking meals, I was changing bed sheets, I was gardening and I had more time for reading books. Time scrolling facebook during evening breastfeeds with my two year old were spent pinning exciting things on Pinterest (though be warned, Pinterest can be a rabbit hole, so I know now I have to stay on topic.  One minute I am looking at ideas for sensory play for two year old's, and the next I am reading about how the world is flat and the queen is a lizard (I kid you not!).)  My FOMO (fear of missing out) was unfounded, I didn't miss out on anything at all, my friends relayed events to me that they thought would be interesting and I got plenty of information from my friends on messenger and through emails.

So I bet you think I have stuck with not going on Facebook of Instagram since Easter?  Well you'd be sadly mistaken. Over the last few weeks I have re-immersed myself fully in social media.  I have very quickly fallen back into my old habits of constantly looking and checking my phone.  My husband has noticed I am distracted and I am sure my children have too. My children now see me on my phone as an everyday occurrence, the phone as an extension of my hand. I desperately don't want them to think that having a phone in your hand to stare at is a normal thing, and something they will do.

From the first moment I began scrolling through Facebook I was seeing posts that caused me anxiety, at least 5 posts unnerved, angered or otherwise bothered me in the first five minutes of scrolling
And this has continued ever since. It is terrible, I have slipped back into old habits so quickly, once I pick up my phone and start scrolling I find it extremely difficult to stop, I get into arguments with people I don't even know and get frustrated with trying to reason with idiots! Why do I do this to myself?

So I want to say right now that I am giving up Facebook and Instagram for good.  But I can't.  Let me tell you why.

Facebook and Instagram give me a voice, or at the very least make my feel like I have a voice which reaches further out into the world than to the friends and family I see on a weekly basis.  I feel like I can have an impact on the lives of others through what I share online. I enjoy feeling like I can bring joy, comfort and encouragement to others, that I can make people think, stretch people out of their comfort zones and have my own thoughts challenged and discussed. I missed feeling like I was part of a wider world when I was fasting from social media.  I also use Facebook for practical purposes, I document our home education journey with my family in a private group.

So now I need to work on getting a balance.  I need to work on self-control and stopping myself from mindless scrolling. I need to work on sharing stuff that I am passionate about and that adds something good to the world and my life and not clicking on and reading drivel. So from here on in I am expecting to spend less time mindlessly scrolling my home page, engaging with click bait articles and arguing with strangers about stuff I can't control or change.  I will be focusing on my circle of influence, so expect posts on the environment, veganism, home education, mothering, positive parenting and breastfeeding and more, and also just general feel good, or thought-provoking posts to those who know me or have some sort of real connection to me outside of the screen.

I hope I can maintain the will power and self-control to stick to this plan, I think it is worth it as I now know how much better it is to be living in the real world and not stuck to my screen.  Why  not join me and see how reducing your social media engagement can change your life.