My family has had quite a couple weeks. I had lithotripsy and stent placement to obliterate two remaining stones in my left kidney on August 26th and that same night my daughter fell down the stairs at her apartment and broke her wrist in two places. It happened to be the week she was to pack and move to a new place. Her dad, grandmother, brothers and a few of her brother’s friends accomplished that for her while we were both laid up, healing. With one arm unusable, she stayed with us for a week until she got her cast. About two days after settling in at her new apartment, a man ran a red light and hit her oldest brother as he was driving to work. He thankfully escaped with a bump on the head and a stiff neck. (Thank God for seatbelts and defensive driving!) It’s given me somewhat of a new perspective on life, to say the least. And a deep gratitude for people who have helped, stepped up as witnesses, run errands, answered texts on weekends when they’re off work, etc. We are fortunate to have an army of good people in our lives.
The night of the accident I was scrolling on my phone, one of my usual escapes from all of the domestic chores I should be tackling, and I was stunned to find that a woman I had not seen comment on my facebook profile in YEARS had let her feelings out, telling me my post (a Seth Meyers clip) where I referred to Trump supporters as pathetic, was itself pathetic and I was awful to call people names, etc. Now, I fully expect these type of responses from his supporters but I have so few of them left in my friend list that it took me by surprise. I can take it as well as I dish it out, but something about this one bothered me, in that it was totally unexpected from her. It is what it is and I’ve learned life goes on. We were only acquaintances. I really like her but we have never even shared a meal or any confidences so I didn’t agonize over it, but I did notice how my mental self reacted and how it affected me physically. I thought about how, had I not been on social media, or not posted the clip, I would have had one less stressor that day. At that moment, I decided to do a weekend social media fast that would last from 5 PM Friday evening until 8 AM Monday morning. No Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter allowed. I was allowed to text, read internet articles, Google and use other apps, but no social media. I kept a few notes and there were some surprises. I actually really enjoyed it & intend to repeat it with extended time frames and tighter limitations.
When 5:00 rolled around last Friday, I took my phone to my room and placed it on the charger. I came back to the living room, picked up the book I was reading and felt SUCH a feeling of relief wash over me. I hadn’t expected such an intense reaction so early in the game, but it was like a weight had been lifted and my ability to focus most definitely was improved without that tiny computer at arm’s reach. Later that evening, when I received a call, which was allowed, I immediately reached for the Instagram button after hanging up. It was a definite reflexive movement, not at all intentional. My fingers just go to those apps like automatic reflexes. Habit or addiction? I’m willing to admit that in the initial hours of my social media fast, it felt much more like an addiction. The sense of relief had gone by the wayside when I was back in the room with that little 4×6 device and I needed to know what was going on in the lives of the few thousand people (yes, you read that right) I follow on Instagram. Proudly, I sat the phone down and returned to reading & cleaning.
I busied myself doing the laundry I had let pile up, read a bit more, took some things to my daughter’s new place and helped her unpack & unfurl a new rug. I went to the bookstore with my son and later we drove over to a malt shop that I love but had never introduced him to. One-on-one time with my kids is my favorite and I made time for it, much more focused and attentive than I am if I’m constantly checking my phone. I was already feeling much more connected to my people and it had only been 24 hours.
There were a few moments when I failed and I would have been shocked had there not been. I kept wanting to check the Razorback score on Twitter & I am not even a big Razorback fan. I had put out a plea on Facebook for people to share some information so that I might locate a witness that I failed to get the name of on the day of my son’s accident. I occasionally looked at my notifications on FB to see if I had received a response in reference to that. Unfortunately I had not. A couple times I reflexively hit Instagram but immediately closed it. Old habits die hard. Addictions are even harder. By Sunday I didn’t think I was missing anything integral to my existence. I had virtually no FOMO. This was working. I started feeling like I had time I didn’t know how to use because I wasn’t sitting and SCROLLING. I even tried to think of what, if anything, I have gotten personally out of scrolling. Here is a partial list:
- A feeling of inadequacy in my home, work & travel
- A more critical eye toward others
- Inspiration as an artist, which is always my excuse for scrolling, but that inspiration is rarely acted upon
- Inspiration for my home, again, rarely acted upon
- A messy, cluttered home because I’m not doing the projects I buy supplies for or reading the books I buy. I’m not taking time to clear clutter when normally I’d be on top of that.
- A feeling that I’m past a point in life where I can make some of these things happen (I’m not, actually. I mean I won’t be having more kids or figure skating but I’m no means too old to accomplish many of these things that inspire me.)
- Complacency. Having a ton of ideas but not making any of them happen. Being satisfied with less than I should be.
Don’t get me wrong. Social media has its place and it is an amazing business tool. It’s a wonderful way to keep up with friends & family. I have reconnected with friends I would never have found without it. I still love social media. It isn’t good for anything in your life (alcohol, sex, video games, gambling, etc.) to become such a habit or addiction that it keeps you from realizing important goals you’ve set or causes you to be depressed over what you aren’t accomplishing in your home, family and work.
The biggest surprise came on Sunday afternoon when my husband, son and I went to TJ Maxx, ironically, for phone charging cords. We chose the cords and browsed a bit and then headed to the checkout to pay. I noticed my purse was somewhat lighter and saw that my phone wasn’t in the back pocket, where I usually keep it while shopping. I checked my husband’s “Find My Friends” and it showed that my phone was still at home. I had ridden a few miles to the store in the car, shopped for a bit and not even once reached for my phone or noticed that it wasn’t near me. I considered that a huge win.
Charging my phone in another room at night improved my sleep ten-fold. If I happen to wake at night and the phone isn’t right next to me, I just do some deep breathing and generally go right back to sleep. With the phone by my bed, I scroll. When this Monday morning rolled around I thought I would be diving for the Instagram button and posting like crazy but I’ve barely been on social media today. Progress.
I saw an article this morning that said Madonna has put a rule in place that phones are not allowed at her concerts & at first I thought, “That’s crazy!” I then remembered attending a Don Henley concert that had the same rule & thought back to how it was one of the most enjoyable concerts I’ve ever attended because I was focused on his music & not having to look around people trying to video and photograph. I would challenge you to give a social media break a try. Baby steps are fine. Go without social media for a workday. For one night. Or go for a weekend. If you use social media at work, try going without it at home. Next time I may try a week. Or I may make weekends social-media free. There are options for everyone. I know for sure I have a much more productive, less stressful life when I put it aside for a bit.