I love my cell phone. While we’re at it, I couldn’t really live the way I do without my laptop. I’m no tech-guru (I know just enough to be dangerous), but I truly appreciate all we have gained through the gadgets and social media we have at our fingertips. Sometimes I appreciate technology too much. I have been known to sit with my computer open for hours, typing away at a book manuscript or working on reports for my paid job.
Over the years of motherhood, I’ve tried to gracefully incorporate the elements of life that call me away from being directly accessible to my family. We home educate. Translation: my kids and I are in each others’ faces pretty much round the clock. I work from home. I write this blog and books. In order to do well as a mom, a writer, and an employee, I sort of have to do a balancing act like the guy who spins all those plates on sticks. Keeping multiple things going used to stress me out. I don’t know about you, but I tended to share my stress with those I love most. My family paid the price for my overwhelm. Something had to give.
Resisting the Magnetic Pull of Social Media
A few years back I conceded that Facebook had a grip on me. Like a Pavlovian dog, I would jump at every little beep notifying me someone had liked something or replied to a post comment. Embarrassing, yet true. Lent came around and I decided to give up Facebook for 40 days. It was hard, but something amazing happened in the process. I no longer flinched at notifications. I wrangled free of the internal hold I had allowed social media to have on my time and impulses. My family and I engaged more with one another. Being offline allowed me to be more present and engaged in skin-on relationships.
Since I don’t think Facebook is from the devil (that’s another post entirely), I got back on. It gave me such perspective and restored my self-control to take that break. Returning to social media after that fast was wonderful. I reengaged with people I missed (some friends at a distance and some connections I have in groups). The best part was, I didn’t feel the push to be excessively engaged, check status updates, click through when notified. My time away restored my ability to choose well. As I say to my boys: master your habits, don’t let your habits master you.
Taking Regular Breaks
Since that experience, I regularly give myself time off social media. Guess what? Life goes on and very few people seem to notice I’m absent. They don’t host a social-media funeral for me. They keep posting and engaging as though my presence mattered very little. As humbling as that is, I think it’s super-healthy. I am not the crux of anyone’s existence and my interactions online are not the key to their survival, encouragement. or entertainment. Refreshing perspective.
This summer I decided another fast was needed. As I posted on Facebook and Instagram, “Summer is a great time to take a break. I’m taking a vacay from Facebook and Instagram. No social media for summer. I want to invest in my children, focus on writing, and process some emotions over a few situations we’ve endured this year. That all means setting aside time and it also means not numbing myself with the ease of turning on a screen to scroll. I love connecting with people on Facebook. Super-love it. That said, it’s time for a break. See you all August 1st.” With that, I unplugged. I had to arrange “substitute leaders” for my Intentional Motherhood Group. Otherwise, I was out.
Weaning Isn’t Pretty, or Is It?
The first few days I found myself facing the temptation to post whenever my younger son said something cute. Oh, seriously? Yep. This only confirmed to me how entrenched I had become in social media again. I took those desires to “post” and turned them into prayers or into texts (sharing the sweetness with a friend). Over the initial week, I felt fewer urges to go online and I found myself clocking more steps on my Fitbit, laughing with my family more often, and spending time pausing to take in the sweetness of summer.
I also wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I finished the book I started in April, “Slow Down, Mama!: Intentional Living in a Hurried World.” I took a trip to see friends in Texas. Y’all the pie was worth the trip alone!! I’m still working it off a few weeks later. Most of all, I recalibrated. In the middle of these six weeks off God moved a few mountains in a crucial situation. It’s been quite a summer.
A Careful Re-Entry
When I got back online, I found everyone I missed still there, willing to have me back. I chose carefully where to re-engage. My time online is intentionally less than before. I purposely turn off the phone and the laptop and play a game or make slime with my son (yes, I do make slime). I’m living out what I’m writing. I’m savoring life and I’m setting the tone for what healthy use of screens can look like.
Now that I’m using social media again, I’ve decided to adopt a new practice to keep the talons from ensnaring me as they always seem to do. I’m taking Fridays and Sundays to completely unplug. No computer, TV, or phone (except to answer calls or personal texts). Here’s what I don’t want: to look back on this season of motherhood and family life remembering how consistently I posted online, how regularly I blogged, or how many followers I accrued. Instead, I want to cultivate a life smattered with memories of slowing down for what matters most. That means a little less Facebook and a lot more face-to-face time with my people.