The other day I was sitting in a restaurant with my mom, sister-in-law, and two daughters enjoying a meal. I glanced at a booth located near ours and was pretty discouraged by what I saw: an older woman carrying on a conversation with a younger woman whose attention was totally devoted to her cell phone as she actively snap-chatted at least a dozen people.
As rude as it was for me to just stare at this little scene, I couldn't help but notice how incredibly disheartening it was. While the older woman talked directly at her, this young woman continuously sent pictures of herself with little captions under them, only occasionally offering a nod or brief word to the woman across from her. I get it; snap-chat can be super fun, but the fact that this young woman was sacrificing a real conversation with someone sitting right in front of her for the sake of sending a quick one-liner to a few friends just made me feel all kinds of disappointment at the world we live in today.
My noticing this happened to be right smack-dab in the middle of my 2 week experiment with zero social media. That might have attributed to some of the overall dismay I felt as I eavesdropped on their lunch conversation, but I'd like to think it would have bothered me regardless of my own social media usage at the time.
I promise I am not trying to act all "holier than thou," but it is no secret than social media consumes so many of us and has totally warped actual socialization into a thing of the past. I realized this tragedy in my own life as I looked up from my phone one day to find my baby girl smiling at me for one of the first times and thought, "woah, how long has she been doing that?" My heart immediately broke thinking she was just sitting there smiling at me, waiting for a response as I tapped away pointlessly at my phone completely avoiding her adorable little dimple-framed grin.
Has this plagued any of you before? I know I can't be the only one who has felt the pull to back off of social media and just take moments in authentically. And after 2 weeks of being fully in the moment, I have learned so many things about myself and just human nature in general when it comes to social media.
#1 : I handled my phone a lot less
First let me tell you that in order to avoid the temptation, I straight up deleted the social media apps from my phone. And truthfully, knowing that I couldn't quickly and easily access Facebook or Instagram made my phone seem a lot less necessary throughout the day. It would hang out on my nightstand or in my purse for hours without even being checked.
Just like a ripple in a pond made by a single stone, this lack of social media and using my phone had 'rippling' effects in my day-to-day life. For example, when my 2 month old daughter rolled from her tummy to her back for the first time, I didn't miss a second of it. When my 2 year old daughter wanted to show me something, I was able to immediately look and show her my adoration and pride in whatever silly or sweet thing she was doing. When my family got together for the holidays, I was able to invest wholly into conversations with loved ones I don't see very often. Without a phone constantly in my hand, it freed me up to really appreciate this blessed life I have.
Having my hands free of a phone also allowed me the ability to do other things to entertain myself. I designed things in my bullet journal, organized things in our home, studied the bible, watched sports with my husband, and tried out new recipes. Could I do those things while also using social media? Yes, probably. But would I have? Probably not because I would have been too wrapped up in scrolling through feeds to really invest in any of these other things.
On a more technical note, using my phone less made the battery issue most of us iPhone users are experiencing not nearly as relevant since I simply wasn't using it as much. I wasn't having to worry about making sure I had a charger with me at all times and I didn't push it to the 1% limit like I often do when I tax my phone making Instagram stories.
This experiment made me realize just how often a phone is in my hands and my eyes are devoted to whatever is on that tiny screen. I'm ashamed to think of all the beautiful things I may have missed in my adult life because I was scrolling through other people's lives instead of living my own.
#2 : i took pictures solely to capture memories
As a blogger, I get caught up in the 'beautiful Instagram feed' stigma and am always desperately trying to capture moments for the sake of social media. How sad is that? That in my warped mindset, a picture is only as valuable as the number of likes it might get?
Even if you don't want to admit it, if you use social media, I'll bet you've considered taking a picture solely for your feed as well. It's okay; like I said, I am guilty of doing this basically ever since I started my blog's Instagram account.
These 2 weeks without social media were so refreshing when it comes to this because it forced me to soak up moments authentically. As in not worrying about sharing them on Instagram to see what others thought of them. They were my own memories, for my eyes only.
