Okay lets just get this out of the way, yes this article is about social media usage and electronic usage as a parent. And yes you are more than likely reading this as you browse social media. That does not make you a bad parent! I am a total lover of the mindless scroll, the profile stalking, and the oversharing social media provides. I love a good virtual connection with family and friends, and I don’t intend to stop. But I do intend to set some boundaries with my impulsive clicking and scrolling.
I became a social media addict at age 18. I wasn’t allowed to have a MySpace or Facebook growing up, and Facebook didn’t become big until about a year before I turned 18. On my 18th Birthday I made a facebook the minute I got home from school. I was obsessed. And why not? It was fun! All my friends were with me virtually, I could share pictures, and stalk people to my hearts content.
Instagram eventually surged to the top and I quickly climbed on board towards the end of college. Again, I was hooked.
Then I got married and had a big girl job. As a young married couple I don’t remember it affecting us too much. We were busy working, and had time in the evenings to unwind and we didn’t mind each other scrolling here and there. There were moments where we talked about being better with our phones, and we would for a time, but looking back we were not nearly as bad as we are now.
Then I became a mother and am now the proud and extremely tired momma of two amazing kids two and under. Two very small, impressionable little persons who need my attention and care constantly.
I stay home with my children and have found myself browsing social media so much more since I became a mother. After having my second baby I have been puzzled as to what the real pull is. Why am I so sucked into this virtual world? Why am I taking pictures of my kids? Is it for memories or for the “perfect post” or story thread? What benefits am I reaping from this need to scroll and constantly be updated on the lives of others? My answer to that, after many moments of deep thought is: avoidance. Social media allows me to avoid things and tricks my brain into thinking I’m doing something relaxing or even important. Social media allows me to become lost in another world without crying babies, an imperfect body, overdue medical bills, and household tasks. Social media allows me to avoid face to face interactions while still letting people look into my life.
When I had my first baby I struggled with PPD and anxiety for the first month or so. My Dr. encouraged me not to be on social media comparing myself to others, but to open my home and heart to actual physical people coming in to talk with me.
I won’t lie, I’m a total introvert, and love the idea of being able to reach someone instantly through a messaging platform. I love that I don’t have to have the face to face interaction that can sometimes gives me extreme anxiety. I like the ease and comfort of hiding behind my phone. And don’t we all? How many times have you been in a public situation where you feel a bit uncomfortable, or no one is talking to you at a get together and you pull out your phone? I’ve done it. Instead of forcing myself to get out of my comfort zone and start conversations with new people, I avoid–I hide in my virtual world.
With my 2nd baby I was been blessed with no PPD and minimal anxiety, or so I thought. Now 3 months postpartum I have realized PPD has come in a different form this time. While it may not be severe by any means, I have often found myself feeling in a funk, overwhelmed, or easily frustrated.
I have had several moments where I have had to step back and try to target what’s causing my frustration and sad feelings, and while I can admit some of it may be hormonal, I can also pinpoint one thing that is definitely not helping: my phone.
It was simple to identify once I took a step back and evaluated what makes me happy and what is restricting me/distracting me from that happiness.
I started to notice I would get frustrated with my toddler the most when she interrupted me on my phone and in return she would get frustrated by my lack of attention—rightfully so!
When I would assess why I snapped at her in that moment I would look down at my phone in my hands and realize I just yelled at my 2 year old because she interrupted me impulsively scrolling through pictures I scrolled through 10 minutes ago? Seriously? I knew things needed to change.
In those moments I would put down my phone and pull my sweet baby into my arms and have a moment of: “This is the child you prayed for, the child that looks to you in all things. What will your example and legacy be to her?” I would stroke her hair and say, “I’m sorry momma was on her phone.” All the while I would was in my head thinking—I’m sorry to one of my most beautiful creations for putting a THING before a LIFE.
A couple of months ago I checked my “screen time”, a brave and humbling endeavor, and it showed that I spent over 5 hours a DAY on my phone I was shocked and totally embarrassed. How is that possible?
How could I possibly spend 5 hours a day on my phone on average? Obviously thats not all on social media (I promise, I looked at the breakdown. Some of that included phone calls, FaceTime, and other audio book listening—but a big chunk includes social media outlets) but still that’s a ridiculous number for a busy mom of two.
So I started to ask myself these questions:
What am I gaining from social media?
What triggers me to pick up and scroll?
What am I missing out on during those times I’m scrolling?
Here are my answers:
What am I gaining from social media?
-connection with family, I keep family and friends updated on our family by posting pictures. I enjoy seeing my friends and family as they grow and experience life too. These are all wonderful things! But I realized I could choose a time of day, or a day of the week to do an update, my family and friends will survive if I don’t post live updates.
What triggers me to pick up and scroll?
-Nursing my baby, rocking the baby to sleep, watching a movie with my daughter, chilling with my husband, making dinner, avoiding tasks I need to complete, sitting in a drive through, stop lights/traffic, nap time, morning and bedtime.
What am I missing out on during those times?
You can easily read the list above and see all that I’m missing out on. I’m missing out on making eye contact with my nursing baby, who won’t be a nursing baby for very long.
I’m missing out on rocking my baby to sleep and holding his little hand as he drifts off.
I’m missing out on cuddling with my daughter, distraction free, while we watch a movie together.
I’m missing out on spending quality time to reconnect with my husband, an opportunity that doesn’t happen enough with two little babes.
I’m missing out on showing my husband and children that they comes first, not some device.
I’m missing out on having important conversations with my husband that need to happen, but often get pushed to the next day and the day after that because we were too busy on our phones.
I’m missing out on not burning dinner.
I’m missing out on quickly accomplishing tasks around the house so I can spend more time with the people I love most.
I’m missing out on having a conversation or singing party with my 2 year old while we sit in the car stuck in traffic, a drive through, or stop lights (I know that’s an awful admission but I also know I’m not alone in this habit).
I’m missing out on doing things that I consider rejuvenating, so I can be a happy mom who participates in self care. Things like: taking a bath, reading a book, listening to podcasts/books, getting a good night sleep, quality family time, etc.
Just like any relationship you need boundaries set up. It takes time to learn boundaries, and sometimes even more time to establish them. But social media seems to know no boundaries. We are constantly being bombarded with MORE reasons to be on our devices instead of less. More reasons to miss out on what matters most.
I don’t have a one size fits all solution. I think social media is wonderful if used responsibly. But you are the only one who can determine what responsibly means for you.
For me it means if it interferes with being a mother I’m not using it responsibly. It has to be that plain and simple because my babies need me and I don’t want to miss out on one more second with them.
So a while back I deleted Instagram and Facebook off my phone. When I miss them, and a I have a kid free moment, I download them again. Or I hop on my computer (which I use much less) and do a quick browse that way. But when I’m done I delete them again or just sign out. It takes seconds to re download, so it’s no big deal to me. That’s me setting boundaries. And so far, I’m much happier, my anxiety is less, and I see my kids in a whole new light. And I even hope to read a couple of books in those extra 5 hours I’ll Have lying around 😉
Other ways you can set boundaries:
-set a timer for 10 minutes of a short amount of time of your choosing
-select a time of day where your phone use won’t affect those around you. If you think it isn’t affecting those closest to you, think again. It can build walls in relationships quicker than you think.
-log out of or delete the apps so you’re less tempted to scroll because it requires more effort to do so
-have a list of things to do when you feel that compulsive need to check your phone
Share how you set boundaries with your phone usage! I’d love to hear more to help myself with on this journey. I promise you your phone won’t care or notice a difference, but I can assure you the people closest to you will.