Taking it easy on social media
Over the summer I decided to take a social media break as I was feeling overwhelmed and finding that it was giving me a lot of anxiety. I felt I needed to keep up, I saw that my kids were becoming more distracted by their use of their gaming devices. I was helped by starting a course by Jane Clapp about social media and how it influences us and can take over our lives.
It wasn’t easy at 1st, taking a break from posting on IG and not checking my phone. It took some will power and I also felt supported that I knew others on my course were doing the same. It felt like I did have an addiction to wanting to check my phone just in case something might have happened or see how well my posts were getting on.
I made a commitment to myself. This was the 1st important step and stuck with it, feeling uncomfortable or fidgety, sometimes not knowing what to do with myself. If I went to meet with a friend what happens in those moments when they get up to go to the bathroom. When I might have checked my phone, I headed down into the world of my social media and not looking up, not taking in the room, avoiding eye contact with people. What could happen when you look up? You might have struck up a conversation with someone, you might have just sat and allowed yourself to be with yourself, (as uncomfortable as this might seem); it's actually doing you some good. You are opening up to space moments in time where you can let your mind wander, or come up with an idea, or just sitting being comfortable with yourself. This might feel uncomfortable at 1st, it's only because you're not used to doing it.
When I sat and looked around, my heart sank. What I saw was other people sitting together, using their phones having a conversation with someone else who wasn’t in the room, it made me wonder - why? Is it because the conversation is much more exciting with social media or another person? Our phones and social media have such power over us, this addictive behaviour is real. The thing is, when we tap our phones, even when we think about it, it releases a chemical called dopamine - a feel good chemical; and we want to keep tapping the screen again and again. It's like a slot machine that keeps us coming back for more.
I don’t think that we ever give ourselves enough time to “feel into the spaces” because we are constantly trying to fill these spaces in time with something. In this present day I think it's the constant bombardment of noise and technology.
During this time away from social media I did a few things to help me. I set up auto replies on Instagram and Facebook to tell people that they can contact me by email or phone and that I only check my Private Messages once a week. I also set an “away” status on my email for when I was taking time off with my family. It really helped me to set boundaries around this time.
I also had more time to read and I re-read a book that I have had for years called ``The Precious Present” by Spencer Johnson about a boy and an old man about the present being a gift and when you receive this present you are happy forever. It's about the boy's journey discovering this gift.
It gave me the reminder that I think we all need to hear:
“The present has nothing to do with wishing
When you have the present you will be perfectly content to be where you are
The richness of the present comes from its own source
The present is not something that someone gives to you
It's something you give to yourself”
I have found more true value, from spending time away from social media. It helped me to cultivate better relationships with my kids and now we interact in a different way. When we have had friends over with their kids, we specifically say no computer games or phones. Instead, bring a board game, or some other offline recreational activity. There have been awkward moments where I have had to say “No, think of something else to do, go outside”. It gives our kids an opportunity to be kids. I know phones and computer games are the easy option sometimes but I personally think it's affecting their health and their interactive skills with others and our relationship as humans.
In the end, I had some time with my kids about social media and whilst doing some research I came across some helpful resources that you can check out below. If you read this, and it has inspired you to be more mindful away from social media, or if the upcoming links were helpful, feel free to reply! I look forward to hearing from you!