July was such a fun, busy, social-media free month for me!! We met up with friends we hadn’t seen for so many years, we went camping, we swam, we visited family and had family visit us. I also learned a lot – I learned so much about myself, my addictions, my (lack of) self control. I also learned a lot about my interactions with my family, how they can be improved, and what they think of me and my relationship with my phone.
I felt calmer. When I am constantly checking Facebook, I have so many notifications from all my groups telling me who posted what. This made me feel like I had to keep on top of it all – that I had to comment my opinion on a disciplining technique, or that I had to add my website information to a photography referral. The list goes on. Most of my interactions in these groups are coming from a good place – either I genuinely want to help someone asking a question, or I want to join the next hike that the Mom’s group is going to, or I want the chance to book a new client in need of a photographer. But these notifications are happening multiple times a day, in various groups that affect a different aspect of my life and it is just so exhausting trying to keep up with it all. It’s also super overwhelming feeling like I need to keep up with every detail of everyone’s lives. Instagram and IG stories really make me feel like I have to be desperately on top of it, especially when stories only last for 24 hours. Letting that go for a month was incredibly freeing.
In a similar way, I found that I can be a crappy, on-the-surface friend to 1500 people….or, I can be a genuine, invested friend to much fewer people. The people that I reached out to during the month of July were ones that make a true impact on me and make me a better person. They make me happy. I didn’t feel overwhelmed texting people back or out of the blue to say hi, because I hadn’t already spent too much time on my phone that morning. Last month I got in touch with three friends I hadn’t seen in years, and allowing them to take a piece of my time and my life was fulfilling and gratifying, rather than something I had to “Squeeze” in. There were obviously several factors involved with that, but yes, I do believe no social media was a part of that. I loved having a real, in-person catch up with them rather than stalking their profiles from afar, and only seeing a small sliver of what is actually going on in their lives.
I’ve found that my life, my energy levels, my ability to balance multiple things and relationships – it’s like a pie chart. And every thing I do, including the big things like taking my kids to swimming lessons and accepting church callings, but also including the small things – like every word I type, every text I read, every notification I check – it all takes something out of me. It is all a contributing sliver to my pie. My pie chart is not self-generating, ever charging, a never-ending supply. When the circle is full – I can give no more. So, if I know that’s the case, I’ve decided to take a much closer look at what I allow to fill that circle.
I’ll be honest, I was not completely 100% exactly perfect with my no social media rule. But I’ll say I was about 97% strict – and really, the only time I logged in was for a purpose; mostly I was checking posts that I saved to read up on later, and I would read them when I spare time. I read more, I found topics I was interested in and researched more. I made more eye contact with my children when they spoke to me. I had more meaningful conversations with Adam while we drove in the car. I took more pictures and had more “quiet time” in my mind. As I said already, overall I just felt calmer, more relaxed. I had less of that “I’m forgetting something” or “I should be doing something else right now….but what is it?” feelings. I was less anxious and less jealous, and probably a billion less “I’m not good enough” thoughts. When it’s not in my face – when what everyone else is doing – is not always on the top of my mind, then I don’t have to play the comparison game. Instead I felt more present, more in control, and more confident in myself as a mom, wife, and photographer.
Sure, at first I also felt more lonely. Sometimes I thought I was bored. But I think it’s good for me to feel those things sometimes, and to have to find something “good” – or at least something else – to fill those voids. I think both of those feelings contributed to my overall well-being and the sense of calm that came, and my desire to strengthen my relationships with the people that matter most. I also felt less of a need to seek approval from other people, and instead let my self-confidence and personal self-worth come from myself, my God, and my husband.
I found this article about parents interactions with their children while using their smart phones during my month off of social media, and it made me realize that this cannot be only a 30-day-thing. This new lifestyle I’ve chosen needs to be a permanent change. So what does that mean? Does it mean I’m calling off social media for good? No, it doesn’t. I’m a business owner. I’m involved in my church and other meaningful groups. I like sharing pieces of my life and business with others. I don’t think social media is inherently bad. But it does mean I’ve decided to make
some new rules for myself.
1. If I am on either FB or IG, it must be for a purpose, not to scroll. This means that I am never allowed to check Facebook or Instagram on my phone. This means that I will take the time to sit down at my laptop or desktop to fulfill this purpose/do my work. Checking social media on my phone is never a “need;” If I am out of the house, then most likely my children/my driving/my interactions with strangers need my attention more than my phone.
2. I will have set hours for doing work on social media. Since I am still training for my half marathon, my mornings are typically filled up with runs. But, when my intense training is over, then most likely early morning will become my computer + social media time.
I think these two rules alone will completely change the way I interact with social media. Instead of it being an addiction, it has become a tool. Which I’ve always known is what it should be used as!