As a SAHM blogger, I am in awe of what my smart phone can allow me to do. Give me ten minutes in a day, and I can reply to a couple of comments on my blog posts, watch a quick recipe video on Facebook, drop in some ‘Good Morning’ wishes to my parents on WhatsApp and even like a few Instagram posts. However, I am not trying to create an impression of a multi-tasking mum in action here. Despite being constantly online and socially active, I reached a point where I felt like I was very easily distracted from the real world and knew I had to do something about it. It’s been almost a month since I have turned off my social media app notifications on my phone, and since then have never looked back.
This post is simply a reflection about why I did so and what have I learned from taking this step. Read on to find out if this step can be beneficial for you and your family too.
Is Social Media really addictive?
In the morning, when my phone alarm rings, I roll over to my side, grab my phone, switch off the alarm and can’t help but notice the little red number pop-ups on the various social media apps. Yep, you know what happens next. What’s supposed to be a quick 5 minutes on the phone quickly end up being fifteen minutes… or more. That’s because social media is designed to be addictive.
Every time you hear your phone ping, your brain gets small hits of the neurotransmitter, dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical that mediates pleasure in the brain and is greatly involved in the reward-motivated behaviour. In other words, the release of dopamine in your brain stimulates your senses and heightens your levels of attention and pleasure. It’s a positive feedback loop in the making where you crave for more attention and therefore increase the use of social media, in turn giving you greater hits of dopamine.
Apart from this, there are so called ‘attention engineers’ sitting at the Social Media HQ franticly working away on algorithms that ensure your social media feed is going to be highly engaging. They are busy collecting personal data about your preferences and making sure you are exposed to images, videos and news articles that grab your attention and therefore making it difficult for you to leave their app.
Why I decided to do something about this ‘addiction’?
I clearly remember this one afternoon when I was playing with Azmu and also going through my phone at the same time (Don’t judge, please). I was still playing and talking to Azmu, but most definitely not giving her all of my attention. That’s when she came up to me and tried to push the phone away from my hand and said ‘No’. At the tender age of one and a half, she was able to understand that in order to get more attention from mummy, the phone in hand had to go. That’s when I decided to do something about this.
I was not going to quit social media all together and had no intention to. I had mummy friends in the online world who were going through the same parenting stages I was, and who were there to give me advice without judging me. I didn’t want to lose my tribe of mummy friends, so the next best thing I figured was to limit my use of social media. I already avoid using my phone at meal times and keep use of social media to a minimum when spending time with family, however, I wanted to do more.
One way out was to turn off social media notifications on my phone. If my phone didn’t constantly beep or ping, even while I was using my phone, I had no urge to constantly have my phone on me, skipping from one app to another. I could use my phone for the intended purpose, such as check emails or take pictures and then put the phone away. Only when I would finally have a few spare minutes in the afternoon or late at night, after Azmu would have gone to sleep or would be with her Dad, would I take the time to surf through social media for however long my heart desired.
What I learned since I made the decision to turn off.
I learned a lot!
- The FOMO, Fear of Missing Out, is in your head. I wasn’t missing out on big news from family and friends. It was okay to catch up viral videos, pop culture news and celebrity gossip at a time convenient to me. If there was something completely important going on, family and friends would still be able to reach me by calling me.
- I am no longer distracted and can give all of my attention to Azmu. Gone are the days when my phone would beep every time my Instagram post would get a like, which in turn meant I would stop giving attention to Azmu and reach for my phone. I am not sure how long I intend to be a SAHM, but while I’m at it, I intend to give it my best shot.
- I am learning to produce better work, whether that is writing blog posts or editing photos. Not having my attention constantly interrupted means I now am able to concentrate deeply and increase my work capacity. It also means I am able to produce work with greater value.
- I am happier, as a woman, a wife and a mother. When I was spending time on Social Media, I was always exposed to carefully curated portrayals of other people lives that appeared to be more positive. Now that I spend less time on social media, I know that the grass is not always greener on the other side, but where you water it.
- I know that I am in control. I refuse to exchange minutes of entertainment for minutes of my time and attention that I intend to spend on my loved ones.
So now, when my phone alarm rings in the morning, I roll over to my side, grab my phone, switch off the alarm and think about breakfast!
I would love to hear your thoughts about your phone usage habits and if you have any advice that you would like to share.