Like any typical teenager in the pre-texting world I grew up in, I spent hours on the phone, giggling and whispering secrets to my best friend, usually about boys that we liked. It didn’t matter if I’d just spent the weekend at my friend’s house, I’d rush home so I could call her and continue the conversation. My parents were constantly telling me to get off the phone already!
So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me when I got a little too attached to my iPhone late last year. It started off innocently enough. Walking by my command station in my kitchen, I’d sneak a peek at my phone, checking the lock screen for notifications. But soon, those quick peeks became minutes of tapping icons, checking just in case my notifications had been accidently turned off by the toddler. Minutes of me staring at a small screen, ignoring the sounds around me, snapping at my kids if they dared to interrupt my perusal of what was happening on Facebook and Twitter. And Pinterest. And Instagram. And Facebook again.
It didn’t hit me how this was affecting our family until the day I noticed that right beside me were my son and daughter, crowding the same small space, “checking” their own devices, just like I was.
But it really, really didn’t hit me until the day I caught myself not listening to my daughter as she told me something important to her. When I realized I had brushed her off in favour of my phone, I lowered it, apologized, and asked her to repeat herself. But she was understandably frustrated and let the conversation go.
That’s when I knew I had to make some changes. Immediately.
I tend to be an all-or-nothing kind of gal, but I knew that forsaking all social media forever was not realistic. Rather, I made a few small changes that, while difficult in the beginning, have reaped a large harvest of good.
Assess which social media is beneficial and ditch the rest.
As a blogger, it’s tempting to be on every single social media outlet out there. And while it was helpful for me to make connections, I was weary from keeping up with them. I decided to go against the norm and do less. I deactivated accounts, removed apps from my phone, and focused on the couple that I actually enjoy using. Not only did it free up oodles of time, there is less clutter in my mind now that I have less information to process in a day.
Set time boundaries and put the phone away.
I used to get up in the morning, grab my phone and scroll through my notifications as I stumbled down the hallway on my way to make coffee. I’d grab it while waiting for the kids’ toast to pop, check it before leaving the house to drop them off at school, check it again on my way in the house…. any spare moment seemed to find me with my phone in hand, morning and night.
Now, I purposefully leave my phone on its charger in my room until it’s time to take the kids to school. When the kids get home, I put it back in my room and close the door. I intentionally choose to focus on my kids rather than my device. And with less social media on my phone, there’s very little to check anyway!
Set the example, but give yourself some grace.
Some days are easy (like the ones I’m too busy chasing a toddler to catch my breath), and some days I have a legitimate need to keep my phone close by. I am a work in progress and each day is a journey.
But what keeps me going is the difference my small changes have already made on our family. My kids are less prone to checking their own devices, and more likely to engage in conversation about their days. I find we are spending more time together, as I’m not hiding in the office on my computer or hunched in a corner with my phone; I’m now available. I’ve even discovered that my kids, in their preteen and teen years, really do still want to spend time with me (even if they might not admit it)!
But most of all, I’m learning what’s truly important. I was so afraid of missing out of whatever was happening online that I really was missing out on what was happening in my home. I’m sad that I can’t get those days back, but I am so thankful we have today and that my kids have forgiven me.
And not only that, with my hands free of my phone, there’s a lot more room for one of their hands instead.
There’s no app for the happiness and joy that hand fills my heart with.