When my first son was born, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that being a mom involves this weird paradox: you are incredibly busy and exhausted on one hand, but on the other hand you can have long bouts of boredom and loneliness. And if you’re a stay-at-home mom—especially one who came from the workforce—the lack of adult interaction and intellectual stimulation can make you slightly crazy.
I remember nursing my firstborn in the middle of the night, not wanting to fall asleep but not sure how to keep myself occupied. It was 2009 and I had this pretty slick little device—a first generation iPhone. I caught up on all the latest news among my friends on Facebook. Back then, as I recall, it was pretty basic: just photos and status updates and that was about it. It didn’t take long for me to scroll through my entire newsfeed and realize that I had caught up on pretty much everything anyone had to share.
Flash forward nearly seven years later and I have this weird reflex. Any time I get a second to myself, I reach for my phone (now an iPhone 6) and wonder about what’s going on via Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest/Gmail/Wordpress. The amount of information available to consume has exploded, yet most of it lacks much value.
Social media isn’t a bad thing in itself, but if I’m not careful I can be stuck to it throughout the day, which affects my productivity and focus on real-life relationships.
I know why I do it—I am addicted. Social media provides some of that mental and social stimulation I want, but too much of it is like binging on candy. Icky. I don’t need that much; I don’t want that much. But breaking the habit is hard.
I’ve been pondering this a lot lately, perhaps because the problem has worsened since I relaunched my blog two months ago. I suddenly have every reason in the world to be constantly connected. But do I really need to be? Even if I’m serious about making my blog a business, there have to be times when I get a break.
Quitting social media or even taking an extended break isn’t an option for me right now. I don’t think it’s necessary either (although for some people it works). However, I have discovered some strategies of late that have been extremely helpful. I feel more clear-headed and less…icky. Even when I don’t follow my rules exactly, having guidelines in place is helpful because it gives me a clear way out when I feel like the addiction is overcoming me again. Here are several habit-breaking strategies, followed by ideas for what to do with yourself with down time instead of social media.
Strategies for Breaking Social Media Addiction
- Define social media’s purpose
What is social media really useful for and what purpose does it have in your life? Spend some time thinking about this and write it down. I split my purposes into two categories—personal and business—and made lists. Referring to those lists helps me keep a healthy perspective.
- Set daily limits
I have two to three times a day set aside to sit down and work on social media. And then I get off so I can focus my attention elsewhere. Your day might look different than mine, but I highly recommend figuring out a limit that works for you. Maybe check your accounts once at lunchtime (10 minutes max), and again later in the day. Set a timer if it helps you.
- Turn off notifications
Recently I turned off all of my phone’s push notifications, including email—what a relief! I also turned off most of my email notifications from my social media accounts. It’s a lot easier to stick to your limits when you’re not constantly being bombarded. Trust me, you won’t miss anything.
- Use your computer instead of your phone
I’ve removed several social media apps from my phone and try to only use the ones that are left when I don’t have access to a computer. This naturally limits the urge to reach for my phone whenever I have a quiet moment.
- Don’t check your phone first thing in the morning
This was another thing I used to do out of habit, thinking it would help me wake up. The problem is, when I check my phone first I start thinking about all the information I’m being bombarded with, which makes it really difficult if I want to start the day right—like focusing on prayer!
- Define breaks and boundaries
For the most part I take a break from social media on Sundays and I’m trying to stay off my phone at night. We also don’t have phones at dinner, during family night or other times we connect as a family.
Things To Do Besides Social Media
Who has time to read anymore? You do if you aren’t stuck on Facebook all day. I recently listened to this podcast about “cultivating a reading life,” and I’ve already started a couple of new books in the last few days. When you’re filling up your mind with something substantial, social media is much less enticing. Audiobooks are another method to fit it more reading.
- Listen to podcasts
This is a new hobby of mine and I’m still figuring out my favorites, but it has the same effect as reading.
- Talk on the phone
I never said you had to ditch the phone entirely! Use it the old-school way; call your sister or your mom or your friend and just connect with them. It’s a million times more refreshing than Facebook.
Even if you’re not a writer, jotting down your thoughts or your prayers has many benefits.
- Keep your hands busy
Figure out what works for you; some people like to crochet, draw, color or do puzzles and games. I like to play the piano if I have a few minutes. Personally I think it’s more fun when you can make something beautiful.
- Start a garden
I have a really pitiful little garden, but when the weather is nice it’s a fun way to pass time when my kids are outside and they don’t need my direct attention.
- Keep a paper planner
This is another way I can keep my hands busy and my mind occupied: planning my life! And it keeps me off the phone and helps me feel more accomplished.
- Pray or read your Bible
Need motivation? Try a 90-day Bible reading plan—that will keep you busy!
- Write cards or letters
Whether it’s someone’s birthday or just an opportunity to say you’re thinking about them, writing a card helps you be less self-focused and can be a great way to connect.
- Read aloud with your kids
A lot of the books I’ve been digesting lately have been children’s literature. When do kids outgrow the need for you to read with them? Never! I’m loving Read Aloud Revival for some ideas about what to read. Here are also some ideas for books young kids can read to you.
- Bake something
I’ve got a whole Pinterest board that can inspire you (if you can handle the irony of that). Make something for your neighbor.
- Work out
Breaking yourself of the social media habit requires discipline; I find that when I’m exercising regularly, I’m more disciplined in other areas too. These are still my favorite workouts for busy moms.
- Get a print newspaper
Call me old-school. I just love a paper so much more than my phone during breakfast.
- Commit to learning a new skill or hobby
Do none of these things appeal to you? Then find something that does. Even if you don’t know how to do it yet, commit to learning it and fill in those “in between” times with mastering it.
I see people like me on their phones all the time. And I think it’s sad when I consider how much of life we’re missing. I hope you find these ideas helpful and useful. Let me know how it goes for you and what strategies you use!
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