I spent the last month doing the More Social Less Media program created by Dallas Hartwig, co-creator of the Whole30. [Check out whole30.com and dallashartwig.com for more info on either.] I have completed one whole30 and am starting another today. I know the profound life-changing effects it can have, so when Dallas started writing about the effects on our health of social media and being constantly plugged in online, I was ready and waiting for whatever program he created next. You should check out his website for the full details, but basically the first two weeks were focused on being more engaged in face-to-face social interactions, and the second two weeks were a fast from social media and screen entertainment. Here are the things I gleaned from this experience.
A couple things to note first:
- I purposely did not remove any social media / entertainment apps from my phone.
- This experiment was especially difficult for me right now because my second daughter was born mid-April, so I’m currently spending my days [& good portions of my nights] with a newborn. I made the exception that I could read books on my phone when I was feeding her.
>> Social media and screen time has cost me too much in how I spend my time.
I downloaded the Moment app to help me become more aware of how much time I spend on my phone. It was DISTURBING. Granted, let me remind you that I’m staying at home with a small human who doesn’t talk and pretty much sleeps all day but requires one or both of my hands most of the time. Even still, I was bothered by how much I looked at my screen, how often I absently selected social media apps, and how long I mindlessly scrolled through feeds on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and the like.
In the first two weeks, while I was still active online, I could spend upwards of FIVE hours a day on my phone… [One day I even logged almost eight… *hangs head in shame*] Even though these tallies include good activities [like reading a book] and good interactions [like texting baby pictures to my long-distance family], I was disgusted by the amount of time wasted with my eyes glued to a screen. What did spending my time this way cost me? How often did I do this with my toddler playing near me? Did I miss opportunities to see her discover new things? How often did I do this with other people in the room? Did I miss out on fruitful conversations with them? How often did I do this when I could/should be doing other things? What productivity and accomplishments did I forfeit?
The second two weeks were better due to fasting from social media and screen entertainment. My average time on my phone plummeted to under three hours on average [remember that I spend time reading on my phone almost every time I feed the baby, especially in the middle of the night to stay awake!]. One day was even less than an hour and a half, which is what I would like to stay under as baby gets older. But even with the munchkin, that’s a saving of 2-3 hours every day. I cut my screen time nearly in half.
What I noticed in the two weeks fasting from media is that I didn’t really miss Facebook at all. When the two weeks ended, I didn’t feel the need to catch up scrolling on Facebook. I’ve long considered deactivating my account, but I’ve always kept it because it’s the primary/only means of contact I have with some people in my life who I want to stay in contact with. I’ve decided to keep Facebook for now but to limit my time on it.
Unlike Facebook, I did miss Instagram. I spent quite awhile over the weekend catching up on posts. I think it’s because I curate my feed more strictly on Instagram, and I find the posts more useful, educational, and inspiring as a result. I found the first week away easier than the second. I started to want to check it because I missed the good stuff rather than just out of mindless habit. Still, I’ve decided to limit how often I open the app and to place conditions on when I can do so.
And Pinterest. What can I say about my digital magazine clipping collection? I stopped buying magazines years ago for a reason, and that reason applies to Pinterest. It’s a waste of time leafing through [or scrolling through] pictures of projects I’m not going to do, recipes I’m not going to make, and stuff I’m not going to buy. I have found Pinterest to be a helpful catalog of ideas, so I’ll keep it, but no more scrolling; only searching when I want to find something specific, like a recipe or how-to tutorial.
>> Social media has created unnecessary clutter in my life.
Speaking of Pinterest, one of the other reasons I got rid of magazines is CLUTTER. I noticed that social media creates a great deal of clutter in my life. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally.
One [not-really-social-media-but-online] area I was able to decrease clutter was in my email inbox. I unsubscribed from all those unnecessary newsletters, flyers, coupons, and deals. It’s incredible how good it feels to open my email and find relevant messages without combing through tons of junk I’m going to delete before even glancing at it. I now only feel the need to check my email a couple times a day. I wasn’t expecting how freeing this would feel, but it really does feel like weight lifted.
