This is one of those scary-to-write posts.
Pondering the range of reactions that you might have, I can imagine that some of you will probably think it is frivolous and silly, wondering what the big deal is. Some of you might think that I am a terrible parent, and that my generation and our technology are going to be the ruin of all that is sacred. And some of you will nod your heads fervently in agreement, understanding exactly where my heart is and what I’m trying to accomplish.
Wherever you are on the spectrum, that’s okay – I understand. I just feel the need to put this out there – for myself, and for others that might be combatting with similar struggles.
Last week was more than taking a week off from blogging in protest of my lack of Spring Break.
I was in self-appointed detox.
Because I have an addiction.
Addiction: the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming.
I have always enforced the rule that I never blog while my children are awake – that’s what naptimes are for.
However, that rule didn’t stop me from reading my blog comments. Or checking Facebook. Or Twitter. Or my blog stats. Or my emails. Or anything else interesting on my phone at any moment.
Thanks to the life-changing device that is the iPhone and an already quite-healthy love of blogging and all that comes with it, I have found myself consumed by social media.
This absolutely can be, and is for me, an addiction.
Having a phone that can give you any piece of information at any time creates an inability to experience rest, let alone boredom. If my phone is within reach, I’m constantly, and often without even realizing what I’m doing, checking something.
A commercial comes on… I wonder what’s happening on Facebook?
I pull up to a traffic light… let’s check my email!
Ali wanders off for half a second to find a toy… Ooh! Twitter!
It’s consuming. It’s habitual. It’s ever-present. And it’s not who I want to be.
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time over the past few months analyzing why I do these things, and this is what I have realized: I thrive on words of affirmation, and every virtual touch from another human being is like a tiny little high.
An email – high.
A blog comment – high.
A Facebook like – high.
And then there are the notifications.
Bleep – A Facebook comment!
Tweet – A twitter response!
Ding – A new email!!
As much fun as social media is, it absolutely must take a seat in the back of my priority line.
I don’t want my kids to grow up with the mental image of their mother looking at a glass rectangle instead of looking at them.
I don’t want them to feel like they have to tweet me to get my attention.
I don’t want them to EVER think that they are less important than what might be going on in someone’s life that has an @ in front of their name.
This is unacceptable.
I’ve tried to change before, but unsuccessfully. I was too ashamed to admit the extent of my addiction, so it was all on me. I would set rules and boundaries for myself, only to give them up in a couple day’s time, justifying my need to keep tabs on my email for one reason or another.
At the beginning of the year, I shared my goals with my husband and my small group. And I set a plan in motion.
1. I turned off every notification on my phone, with the exception of phone calls and text messages. I do not need my phone beckoning me and piquing my curiosity every two minutes.
2. I vowed to not pick up my phone in the mornings until after I had my time with God. Reading God’s Word is infinitely more important than reading my Facebook newsfeed or my emails.
3. I agreed to leave my phone in my office every morning from breakfast to lunch, with minimal checking of said phone, and focus only on my children.
But I still had days where I would lapse back into my old habits, especially while we were all sick.
So last week, I decided it was time for a serious detox.
I committed to not touch my phone or my computer from the time that the kids got up in the morning until they went down for naps (with the exception of phone calls or text messages, but even then I vowed to not even so much as peek at my email or any type of social media). And then when they woke up from their naps, I would do the same until after their bedtime.
And you know what? It actually felt good.
With the rule in place and the fact that I had informed eight people of my commitment, the constant pull wasn’t there. I felt no pressure to “just handle something really quick”, no urge to “just answer this tweet – it will only take a minute”, and I just lived.
Like, lived IRL-Only.
Like, lived old-fashioned, in a pre-iPhone world. It felt so vintage and quaint and…relaxingly slow-paced.
Sure, I didn’t get to send out as many tweets or Facebook statuses, and my knowledge of what all of you were doing on a minute-by-minute basis was seriously impaired.
But my knowledge of every single minute of my kid’s lives,
made it so very much worth it.
This week, I’m going back to my original plan – minimal checking. I’m hoping that last week will have helped me distance myself from the “need” to check things constantly, but I know it will still take a conscious effort.
So why not just get rid of my smart phone and get a more archaic phone-call-only device? Because I think it’s deeper than that. I need to deal with the compulsions, not just take away the easiest way to fulfill them. If it weren’t my phone, then it’d be the computer. Or Ali’s iPad. Or any number of other ways to get a “fix”.
What about quitting blogging? Blogging has plenty of drawbacks, for sure – but it also has great benefits. Some days I love it, some days I hate it. But even besides the rich relationships that I enjoy with so many of you, I am leaving a legacy of my children’s lives and a blueprint of who I am for them to one day read – and so it’s worth it to work through my own issues to be able to continue doing that.
And it’s doable – with a little work and a lot of accountability.
A few Saturdays ago, Chris and I took the kids to our local kid’s Science Center. As I watched our kids blissfully play in each area, I also noticed the other kid’s parents.
Every single one of them was completely engrossed – in whatever was on their cell phone screen.
“Hey Daddy!! Look what I made!!”
Without looking up, “That’s great, honey!”
Every. Single. One.
And I realized – that was me. That is me. And it’s not pretty. I just never noticed what it looked like on other people before, because I was always too busy looking down at my own phone.
But here’s to change. Here’s to accountability. Here’s to starting fresh, every day, committed to not losing sight of real life due to the compulsion to share it.
Rachel blogs at GraspingForObjectivity
More from living