Facebook makes me a bad mom. Okay, that’s not true; but it does make me a distracted one. “Mommy! Come and see what I drew!” My three year old runs into the kitchen while I’m making lunch. I stop preparing the food and instinctively grab my phone to go in the other room. Buzz. A Facebook notification. I stop to check. “Mommyyyy!” My son is holding up his picture. “Mhmm. One second, bud.” By this time, I’ve seen the non-important notification and am now scrolling my way down the Newsfeed rabbit-hole. “Look. It’s us.” I look up and see two stick figures holding hands.
Later that night, my husband and I get into bed after finally coaxing our kids to sleep. Exhausted, we both scroll through our phones as we half-converse about our days. Buzz. An Instagram message. He’s looking at me. “Did you?” I literally missed everything he had just said. “Sorry, what?”
Instances like this had become all too common in our home. I’m not a phone zombie by any means, but too often I chose to scroll through whatever social media was calling me while I could have been present for the people literally in front of me. The little red notifications popping up throughout the day was enough to interrupt the real experiences I was trying to have with my family. I was done. So, On January 1st, my husband and I deleted all social media off of our phones. Facebook? Gone. Snapchat? Deleted. Instagram (my one true love)? Bye Bye. We committed to a month of intentional interaction instead of cruising on autopilot. After that month, we would reassess whether or not it was worth having these apps so readily available. How hard could it be?
To be honest, I learned some not-so-good things about myself during this month. I am a stay-at-home mom to a three and one-year-old. Any mama of littles can tell you, things can get monotonous. I didn’t realize how heavily I relied on my phone to keep me connected to the outside world. I didn’t realize that my craving for adult interaction had become so big. When I deleted my social media, I felt almost lonely despite never being alone. This loneliness prompted me to call friends more often, set up more play dates, and just get out of the house more. This actual social interaction left me feeling refreshed and gave my kids an opportunity to get out and explore more.
The first week, I discovered that I had an addiction not only to social media, but also to my phone. I can’t tell you how many times I picked up my phone in order to check on something that was no longer there. Each time I did this, I was hit with the realization—you did it again. I began to play a game on my phone as a replacement. Anytime I picked up my phone, instead of opening my social media, I would open a game and zone out. Once I realized what I was doing, I deleted the game as well. I decided to treat my phone like a landline. I plugged it in, turned the volume up, and left it in one place. It felt weird to go from room to room without the familiar weight in my pocket.
I also realized how little I cared what was happening on social media. While I deleted the apps off of my phone, I still checked my Facebook and Instagram on the computer occasionally. I didn’t carry my computer around with me from room to room and I was far more cognizant of time passing while on the computer versus the phone. Every time I logged on, though, I was increasingly bored with the content. Not much was going on that I cared about, so I logged in less and less.
After the first couple of weeks, I felt liberated. I no longer felt the constant urge to check my phone. Instead, I joined in with my kids more. The phantom limb feeling disappeared and I no longer felt the siren’s call of my Instagram feed. What was most surprising to me, however, was the fact that before the purge, I would interact with my kids with social media in mind. Even if I didn’t post about what we were doing, I would consistently have the thought, “take a picture of this. It will be cute to post.” I didn’t realize I thought this way until after the option to post pictures was no longer there. Once I realized this, I felt free. I didn’t have to capture the perfect picture or come up with a witty caption. I could just be with my children, purely in the moment.
When January was up, I re-downloaded Instagram and Snapchat to my phone. I really enjoy going through Insta and my three-year-old likes seeing the Snapchat filters. Both of these, however, are utilized minimally. I simply do not miss getting sucked into the abyss now that I know how it feels to be free. My kids enjoy having a present mom to play with and my husband enjoys not having to repeat himself twelve times.
There is nothing wrong with taking a few moments out of your day to turn off your brain and scroll through feeds. As parents, we need to take a minute to ourselves every once in awhile. However, without this experiment, I would have had no idea how many moments I was taking. These long breaks did not leave me feeling rejuvenated. Now, I take the time that was spent on my phone and dedicate it to things that make me feel alive—I read a book with my kids, take a walk, talk with my husband. Because of this detox, I am a better mother and wife—even if I didn’t mention it on my Facebook page.