I also became pickier about who I follow on social media. My feeds were bogged down with posts that are depressing or dumb, some that even incite anger. I don’t need that in my life. Paring down my friends list and who I follow has been a release of emotional baggage. I like the new trend “Unfollow Friday” which encourages you to unfriend, unfollow, and unsubscribe from anything that doesn’t add positively to your life. I will continue to periodically evaluate what I’m streaming into my mind and heart as much as what takes up my time.
>> Social media has significantly influenced how I interact with people.
It’s amazing how aware of others’ phone use you become as soon as you aren’t looking at your own. Everywhere you go: grocery lines, doctor offices, coffee shops, every room in the house. I attended the band concert of one of our teens, and the guy next to me spent the entire time on his phone, only occasionally pausing to applaud. It’s sad enough that we don’t acknowledge people on the streets around us, but to not even acknowledge our own children… But I’m guilty of the same thing. I have too often focused on a screen than on my daughter. This realization smacked me hard, and I’ve made a concerted effort since then for my daughter to not see me on my phone. She’s never been allowed to play with our phones, but I don’t want her to see me obsessed with it either. The adage is true: they grow up too fast. And I don’t want to miss it.
One of my favorite outcomes of the media fast was having conversations with strangers everywhere I went. One time I shared an elevator with a guy wearing a Camaro t-shirt. I told him I liked it, and we got into a conversation about our first cars and our favorites. It was fun to talk cars with someone again. I don’t know the last time I did that. [Turns out he has never owned a Camaro, and he was impressed that I know what a Z28 is.]
But the most important thing that came out of this experiment was that it made me more thoughtful about my local tribe and making the effort to spend time with them more often. Due to some difficult decisions for the health and happiness of our family, we left an important community of ours over a year ago, and that left us feeling very alone. It was especially noticeable as we were expecting and then welcomed our second daughter. But it turns out we have a much larger tribe of people than we realized. They are a motley crew from all corners of our life, but they are loyal and serving and upbuilding to us. It takes more effort to spend time with them because we don’t have weekly meetings where we all show up at the same place and conveniently run into each other. We have to call or send a message, schedule a lunch date or weekend hangout. We have to be intentional in seeking them out and making time for each other. But we have learned from their kind and generous examples over the last year, as they sought us out and made time for us. [One friend was on her way home after dinner out, and she dropped by just to see if we were around. She helped me with kiddo bedtime so Shaun could get back into the field to finish up planting, and she ended up staying for three hours catching up! It’s one of my favorite experiences of the last month.]
Sure, social media hasn’t always had a positive influence on my relationships, but I would be remiss to not say how much I missed people with whom I interact solely/mainly online. No one is saying that social media or all of our handheld technology is inherently bad or can’t be used for good. The More Social Less Media program was designed to help us make conscious decisions about how much to use social media because it makes us aware of how we use it and how it affects us. I’ve lived in several different states, and I appreciate how technology and social media networks have made it possible to reconnect with old friends and to stay updated on what’s going on in others’ lives. I enjoy seeing pictures of my friends’ kids and my teens’ prom and graduation pictures. Without social media, I would be completely ignorant of these events; with social media, I get to participate indirectly. It’s recognizing the artificial quality of social media that keeps these digital connections in proper perspective next to my face-to-face relationships, and this is crucial.
>> I love social media. 🙂
Yep! I just have a better grasp on how to use it more effectively and how to not let it use me. In the next couple weeks, I will be evaluating my return to social media and other screen time and creating guidelines for my personal use of it. Maybe I’ll write a post about them.
In the meantime, check out More Social Less Media at dallashartwig.com and [ironically] #moresociallessmedia on Facebook and Instagram. And if you want to do more reading on the subject, I’ve linked to a few articles below. Let me know of other interesting articles on the subject. Tell me how you use social media and the effects of it you seen in your own life. I look forward to interacting with you here via comments or on one of my feeds!
Some articles on the effects of social media &/or screen time: