I'm sure some will say I'm being over dramatic and maybe they will say I just need some will power but each day I find myself having to admit what I've read about the addictive nature of social media is true.
One day this week, I found myself obsessed with why my blog posts weren't updating to my business page but instead to my personal page. I was searching support pages, asking in a photography group and becoming moyre and more agitated. In the meantime my dog had slipped out of the back fence and was wandering the neighborhood and the time table for us to leave for my parents before my daughter hit nuclear meltdown before nap time was shrinking.
I had to retrieve the dog from across the street, where he could have been hit. Our plans for the rest of the day were scrapped in exchange for a nap for the almost 2- year old tornado when we might could have left earlier and snagged the nap at my parents if I had been focused on dressing us and getting out the door and not social media. I had also been checking my Instagram account.
My obsession with my Facebook page and social media in general, not too mention my attempt to promote my photography business, was throwing my day and life off schedule, I told myself. That's when I set up the extension on Google Chrome that lets me block sites and promptly blocked Facebook.
Enough is enough I decided. I needed my life back. I needed to get my priorities straight. One of the first ways for me to do this was to quiet all the voices yelling at me through my newsfeed. Are all those voices bad? Not all, no. Many of the messages I read on Facebook and social media are positive.
The issue is the volume of voices. They twist my head back and forth and speed up my heart as I always feel I am a step behind in my faith, my health, my parenting, my life in general.
Is Facebook evil? I don't believe so but I do believe it can take over our life if we let it and even without us realizing it. Before we know it voices whisper to us we are not as good as someone else in our circle of friends or our chosen profession because we see their highlights day after day in our newsfeed. We don't see the sad days, the tough moments, their feelings of failure, their insecurities, unless we read between the lines of their shares of elaborate vacations, school accomplishments, and career successes. We know they have those bad days but somehow all we can see is the good and for some reason all we can hear is someone telling us we don't measure up and we never will.
Even if I am not feeling inadequate by what I read, I do feel like I miss out on a lot of important and in between moments in my life by wasting time scrolling through news feeds and images of the lives of others. While reading about how to improve traffic to my site and therefore my business, I may have missed my daughter smiling at me and trying to get me to smile back or maybe I made my 9 year old son feel like he shouldn't interrupt me for a hug and a story about his school day.
Lately I've been thinking about all the moments I've missed in the lives of my children because of my addiction to likes. I enter photo contests on Facebook and find myself disappointed if I didn't receive as many likes on my photo as someone else did on theirs. How many times have I subconsciously based my worth as a photographer, and as a person, on how many fewer likes or comments I have? Too many times is the answer.
Prior to this latest wake up call, I had been having other wake up calls to the pitfalls of social media and about a month ago I detoxed from all social media for four days. When I came back on I reduced the time I spent on it and also implemented a new personal policy that I would only check social media after I had done my devotions in the morning. My devotions consist of reading my The Upper Room and Joseph Prince devotional apps.
I also removed the Facebook and Twitter applications from my phone and blocked Facebook through my phone internet browser settings. I kept Instagram because the interaction I have with fellow photographers there is positive and less about comparison. To me it feels more like a community than Facebook.
At that time I decided if I was going to be on Facebook at all I would use that time not to just click like on posts or photographs by family and friends and those in photography groups or pages but instead work to leave encouraging comments whenever possible. Not only would this take the focus off the negative and the underlying feelings of comparison for me but I hoped, and still do hope, it will force me to look beyond myself, my tendency to whine about situations, and help others to feel like they aren't alone and that their words and art matter. Anyone who knows me personally knows
I failed at this challenge recently when I used an entire paragraph to whine about my failed photography business so I am, by no means, perfect. I take solace in knowing I am not alone in falling to the temptation Facebook naturally creates to complain. In addition I recognize we all have bad days, sometimes feel the need to vent and share our bad times with our friends. We can't barf rainbows all day long after all.
If you have read this far, I hope you will understand that I am not suggesting you need to change your social media habits simply because I am. I don't believe every person who signs up for a social media account is or will become, addicted. I do believe some of us have more addictive personalities than others and therefore need to put stop gaps in place to prevent ourselves from losing sight of what is truly important in our life.
Tips for a social media break or reduction that I've gathered personally or from others :
- Turn off notifications in the settings of the social media aps on your phone to keep you from feeling the need to check your social media all day long (if it's an emergency I would hope family and friends would call instead of text);
- Turn off the notifications you receive in your email from social media outlets, which are another way they are trying to pull you into their world and subsequently push advertising at you, for one, but also keep you addicted. Again, not saying they are evil, but it's necessary for their business to keep people coming back. It's more of a business strategy than a malicious one, in other words
- Set a timer whenever you use social media so you won't find yourself wasting time on it. Do what you want to do there and get out, in other words
- Set up two accounts on your computer, one for personal use and one for work and use a site blocking extension like Blocksite to block social media sites on your work account.
- Remove your social media applications from your phones and digital devices. If you simply can't stop wasting time on Facebook or Twitter when you should be doing something else, then it is time to go cold turkey and drop the aps completely. Yes, you will experience withdrawal but you will make it. There is a good possibility what you wanted to share wasn't that important after all.
- Replace your online "socializing" with in person socializing. Call some friends and ask to meet some of them for lunch. Maybe you and your spouse could use all that free time you now have to reconnect (emotionally and *wink* physically)
- Fill the time you used to spend on Facebook with a hobby, journaling, reading, exercising, cooking, earning a degree at your local college
You don't have to quit social media cold turkey or all together. There are benefits in simply setting time limits or enacting week long detoxing sessions. Some of the benefits I noticed after even my short detox:
- better focus and a clearer mind
- accomplished more during by the day on a personal and business level
- less stressed. when I avoided getting sucked in to mindless scrolling it kept me on schedule for tasks that needed to be done at certain times, like waking the baby up early so she naps before I have to pick my son up at the bus stop or starting dinner so it will be done before my son's karate class.
- my children were less stressed because I was not only less rushed but more focused on them and their needs
- less anxiety. I wasn't bombarded with either political negativity or articles reminding me what foods and medicines are going to kill me or my children or even articles suggesting I need to pray more (those articles are not bad but I have a guilty personality and feel constantly condemned. Yes I am aware that's not good and yes, it is an issue God is addressing in me and yes, I'll probably write a blog post about it someday. You've been warned.)
In case you need even more incentive to break your social media addiction, articles about breaking social media addictions which encouraged (naysayers will say brainwashed) me:
A book for moms that really encouraged me to back away from social media, though I apparently forgot its' points recently, was The UnWired Mom - Choosing to Live Free in an Internet Addicted World
Lisa R. Howeler is a wife and mom living in a small town located in northern Pennsylvania, less than a mile from the New York State border. She is a photographer, writer, chocolate lover, and one of those Jesus freaks your mama warned you about. Find her online at www.lisahoweler.com; www.instagram.com/lisahoweler; and Facebook, when she's not detoxing from it, www.facebook.com/lisahoweler.