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Here❜s How Giving up Social Media Has Helped Make Me a Better Parent
It's been 18 years since Facebook came onto the scene and 12 years living with Instagram. It's safe to say they've changed our lives.
The advent of social media has reinvented how we communicate and spend our free time, and for many of us, it means hours spent every day scrolling through feeds behind our phone screens.
Removing Social Media From My Phone Has Helped Make Me A Better Parent
Like others trying to juggle all of life's many balls, I began to feel burned out by the lack of boundaries I had with social media; always scrolling, always responding, always on.
Social media felt like a task I had to do to keep up, and I realised that something had to give.
I decided to challenge myself to step away from social media to create some space in my life for, well…my life.
Here's what I learned and experienced when I removed social media apps from my phone—and how it made me a better parent.
Many people struggle with phone and social media addiction, but what's the cost?
I think most of us have acknowledged at one point or another that we need to cut back on screen time. It became real for me when I discovered, mid-scroll, that I'd entirely tuned-out one of my daughter's very long-winded stories.
I was instead now witnessing her scrunched-up face saying, "mum, put your phone away—you're not listening to me".
As I absorbed being told off by my 3-year-old, I had to face facts, she was right—I wasn't. I wasn't listening.
And while I acknowledge that parents absolutely can't always give their kids their full attention, there was something about my girl realising that I was prioritising my phone over what she had to say that made me stop in my tracks and think—am I really willing to miss these moments?
As someone who lives overseas, on the opposite side of the world, to a lot of my friends and family, I thought I'd feel the pinch of isolation by deleting social media.
But the cold, hard, shiny truth of the matter is that now that I'm not mindlessly scrolling my phone for hours a day, I have much more energy to put into meaningful conversations and interactions with people; whether that's on the phone, through Facetime or on Whatsapp.
So while I have set some clear boundaries and do try and be on social media a whole lot less in general, there's still time and space to maintain communication with the people that mean the most to me—which feels like my happy medium.
Although some breakups can be messy, with lots of back and forth, resentment and false hope, I'm happy to say my break up with social media has been pretty smooth. As soon as I committed to it, I felt the sweet relief of something being well and truly off my plate.
I haven't sneaked on my partner's phone to scroll Instagram, and while I sometimes look on Facebook for work reasons, I do that on my desktop and not on my phone—which helps me uphold my boundaries.
Removing social media from my life feels like a weight off, and I'm yet to have an experience where I feel the absence of social media negatively.
The Addiction is Real
Can we just take a second to acknowledge how entrenched social media addiction often is? I removed Instagram and Facebook from my phone almost three months ago, and I’m still surprised at how often I reach for my phone in moments of quiet.
Boiling the kettle? Running the kids’ bath? Waiting in line at the supermarket?
Chances are I’ll still pick up my phone on impulse during these times. Old habits really do die hard.
Scrolling Gives a False Sense of Connection
While I know there are people who genuinely use social media as a tool for connection, I have to admit that I simply am not one of those people.
When you’re in the trenches of parenting young children and often without the so-called village it’s meant to take to help us raise our kids, it’s easy to turn to social media as sweet relief and adult connection.
I get it.
I’ve spent my fair share of mornings with my kids lurching from nappy changes to tantrum soothing and everything in between; desperately seeking to lose myself in other people’s Instagram stories and make it through to nap time so I can sit down and scroll some more.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned; it’s that, for me, this craving for connection in the moments of parenting boredom and fatigue is never going to be fulfilled by social media.
That in fact what I need to do is get up, get out and be present with whoever I’m with—especially if that’s the two little faces looking expectantly up at me (and probably demanding their 33rd snack of the day...).
The Bottom Line: Gratitude
When I read others’ experiences of social media detoxes, an upswing in gratitude always seemed to be at the core of the experience—and while I thought that sounded like a wonderful side effect, I couldn’t really imagine how that would actually feel.
But, in truth, I do feel as though a fog has lifted since I gave up social media, and I think that’s because I’m prioritising being present in my own life as opposed to investing so much time looking at other people’s.
And it turns out that while I do still frequently feel like I’m limping to the finish line after days spent running around after this little girl and boy I spend my days with, I really do have so much more gratitude for them and this fleeting time of days spent at home together than I did three months ago.
And that alone makes it more than worth it.
To reiterate, and yes I will keep saying it ’til I’m blue in the face—I’m not judging. This is not an attack on people who use social media—you do you. If social media makes you feel good, go to town. But if it doesn’t and you’re looking to make a change, may this be the gentle nudge you need.
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