I’ve been feeling like I’m too dependent on my phone, specifically social media, lately and I was wondering how it was affecting my parenting. I was already deciding to cut back on my use of Facebook and Instagram when the president of my church formally asked us to try at 10-day fast from social media. Great! Perfect timing!
I just finished that 10-day fast and I learned some pretty important things about myself, like how I’ve let an addiction to social media affect my parenting.
Ultimately, it all came down to time. I learned I was wasting too much time on social media, getting lost in other people’s lives, dramas, and content that didn’t apply or actually matter to me. And when time was getting lost to my phone screen, that meant time was getting lost to my kids.
Aside from the sheer amount of time I learned I was wasting, another area my fast helped me see I needed to improve was with my friendships. To a stay at home mom, adult friendships are our breath of fresh air. I thought social media was a way I could connect with my friends and family but instead, I realized all it was doing was making me envious of them. I’d let myself get lost in comparing my life to theirs, my worst to their best, and I’d get frustrated. Then, when my kids needed my attention, I would be impatient with them. I’d snap at my unsuspecting kids and startle them. It was almost like I began to blame my kids for being the reason why my life wasn’t a certain way, or why I couldn’t do certain things. Social media was facilitating my negative self-talk to the point where I stopped appreciating the amazing people standing right in front of me. All because I was allowing myself to go down a time-sucking hole of comparison with those I thought the best of. As much as I tried to not let all this happen, social media and our smartphones make it all too easy, sometimes.
Once I came back to social media, I went on a massive purging spree. I unfollowed or unfriended people I didn’t feel connected to (outside of social media) anymore. I also left a plethora of pages and groups that I thought brought me entertainment but were really only mindless time suckers I didn’t actually care about. Once I did that, the times I scrolled were more substantial. I saw content and people I actually cared about and that brought me joy. Consequently, it became easier to stop my scrolling anytime my kids needed me (or avoid it altogether until they were in bed) without snapping at them for interrupting. They were no longer afraid I would yell at them so easily and got to see “happy mom” more often because I wasn’t comparing myself into misery anymore.
One final, massive way social media had affected my parenting came in the form of stunting my creativity. Kids are an endless well of creativity, freedom, and silliness. Their imaginations during playtime are unaffected by adult problems or things like social media. When I stepped away from my phone for those ten days, I got to be a kid again, in some ways. My mindless scrolling had filled my time, energy and attention with things that didn’t matter as much as playing with my children and left no room for my brain to come up with an original thought. Once stepping away, I came up with all sorts of fun things to do with my kids and I enjoyed our playtime more.
It wasn’t all bad, though. My ten-day fast also showed me that I rely on social media to reach out when I don’t have an answer to something (which is often). I have access to a world of moms out there who want to help me as I try to take care of my kids. Moms who have had rough days, just like me, and know the perfect meme to send or phrase to say to help buoy me up. I missed that type of connection while I was gone and cherish it even more now that I’m back.
Obviously, not all social media is bad. When you don’t get sucked in, where 10 minutes turns into an hour, taking a break from your reality for a moment has its benefits. And of course, the fast itself was very hard because my addiction was/is real. I still had many moments where I didn’t love motherhood and wished I could escape with my phone to cool down. So I’ll still be using social media, but this time, with boundaries. I appreciated that I stuck to my fast because now I have a better awareness of my media use. Now, I’m able to see specifics in my own life, just HOW I’ve let social media take over my relationships and my time with my kids. And I plan to be more present for my kids, appreciating what I have in front of me more often.
I encourage all of you to take a 10-day fast from social media and reconnect with yourself, your children, and your life outside your phone. Then, keep track of all the things you noticed and any insights you had.