The first week

One week ago today, I read this post and decided to take a break from social media. The post itself was not what convinced me; I’d been thinking about it for a long while and had actually considered getting rid of my smartphone altogether in the new year.  The post was written by someone who shares my personality type and also homeschools, and it just gave me the push I needed to go ahead and disconnect.  I posted a “time out” photo on my Facebook and Instagram pages and shared that I was taking a 12-week break. Then I deleted Facebook and Instagram from my phone and logged out of both on my phone and computer. Those were my only two social media accounts.

So, what’s changed?

It took me four days to stop looking at my phone every fifteen minutes or so. I was constantly grabbing it and turning it on, thinking I’d just…

Oh wait. Nevermind.

Over and over again all day long, starting as soon as I rolled over in the morning and opened my eyes and ending with one last click before I put it on my bedside table to charge. There is nothing really to look at now, but I still would pick it up and click that circle button. Maybe I’ll just look at the weather forecast. Again. It made me very upset with myself for letting it get to that point. If I replaced my phone with anything else in my house it would have been absolutely absurd to be grabbing it that many times per day to look at it, yet here I was, grabbing for this tiny screen to stare at. A phone is a tool and shouldn’t be anything other than that. I had made it a source of self-medicating, zoning out from real life, creating a loop in my mind that sought approval and feedback from others to get through the day. On day five, frustrated with myself, I logged back into Facebook and deactivated my account.

It took me five days to stop spending the day thinking in terms of Facebook or Instagram posts. Photo captions, funny thoughts, little quips would pop into my head along with the impulse to share them. Because I’ve seen and read so much about the dopamine release that happens in our brains when we receive “likes” and comments on our posts, I knew that this is what my brain was craving. I wasn’t having complete thoughts or just enjoying my day. I wasn’t having mental peace and quiet. I was looking for the shareables. Instead of just soaking in the beautiful sunrises or girl-with-smart-phone-1616794-1599x1066the fifteen inches of snow we got or my three-year-old’s birthday, I was thinking about how to photograph and phrase things in a way that I could post. In a way that people would like. It’s hard to describe, but I knew this was what I was doing in my head. I didn’t like it. I still catch myself doing it occasionally, but I’m not spending the whole day doing it now. It’s hard to be present in the moment when I’m thinking about posting the moment somewhere else.

And yes, there is something to be said about the fact that I’m blogging here and still sharing things and getting comments, but there is something different about this. It’s sustained thoughts and complete ideas. It’s self-examination not for approval but for its own sake. There is something more journalistic about blogging than the way I was using Facebook and Instagram. Or at least what it had become, because I think they did honestly start out as places to document our days – the ups and downs and the funny things that happen. There is something fun about sharing those things with other people and knowing that you’re not alone in the sometimes isolating aspects of motherhood. But it had become something more, I could tell, and I wasn’t happy about the effect it was having on me.

So this week, my youngest turned three, we undecorated for Christmas and started our school routine again (much to the chagrin of my school-aged kids), we had family come for dinner and we played lots of Monopoly (the junior version is much more fun with this crew). I started a Bible study on the Fruits of the Spirit (if you haven’t ever done one of Sonja Corbitt’s Bible study series, I highly recommend), and have spent some more Litany-of-Humilitytime in prayer than I have been. I have also been using this video to pray the Litany of Humility, which I can honestly say has been life-changing for me, even before this decision. I found it last year when I asked someone for some information about how to really pray for people who have been hurtful in a more meaningful way than just a half-hearted “God bless so-and-so.” More on that change and great healing work, which also involves another of Sonja Corbitt’s series, in next week’s post.

I feel like I still have some deprogramming to do. I still think about my phone too much. However, I’m looking forward to being with my kids during the day in a way that feels different. Not like they are the “work” that I have to do in between my “breaks” on my phone. Breaks are important, and the kids are work, no doubt, but they are my vocation, my calling, and my treasures. I was spending less time thinking about them than I was about my phone, and the balance was just not right. It feels like it’s starting to swing back in the right direction.

How do you use social media? Do you limit yourself to a certain amount of time? Have you taken periodic breaks from it, and if so, have you found them to be helpful? I’d love to know what’s helped you to find a balance that works for you.

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8 thoughts on “The first week

  1. Susan says:

    It sounds like this is a great time of growth and reflection for you Eileen.

    You asked how your readers use social media – I tried instagram and have an account, but can’t get into it, its too impersonal for me somehow. So I rarely check it and post even rarelier ( 😀 )

    Twitter, again, I have an account but never post and rarely check.

