I have such a love/hate relationship with all of it - social media, the internet, the world wide web - THE WHOLE KIT AND KABOODLE, especially with the onslaught of doom and gloom and opinions that constantly barrage our minds and souls and suck us dry in our mental capacities because we just don’t have enough brain cells to encompass it all.
As a newbie writer I’m repeatedly told that no one will ever read my words if I don’t have a platform, but as a person, I’m not really into the platform concept! I’m extremely introverted. I get all bunched up in knots if someone doesn’t agree with me or like me anymore. I don’t so much mind sharing pieces of my life with the world, but I do mind when strangers begin to throw rocks at my words or my family because they don’t agree with something or they are simply in a pattern of self loathing and decide to take it out on me.
I do participate in the online world in a pretty large capacity especially with shopping as it offers an extremely appealing convenience factor where I live. I order at least 50% groceries online through Walmart of Amazon. I also order (and sell) lots of kid’s clothes through different apps. I buy makeup and oils and diffusers and castile soap and mailboxes and pillows and anything and everything that won’t spoil, and I love it. Not only do I save on gas, but I also save on time and by ordering in bulk I earn free shipping and additional discounts. Love, love, love this part of the internet.
I also love the accessibility the internet offers for anything and everything. Yoga classes, there’s an app (or a hundred!) for that. Online cookbooks? Done. Online books? Got it. At your fingertips. Want to learn a new skill? Youtube has you covered.
Social media has also been really good to me for the most part. I’ve been able to reach people and audiences and cultivate meaningful relationships through this venue like no other but… social media has an ugly down side as well, and it is known as addiction. I never really considered myself an addict until I had my last baby, and I nursed her. A LOT. Like half of my day I had a baby stuck to my chest. When I nursed my other children I sat on the couch and watched Oprah or Ellen or soap operas. When I nursed Annabelle I stared at my phone, which had the convenience factor of being able to go anywhere with me, and for many (MANY!) nights this ritual went on for hours on end. Scientifically speaking, our social media habits release dopamine, a feel good high, just like drugs or sex or alcohol, and every time we see another like or a positive comment or receive a text, we are feeding into our addiction. Two years after having Annabelle, (so basically a few months ago), I recognized this unhealthy trait in myself and decided it needed addressing. I couldn’t go anywhere without my phone or tablet nearby. What if one of the kids did or said something cute and I had to show or tell the world? What if I had a thought I had to write down? What if someone sent an email? Or a text? What if another person commented on my photo on Instagram, and I didn’t see the comment within the appropriate two second time span? Oh my goodness, the world may stop!
Seriously. My brain was in full blown addiction mode, and this is what I noticed about my behavior.
1. I was highly anxious. I believe that with the ability to have social media at our finger tips 24/7 comes also the ability to (unfortunately) know way too much at all times. My brain was on absolute overload with the amount of information I was obtaining via social media. Every disaster, every high, every celebrity commenting on anything. TOO MUCH INFORMATION.
2. I was suffering from bouts of depression. I believe this stemmed from a lack of being present in my own life. I couldn’t truly enjoy anything: baking bread, sweeping leaves, watching the kids play, or reading a book, because I was constantly on high alert with my tablet sitting right beside me. What was I missing in the online world? I was pretty sure something was going to pass me by because I wasn’t fully engaged at all times, but in reality, my life was passing me by because I wasn’t fully engaged!
3. I was always running out of time. Social media is a big honkin time sucker. I found I could easily spend hours on my phone or tablet – especially while nursing a baby who did not really enjoy sleeping.
I’m not completely healed of my addiction to social media and the internet in general, but I have found a few coping mechanisms which I have implemented that have helped to rewire my brain back to a semi normal state of being.
1. Absolutely no phones or tablets after 8:00 pm. The kids all go to their rooms at 8:00 at night. Some read, some watch a movie, some are actually told to turn out their lights and go to sleep, but Ryan and I have down time together from 8:00-10:00. No kids, no phones, no tablets. We talk about our day, watch a show, and enjoy one another’s company.
2. I eliminated all social media apps from my phone. This has been extremely helpful when I’m on the go. I’d like to say I never picked up my phone to check out something while I’m in the car, but that would be a lie. Red light taking too long? Better check out Facebook. Slow line at the stop sign? Good thing I have Instagram to waste time with. Need gas? Better take these five minutes to check out Twitter rather than clean out my car. You get the point. I’m considering eliminating my smart phone altogether and buying one of those pay as you go deals, but I’m not quite there yet.
3. I also unfollowed almost everyone on Facebook – including friends and family. I know, extreme, but I didn’t necessarily want to know what perfect strangers (or anybody for that matter) did all day long. I don’t want to be bombarded with news (good or bad) that I’m not mentally prepared to deal with, and I was sick of forming judgements because of something that was shared out of context on social media. Now, if I like or comment on Facebook it is because I was thinking about that particular person and decided to see what they were up to by going to their page and investigating.
4. I narrowed down my social media load. I like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest but never really got into snapchat or twitter or a bunch of other ones. I’m a creature of habit, and when I figure something out, I tend to stick with it. I decided to focus on the ones that I enjoy and let the chips fall where they may with the rest. I can’t do it all. I can’t be on every social media platform and still be a present mom, wife, and all around person.
5. I turned off notifications. No more being bossed around by the ding indicating a new text or email, and I turned the ringer off. I check my phone for texts and calls on my time.
6. We haven't implemented this one yet but it's coming for the whole family this Sunday. We are unplugging. Phones, tablets, computers, done. Taking a day of rest for our eyes and our souls. Most of us will be okay with this act but some of us will really struggle (Tate, Caleb, and myself). I trust, it'll be good. I hope to connect more as a family, enjoy one another, and laugh together as we watch football or some silly movie. Stay tuned. I'll post on this specifically in the coming weeks and how we've been affected.
Those are my takeaways so far, but admittedly, I still have a ways to go to get back to a healthy state of mind, and I have crossed a few boundaries in the last week or so as I’m organizing a re-launch team for my book Sunlight Burning at Midnight – which (shameless plug time) if you’re interested in being a part of, fill out this application, https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc_Q7rO2BEfqhB1CjSIU4_5TcuUkedvNeGzYlR6pBNK9CfAYw/viewform and we’ll see if it’s a good fit. I’ll be picking my team on October 30th. Anyone else struggle with any of this? Any suggestions for what works for you? Let me know! I think we could all benefit from a little less media madness and whole lot more mindfulness in our lives.
Just keep livin!