Taking the Road Less Traveled…These Days
My eldest child turns 14 in two months. She is the only person her age that we know who does not have her own phone. When she was around 11, most of her peers had phones, and she started asking for one. Whether it was Christmas or her birthday, or just transitioning into a new grade at school, she tried to convince her dad and me that she should have a phone.
We would sit and listen to her pitch, then thoughtfully and carefully explain to her why she would not get her way. At least not yet. We, as parents, have taken the road less traveled these days, in this case. She didn’t like it and felt pretty lame having to share a phone with her mom. Eventually though, she settled in and even once said to me: “I don’t even want a phone of my own anymore”. Through her friends, and their exposure to social media and the world of having a smart phone in hand at all times, she’s experienced by proxy what she’s realized she doesn’t want to be a part of.
A World Of Highlight Reels
It’s no secret: on social media, we live in a world of highlight reels. The majority of social media accounts broadcast the most delightful moments, the funniest (constructed) candids, the photos with the best lighting and composition (don’t forget filter), and the general representation of a life well lived. When I still had my account, scrolling through my Instagram feed sometimes felt like an exercise in self-deprecation.
Only, I wasn’t always consciously aware of that. In the words of a good friend, “it’s a little negative self-talk here, a little negative self-talk there…” and suddenly I’d be comparing my life to Chris Pratt’s brother’s girlfriend’s sister’s life. Not really. But you see my point. To top it off, then I’d be mad at myself for wasting time on mindless internet stalking.
There is a lot to be said about the positive influence social media can have too, of course. I know plenty of people who use it as a tool for the expansion of their businesses, brands, or message. It connects people who may never meet without it (here’s looking at you, LCwood). It bridges the gap of hundreds or thousands of miles between families. Truth be told, I have been a beneficiary of those things and they are the prime reasons I maintained my Instagram account for as long as I did. As with anything else, there are pros and cons.
Is iPhone Addiction a Public Health Concern?
Differences in personality factor in how a person internalizes social media activity, too. Self-worth is being defined for some by the number of followers and likes (read: attention) they pull in, and feedback they receive in the comments. Our youth are growing up with this as a norm, not knowing a world without this digital talent show. And we, the adults who have childhood memories without the presence of Tiktok, SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and the like, are supposed to be leading by example. Except, we’re setting the wrong one.
I saw a Wall Street Journal headline the other day that said “Is iPhone Addiction among Children a Public Health Concern?” And the first thought that came to my mind was: iPhone addiction among ADULTS is a Public Health Concern! We are the keepers of our children. To top it off, a pandemic that has forced our society in front of screens even more, is not helping.
Let’s be honest, sometimes life can feel really isolating. Half the reason we pursue social media is because we crave connection. We think seeing photos from the lives of friends and family, posting activities of our own, finding out the latest information Facebook has to offer us about school systems and community gatherings, keeps us connected. And maybe to a degree, it does.
Questioning Our True Motivation
The question is, what is our true motivation? Well, I would argue it is to be seen, truly seen, and accepted as we are. Also, the need to be “in the know” plagues us, especially moms, pressured to keep a pulse on all the things. The problem? In order to be seen, we have to be known. And in order to be known, we have to be vulnerable. Our vulnerabilities should be reserved for those who take the time to know us, and love who we are. Rando’s scrolling our feed don’t deserve a peek behind the curtain.
I know what you’re thinking. “But I don’t let rando’s follow me. I keep it small, only my friends and family”. But also… that acquaintance I met a few years back at that benefit. And that friend of my cousin’s who wanted to follow me, that I felt bad not accepting. And those 5 people from a decade ago that I would never even talk to if it weren’t for social media, and probably wouldn’t even notice their absence. The list goes on, does it not?
As far as being “in the know”…can we all agree that we are living in an age of information overload? I had to take the news app off of my phone midway through 2020 because I became obsessive about reading articles and found myself believing the apocalypse was just around the corner. I had no balance with my consumption of media and it was slowly draining the life blood from my veins. The expanse of information we have is contributing to a variety of issues. Decision fatigue, FOMO, you name it. I know you know what I’m talking about.
Keepin’ It Real
Our lives are on display, in the carefully curated manner in which we present ourselves, to more people than we actually realize. We have to get honest–for what real purpose are we doing this? What would we REALLY miss out on if we just signed off? What would we actually gain?
Currently, I am sitting in my bedroom typing this out on my surface laptop. My son is watching YouTube videos about the next size dirt bike he wants on his Chromebook in the kitchen. His older sister is doing her language arts homework on her Chromebook in the front room. And, my 5 year old is being a total ham and distracting both of them with her antics. 75% of the people in my house right now, are on screens. So let me just keep it real for the sake of all of us.
I want to teach my children to live a life of balance and intention by demonstrating those things myself. It’s HARD. Putting limits on my own screen time is necessary just as much, if not more, as limiting the screen time my kids have. My daughter spends a great deal of her time reading, taking care of her 11 chickens, playing with her siblings, connecting in real time with her friends, and exploring her hobbies. A phone has not stolen these parts of her childhood from her. I am so grateful for that.
In our family, I’ve tried to cultivate intentional space where phones are not welcome. We have a “no phones at the dinner table” rule. Tuesday night is family game night, Wednesday is marriage night, and Friday is family movie night. Phones are not allowed at any of those events. With these rituals, I hope to cultivate bonds within our family that highlight the importance of being present with the people in the same room as you are.
Having an awareness of the negative side effects from social media consumption and either knowing how to change my perspective or removing the culprit is a necessary exercise. Talking to my kids in a vulnerable, honest way about how my phone has gripped my attention far more than I care to admit, is also a necessary exercise. After all, until we admit we have a problem, the problem doesn’t stand a chance of being solved. Let your kids tell you when you’ve been on your phone too much. Trust me, it’s a slice of humble pie we all need a bite of.
Riding Life’s Rollercoaster
My daughter will likely get her first phone this summer, along with a contract that lays out her dad’s and my expectations for how the device should and should not be used. Her brain is still developing, and she’s in teenager land, so this is probably a giant mistake. At the same time, I am hoping what we’ve learned together, sharing my phone over the last several years, as well as what she’s witnessed in her peer group, will serve her in having a healthy relationship with her phone. I hope it will help me to improve the relationship I have with mine, too. Because she’s watching me, as are her younger siblings.
This is what seems to be so lost in translation while we scroll through our feeds: in a world of constant contact, we all feel alone. But here is what I think everyone needs to know- especially teen girls and boys, and mothers: You are not alone, and no one, no matter how great they are at faking it, has it all together. We are all on unique and challenging journeys that paradoxically align more closely than any of us realize. Though we ride the ups and downs of life’s rollercoaster in different ways, we are all on it together. Screaming. For joy, of course 😉
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like The Simple Choice to Log Off Is Your First Step To Healing
Friend-I love this so much. I’m so glad you shared this with our readers. You are a beacon of light for so many and by being brave and standing firmly in your knowing, you give others permission to do the same for themselves and their children. Courage is contagious! I’m so grateful for your example.
I find this entire topic intimidating. Leave it to you, Autumn, to take the bull by the horns and lay down the law in your life. Way to go!!