My thumb was cramping, but I couldn't find the mental strength to stop. My eyes felt like there were minuscule-sized bees stinging the surface of my eye, but yet I couldn't look away from the tiny, glowing 3x4 screen. Scrolling. Tapping. Scrolling. Tapping. Grimacing. Judging. Counting "the likes" on someone's picture. Wishing there was a "dislike" on another person's picture. Feeling jealous. Feeling annoyed. Feeling inspired. You know, the typical bursts of subconscious feelings all of us fellow social media-ites experience during a "social media binge session."
On this particular day, I was downstairs "playing" with my daughter in her playroom. At some point, I picked up my phone and robotically opened up Instagram and began catching up on the oh-so-important pictures of everyone I followed. I don't even know how long this particular binge session lasted until a tiny voice interrupted: "Mama color with me! Mama! Mama! COLOR!"
I looked up from my Instagram trance and could faintly make out the shape of my petite toddler in front of me trying frantically to get my attention. Immediately, I was snapped back into REAL reality away from the doctored cyber reality I had just made my reality for the last few minutes. "Mommy, will you color with me?" A simple question from a tiny tot, but it had profound implications for me.
It was that moment I realized I had a problem. The first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem, right? So, here I am, publicly admitting that I have a social media addiction. Or, rather, I'm a recovering addict. After the story above, I remember wondering how long I had zoned out and ignored my daughter's simple plea to color with her. I then wondered how many times in the past I had done this and in effect sent her the underlying message that other people's digital lives are more important or interesting than the life staring at me in the face.
So, months ago, I deleted my Instagram and Facebook applications on my phone and I haven't looked back. I'm still debating whether or not to keep my Facebook account, but it is still activated for now. Baby steps to recovery!
Many of my fellow addicts may be thinking: "Blasphemy! How could one live without Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Tumblr, OH MY! This is, afterall, the Information Age." And, I have to admit, at first it was strange. I felt like I was missing out on some elitist party. I found myself picking up my phone and realizing I had nothing to scroll and look at besides the news and e-mail (Yawn-fest). So, instead, I found myself actually calling my friends and family to see what was happening in their lives. Gasp!
I had spaces of time that I would just sit. In the moment. With my own thoughts. No phone. Just real life. I no longer had the gnawing need to take a picture of wherever I was at or catch the perfectly posed, filtered, and edited picture of my daughter. Instead, I found myself just enjoying those moments and truly treasuring them. How bizarre!
I began asking myself questions like, if other people aren't affirming the cuteness/amazingess of our children/pets/food/outfit/shoelace/etc. via social media 'likes' and 'comments'; does that make any of those things any less worthwhile? And what is this sudden cultural need to excessively share so many aspects of our lives; or rather the photoshopped/filtered version of our lives? Sure, the Greeks and Romans erected statues of themselves all over the place, and perhaps little cavemen were around drawing pictures of their children and food on cave walls, but our generation has really taken this "sharing our lives" to a whole new narcissistic level. My self included. Sorry world.
There has been a lot of talk about this idea of "unplugging" and taking a sabbatical from all technology. While, I think it's a splendid idea, as you can see I have also found it so beneficial to set boundaries when you are plugged in. For me, as a stay-at-home parent who works part-time on the side, those boundaries involve not being on any sort of social media when my daughter is around. If she were older, say a middle-schooler or high-schooler, I would have a coniption fit if she were constantly on her phone around me and ignoring me and others. So, why would it be OK for me to do it to her now just because she is younger?
I do think the Information Age is amazing. I love technology. I love all things Apple. (I also love lamp). But, as I'm learning as a recovering social media addict, setting limits to all this information, sharing, and so-called connectivedness is so crucial. For example, the world would be a better place if one day some of us parents set severe limits on how many pictures we post of our children and their bodily functions. I know for a fact, our friends without children (and even us with children) will bless that day. If you are that parent that may be guilty of such excessive and often TMI-posting, I have one word for you: Limits. Oh dear friend, LIMITS.
I daresay, if we all just had boundaries and limits around social media, parents and children will thrive just a little more. By setting limits on myself, my daughter will never again compete with my phone for my attention. And, you know, for me, I might have just caught my addiction before my life started spiraling into the nebulous digital cloud. Also, my thumb cramping has stopped.
Now, if you would excuse me, I have to go color.