I have a confession to make, and I can already see the reactions going two ways. Some moms will relate, while others will want to burn me at the stake.
I have a mild smartphone addiction.
Before you start throwing stones, I bet if you stop and really look at the amount of time you spend on your smartphone, you are in the same boat. This study actually suggests that you use your phone double the amount that you perceive you do. Studies also show that many “checks” are under 30 seconds, which means we are doing it without any kind of conscious thought, phone in hand at all times, an extension of our arms.
I wonder if your typical morning looks a little like mine. I use my phone as my alarm clock, so it lives on my nightstand while I’m sleeping. The first thing I do after I shut my alarm off before I even crawl out from under the covers is a “quick” scan of my Facebook news feed, and a “speedy” scroll through my two Instagram accounts – one personal, and one for my business. Sometimes I even jump back to Facebook and start the cycle over. (Seriously, am I expecting a lot of different content to have popped up in those five minutes?)
Throughout the day, I reach for my phone whenever I happen to sit down, when I perceive the illusion of boredom, even occasionally during meals.
Why do we have this fear of missing out? Or a compulsive need to know who is posting what at all times? For me, I think part of it is that as a stay at home mom, the majority of my time is spent alone with my toddler. Scrolling through Instagram gives me a little glimpse into the outside world for a minute.
Have you ever found yourself saying “Just a second, honey” when your child asks you to play because you were on your phone? I am ashamed to answer “yes.”
There are studies that show the negative effects that parents’ excessive phone usage can have on their children. It can affect social development, interactive skills, and with older children, it can promote feelings of being less important than their parents’ smartphone. I can confidently say that I never want my daughter to feel like my phone comes before her.
I decided to conduct a little experiment. I decided that for one day, I was going to use my phone strictly as a phone. I was going to allow myself to text and make phone calls, that’s it. No social media, no surfing the web.
To prepare myself and to help resist temptation, I moved the Facebook and Instagram icons off my phone’s home screen into a new folder that I titled, “STOP.” (I know I could have easily just deleted the icons and reloaded them the next day, but I have a habit of forgetting passwords like it’s my job, so it just wasn’t worth the hassle.) I also turned off notifications so I wouldn’t be immediately alerted if someone liked a photo on my Instagram account. The world won’t end if I can’t keep track in real time of who is checking out my feed.
Honestly, for the most part, this challenge was much easier than I expected. It was actually a relief to not feel the pressure to be posting, “The perfect picture,” witty captions, or engaging with enough accounts to grow my audience.
There were only a few times I felt my smartphone addiction creeping up and I was really itching to check my social media. One of these situations was at lunchtime.
Do any of you mamas have toddlers who will stretch five bites of chicken and three green beans into thirty minutes worth of eating because they know after lunch comes nap time? Yeah, me either. (Insert eye roll.)
While I sat there waiting for her to move it along, I found myself wishing I could take a peek at the social media world to kill some time.
The next time I could feel a faint pull of my smartphone addiction was during nap time. More often than I would like to admit, I put my daughter down for her nap, tell myself I’m going to sit for five minutes and then be productive while she sleeps, and then realize it’s been nearly 40 minutes and all I have accomplished is mindlessly scrolled on my phone, checking posts or watching Instagram stories. While my habit of wasting time on my phone while she’s asleep doesn’t directly impact my daughter, using my phone during nap time can often extend to using my phone during afternoon playtime, and that’s not ok by me.
On the evening of my little experiment, I booked myself a pedicure for a little self-care. I brought one of my favorite books with me, and I didn’t look at my phone once.
It was amazing.
Instead of devouring useless content about people I barely know (or don’t know!) on Instagram, I lost myself in a book and it was so rejuvenating.
Completing this little personal experiment wasn’t necessarily groundbreaking for me. I already knew I spent too much time on my phone, and I already knew I wanted to cut back. What surprised me was how easy it actually was for me to last the whole day without checking in at all on what was happening in the social media world.
I’m not about to swear off social media forever. It is my main form of advertising for my business, it’s how I share photographs of my daughter with my large extended family, and let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just nice to scroll and unwind!
We moms just need a break from reality occasionally, right? But I feel more inspired to walk away from it a lot more often. I left the icons for my social media apps grouped together in the folder labeled “STOP!” as a reminder to myself. Every time I mindlessly go for those time suckers, I see the label and ask myself if I have a good reason, or if I can be focusing on other more important things.
Unfortunately, we live in the land of “mom judgment” and online trolls. Though I shouldn’t need to, I feel a strong necessity to defend myself before I have even really put myself out there. My daughter’s life is full and fun. We do crafts and build blanket forts. We explore playgrounds and visit Echo. We turn her crib into a ball pit several times a week, and I even crawl in there with her. She gets more than enough attention, and she does not experience damaging neglect. But I also have a desire to always be a better mom tomorrow than I am today. And for me, that involves less time on my phone.