My name is Sarah, and I’m addicted to social media.
That may have sounded like a dramatic entrance. But it is the unfortunate truth, as much as I hate to admit it.
Almost everyone I know is addicted to their cell phones in one way or another. It’s hard to imagine how humankind ever got by without them.
Between being a Mom, a registered nurse and trying to maintain a life, I am already a super busy lady on the go. Yet I still find myself checking Facebook or Instagram whenever I’m not moving a million miles a minute.
I’m not saying social media or mindless phone browsing are always a bad thing. But I do think many people are more engrossed in their phones then they even realize, to the detriment of intentional daily living. Constant internet use can be a massive time sucker that takes away from being in the presence of one’s own life.
Why is social media/cell phone addiction so common?
Facebook and Instagram browsing has always been an easy, passive way for me to disconnect from the real world. On a shallow level it feels good to distract my brain for a while. After all, I work hard. I deserve a break. Sometimes I don’t want to have to think about how to better use my time.
Sadly though, strolling down the social media feeds doesn’t add joy to my life the way so many other activities do. Its never been purposely included on my to-do list. So why do I always check it so frequently?
What I could be focusing my time on instead of browsing social media:
- being a wife
- raising an amazing kid
- spending time with friends
- writing in this blog
- listening to music or a podcast
- practicing yoga
- doing absolutely nothing at all
You read that last part correctly. Doing absolutely nothing at all can bring me immense joy, partly because I almost never have a chance to do it.
Recently, I was reading an article about an author named Tim Ferris who wrote a book called the 4-hour workweek. He talked a lot about how being perpetually busy just for the sake of business is actually a form of laziness. Ferris explained that on a superficial level, being busy is a satisfying substitute for doing important work. “It’s very easy to confuse activity with productivity,” says Ferris.
This got me thinking…
Is my addiction to social media just me being lazy?
Am I unconsciously browsing social media instead of living my life with intention?
I became inspired to devise the following cold-turkey intervention on myself:
For one entire week I will not look at any social media feeds or unconsciously surf though my phone.
After all, how hard could it be?
My experiment started easily enough. But just like clockwork the minute I stopped paying attention my fingers automatically tried to pull up my Instagram account.
Apparently, my social media addiction was more ingrained then I thought. My plan required increased preventative measures to ensure success.
So I went a step further. I deleted both the Instagram and Facebook apps off my phone. That way if I wanted to use the apps I would actually have to sign in via the internet and type in my password.
Wouldn’t you know, just the annoyance of having to type in my password was enough to remind me of why I had started this experiment in the first place. I created a successful barrier to reinforce my phone addition recovery!
One week later…
My experiment to give up social media taught me a few valuable lessons and brought about some welcome changes.
#1. I added more presence and engagement in my life.
Sadly, social media is often not an real representation of what is going on in people’s lives. It is a magnification of what people want you to see: slivers of primarily positive information that appears flawless, effortless and often like never-ending, spontaneous fun (don’t we all want to project the best parts of ourselves). Its also full of marketing, branding and sales gimmicks nowadays too.
By taking mindless phone browsing out of the equation I was left with significantly less distraction. It made me more present in day to day activities.
In other words, I took back the time that social media was stealing from me and applied it directly into being engaged in the most important stuff. Like spending uninterrupted time with my daughter and husband.
#2. I increased productivity in things that matter most.
To make my point on this I’m going to create a hypothetical, but totally realistic situation:
Lets say a person reads social media for 20 minutes a few times a day: once before getting out of bed, once during a break from work, and then one more time before going to bed in the evening (for a lot of people I know, that is a conservative estimation).
It seems like a harmless habit. But if you add up the time over a seven day period you are talking about 7 hours a week. 7 entire hours! That’s just ridiculous. It’s the same amount of time some people spend at work during a normal workday. Mindless internet and social media browsing can kill off the equivalent of almost 1 workday per week if you allow it to.
See my earlier list titled “what I should be focusing on instead” to see where I am making more productive use of my time now.
As I mentioned before, even taking time to do absolutely nothing would be a better use of time. Mental breaks are great for overall productivity. (Did I mention I am training to be an ER nurse and have a ton of training to work on after I put my daughter to bed? My brain can use a little extra time off.)
#3. I fall asleep earlier and have better overall sleep.
I had a bad habit of flipping through my phone before bed.
Cell phones emit bright blue light that is meant to stimulate the brain. By looking at a cell phone before bed it causes the brain to stop producing melatonin, which is the hormone that cues the brain that its time for slumber. As a result, smartphone light can disrupt the sleep cycle which makes it hard to fall and stay asleep.
Sleep is crucial to good health. Interrupted or lack of quality sleep is linked to so many health care related issues including many cancers, depression, and weight gain. In other words, better sleep habit = happy, sane Mama.
I would rather get some rest and rejuvenation and keep my sanity, thank you very much!
Am I going to quit my Facebook and Instagram accounts permanently?
No. My overall goal was never to shun my cell phone entirely. I think using social media in moderation is OK, as long as I keep it to once or twice per week, and never before bed. I still do enjoy sharing my own stuff and checking out the feeds from time to time. I will, however keep the apps off my phone to prevent unconscious browsing.
Using social media responsibly is not a bad thing. But now I recognize through experience that there are a lot of good reasons to use it sparingly instead of as a way to fill space in the day.
The moral of my story is this:
Living a life of intention requires making conscious changes to habits that appear harmless on the outside.
What habits do you have that are not serving you well?
Sarah, Mother Nurse Love