I began toying with the idea of a social media hiatus after a column I wrote about my least favorite things about summer in my city elicited some ugly comments. While most recognized it as a piece of humor, others went so far as to say that my face was one of the worst parts of summertime. So that was fun. #sarcasmfont
Shortly after that, my best friend told me she was taking a social media break and I thought about taking a break again … Then after the Chattanooga shooting, the internet got ugly and I couldn’t deal with it — so I decided to say goodbye to social media for a while until I could.
I deleted all of the social apps from my phone, and my self-imposed exile began. Here’s a few observations from my week without social media.
Checking for notifications is second nature
In the beginning, I found myself looking at my phone every 10–20 minutes, waiting to see the telltale number on my Facebook app — that 21st-century indicator of how many people care about what’s going on in your life. I eventually remembered that the app wasn’t on my phone and stopped checking, but was astonished at how conditioned I’d become to checking for social media notifications.
I still looked at my screen. A lot.
During the first few days without social media, I still found excuses to pick up my phone and look at it. I sent texts. I browsed my wallpaper app for new choices. I checked the weather. The desire to stare at my tiny screen wore off after a few days and I found myself leaving my phone alone — I even left it in other parts of my house for hours on end without giving it a second thought. Astonishing!
I noticed others’ device use more
Leaving social media made me realize how much we all use our devices. Everywhere I looked, parents tapped their phones instead of watched their children. People at restaurants Tweeted instead of talked. Partygoers multitasked, bouncing between human and internet conversations; their attention never fully focused on either. I had never noticed any of these things before, because I was one of those distracted people Tweeting and talking … But being on a social media hiatus forced me to — gasp — actually observe the world around me.
I got bored
Until I got used to the break, I was bored. Really bored. Without access to my usual apps, I found myself struggling to find activities to keep me busy. I also felt totally disconnected. It was harder to find out what was going on in everyone’s lives, because I wasn’t on social media to read about it. I realized that I couldn’t remember what life was like before I had endless information and instant communication at my fingertips … Which is weird, because that was less than 10 years ago.
I was a better mom without it
One of the most positive takeaways from my social media break had to do with parenting. I’ve noticed a connection between my patience toward my child and whether I’ve got a device in my hand — I snap at my daughter a lot more when she tries to get my attention while I’m browsing Facebook or composing a Tweet. During my break we had more playtime, more conversations, and I feel like we actually got along better, which I guess isn’t surprising. There wasn’t an iPhone in my hand that was stealing me away from her, so she didn’t feel the need to whine or act out. I think that’s what we’d call an “A-ha” moment.
To my surprise, I didn’t scramble to my phone and download all of my apps the moment my hiatus ended. Once I’d adjusted, I found I didn’t really miss it at all. Since the end of my exile, I check social media less and haven’t strayed into the comments sections of blogs and articles. I think I’m growing.
Would I do it again? Yes. In fact, I’m even thinking of taking my next hiatus a step further by ditching my cell phone completely. Whether or not I actually part with my iPhone remains to be seen… So stay tuned.
This post was written by Natalie Anastasia Green for the Torch community of Parents.