However, with small children, I do know the value of a picture and how looking back as they grow up is so fun and special. So when I did grab my phone to take a picture (which was not nearly as often), it was purely for our own enjoyment. It might end up in a baby book someday or printed for a frame, but it was mostly just for us to know that we had that memory captured forever.
It was SO freeing to know that the lighting didn't have to be right, my kid could be a little blurry, and I wasn't going to immediately spend the next 10 minutes editing it and coming up with the perfect caption. I simply snapped the picture and tossed my phone aside. It may sound silly, but that freedom felt so incredibly good after months of toiling endlessly for Instagram-worthy captures and witty, endearing, and insightful words to accompany them.
Without that pull to post every picture I take or to ruin beautiful moments by trying to capture them in an Instagram-worthy way, I feel like I spent enough time fully invested in the moments that they will be ingrained in my mind in a more special way than a picture could ever show. And for the milestone moments and crazy antics of my daughters, I used my phone just long enough to make sure we can treasure them for years to come in their purest form, i.e. no filters or cute captions.
#3 : i paid a lot more attention to my kids
I touched on this somewhat in #1, but this is by far the biggest benefit I gained after ditching social media for 2 weeks.
If you have children, you know what I mean when I say that the day-to-day with them drags on and feels like it never ends, yet when you take a second to think about their little lives, it feels like they are growing up WAY too fast.
So while we as parents are exhausted from the daily rigors of raising little people, we know all too well that this time is fleeting and it is not to be wasted. So when something even as seemingly innocent as social media interferes with our ability to teach, praise, care for, discipline, nurture, play with, and/or love our children, it just has to go. Or at least take a major backseat to the pressing needs of a parent.
Without the pull of social media, I felt so much more involved in my daughter's lives. From the smallest yawn by my 2 month old to the larger scale of my 2 year old opening Christmas presents, I was so wholeheartedly invested in each moment. And that enriched each moment tenfold because it was all that was on my radar and nothing could steal that joy.
Even in the tough moments, like my 2 year old throwing tantrums every night not wanting to go to bed or my 2 month old throwing up all over the couch, I was 100% there. I was able to seek a solution with a focused and intentional heart and not just as quickly and painlessly as possible. I soaked up the frustration, which actually led to more patience; I embraced the chaos, which led to more peace.
How is that possible? Well, you'd be amazed what we are capable of when we truly give our undivided attention to something, even the tough stuff. I used to tell my students that all the time; if they just gave it 100% for a few minutes, they would get swept up and time would fly by. In their case, it was usually towards writing a paper, but as a parent, our goal is much bigger: to raise well-mannered, generous, thoughtful, caring individuals. And by being totally present in the good and bad moments, we are able to do that so much more effectively.
So while I don't think I was a horrible parent prior to taking a break from social media, I will humble myself and say that during those 2 weeks I was a much better one. Every moment I devoted to social media while in the presence of my children is a moment I'll never get back. As a parent, we can't afford to lose a second, so I am grateful that these 2 weeks taught me that.
a fresh perspective
If you're thinking, "wow, this girl must have used social media A LOT for it to have had that big of an impact," then I'll respond with three things. First, yes, unfortunately, I did. I was almost a slave to it, and that truly sickens me. Secondly, I was truly oblivious to my usage until I took a step back and witnessed what life looked like with my head up from my phone. And third, and I don't mean this to sound accusatory, but I would press you to think a moment on how many times in a day you use your own social media. I'll bet it's a staggering thought for most (I know it was for me).
So going forward, I've developed a little plan of action to incorporate social media back into my life, but in a way that does not sacrifice anything I gained during those 2 weeks. It looks something like this:
My hope here is that my experience might impact some of you to take a little social media break of your own and discover what you're missing while your eyes are fixed on a screen. If you give it a try, let me know how it goes in the comments below! I'd love to hear the things you gained from taking in moments authentically and living in the present moment, no caption needed.