    Facebook however is my coffee break room. I totally get what you’re saying about posting and getting likes… I see that in myself too. But I love seeing other peoples photos of their children and pets and adventures and hope they don’t mind seeing mine either. Working from home for the most part means not a lot of social contact so I get it from facebook. I like the chance to chat and connect. It also allows me to keep my finger on the pulse of my kids schools and communities through specific pages. So on the whole I feel like facebook is a positive environment for me. I spend a lot of time in the car driving kids places and waiting for kids to be done activities so it gives me a little diversion while I’m waiting. I think the main thing that changed with my facebook use was how much I was reading. Before Facebook I would have filled that down time with book after book. I’ve just recently (like in the past six months) gotten back into reading and am really glad to return to the old friend of good books. 🙂

    Now, if I could only take a break from snacking… that’s my kryptonite!

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    • Eileen says:

      I like your approach, Susan. I do miss the connections (and you 🙂 ) and the photos and updates, but I think I crave the calm a little more, especially since there is so much chaos around me. I think if my kids were older and didn’t need me as much, I would be better able to divide my attention. ❤️ And snacks…yes! I dont think I could give those up.

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  2. Stacy Tully says:

    A few weeks ago I took a week off from Facebook after some negative feedback from someone very close to me. I was shocked that after just a few days my email was filling up with messages like “did you see what ____said about _____’s post? Facebook KNEW that I wasn’t active, and “they” weren’t happy with that! I have never had an Instagram account, and check Twitter for scores of our local sports teams. I have since continued to check my Facebook, but I honestly didn’t miss it that week and am considering making our “separation” more permanent. The reason I first made an account was to share pictures and updates with those of you Tullys who weren’t near us, but we can find other ways to catch up! Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Eileen says:

      I have found the same to be true, Stacy. I have turned off email notifications from facebook, but found I was getting emails from Instagram that said, “see what you’ve missed!” or even, “you must be having trouble logging into your account – let us help you!” I started for the same reasons – to stay in touch and share updates with faraway friends and family. But it became something too consuming for me. To learn that they made it that way intentionally was even more disturbing, and my rebellious independent side finally had to say, nope. Not going to let you do that to me. 💗

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  3. Michelle H. says:

    After reading your “why” I totally get why you felt the need for a break and why you can’t just not look at it. I may not truly understand it because it doesn’t happen to me as it does to you, but you have such a way with written word I can picture it for you. I don’t envy other “things” people have (most times). I couldn’t tell you if I have builder grade stuff, etc. I still haven’t decorated much in the 10+ years we’ve lived here. I envy other folks relationships I see with their families and friends. As a very shy introvert, who doesn’t have close family or many friends, it can be hard to see those who seem to know everyone.

    BUT I find the older I get, the easier it is to not compare myself as much to others. To be able to truly know that most people are only showing the good online. Now that is not to say that every month when someone leaves our neighborhood for a much bigger house because they are done with their “starter” home I don’t think “we need to move – why are we still here.”. And then I come to my senses and realize this space is plenty big, and i’ll be mortgage free long before they will as I’m staying in my house.

    I handle social media by keeping it minimal. I have decided I will not keep up with all the new fads. I will leave that to the youngin’s. I have facebook. That is it. I also keep a very small group of friends on facebook. If I don’t know who you are, I won’t friend you. If you didn’t like me in high school I am not going to friend you on facebook. And if someone’s posts make me feel mad or sad I unfriend them. Life is too short to keep “negative” around. Especially when “in person people” sometimes bring their own drama. I don’t friend anyone from work EVER so I can keep those parts of my life separate. I also won’t friend those people who I randomly meet (a friend of Cole’s mom who I don’t really know).

    It’s hard though as nowadays our society just seems so ready to judge. That the screen & devices make it so much easier for people to be hurtful and I’m not sure we can avoid it, even by getting rid of social media. If I know you (the collective you, not YOU) are doing it purposefully, and not just being misunderstood, again I will unfriend you. I don’t like mean people or people who will hide behind their screen and be mean.

    I love seeing snippets of people’s lives who I would otherwise not be connected with. For example, my old babysitter is able to see what my child is now like. It is a relationship I would never be able to have as an adult without facebook. I also find it helpful to keep up with things like my child’s school (the PTO posts upcoming events). It makes it easier as a busy mom to do that.

    But it is more of a “let me check a couple times a day” thing. it doesn’t replace reading, or other things. I do it instead of watching TV. It took me several years to be ok with unfriending people whose posts gave me any emotion other than joy or sympathy/empathy. But it has made facebook more about just keeping up with everyone’s kids, etc.

    I wish you all the best on your journey to find what works best for you. Especially when your life is so hectic with so many kids under the age of 11 at this time. I know I will miss seeing your updates on facebook, but will enjoy the blog in the meantime.

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  4. Debora says:

    Hey there Eileen…..I too have been having a love/hate relationship with facebook and have stepped back. A few months ago I started reading about the affects of what is has been doing to our society and it bothered me. I found myself in some of the articles and then I discovered the intent of the creators and I began to question my use. I recently found the article below. Thanks for sharing you story. I hope this time refreshes you and blesses you. God bless!
    http://mastersinpsychologyguide.com/articles/12-most-crazy-ways-facebook-affects-our-psychology

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