Step Two: Back Away from the Internet

Note: This is part of a recurring series of posts I’m calling The Year of Living Intentionally. (Unofficially, I’m calling it That Time Leah Decided to Get Her Shit Together.) You’ll be able to access all the posts here. I hope you’ll join me on the adventure.

Or, specifically, social media. You know the culprits: Instagram. Twitter. Facebook.

(I realize that you can identify my age to the year by what social media I use. You young whippersnappers–just sub in whatever cool platforms you’re on now for my archaic ones.)

You get the idea, right? Do you ever get embarrassed by it? That tic that makes you reach for your phone if it’s been away from you for longer than a second? Have you ever scrolled through a newsfeed and actually wondered to yourself why you keep scrolling, even though you just saw those same images minutes ago?

Put down the bleeping phone, you guys. If you’re going to sit down at night to read a book, finish the chapter–we used to do it all the time a decade ago. If you’re going to use an internet-blocking app like Freedom while you work on your computer, don’t keep your phone next to it. (Yeah, I see you. Because I AM YOU.).

(And if you’re reading this at night from your bed, dear golly, put me down. I don’t want to know you that well.)

I told my friend Kristin the other day that I was cutting my social media/nonsense website use to 30 minutes a day (Go Fug Yourself, I’ll miss you!). It should be all I need to stay in touch with internet friends (that’s a weird term if you’ve ever heard one), update my social media pages, and interact with people. The internet is by far my biggest crutch, and really, how embarrassing is that? To be addicted to Imaginary Land? I always thought that I relied on my phone because of my introvert-ness: it was a way for me to be “out in the world” without actually, you know, interacting with it. But when you’re using the fake life to avoid the stresses of your real one, it’s time to step back.

You know as well as I do that internet addition–and really, social media addiction–is just a tool we use to avoid our own messy lives. Notifications make us feel good–yay! Somebody likes me! They really like me!–and in the absence of notifications, there are the pictures: beautiful places and beautiful people with really white teeth living magical dreams you would do if only you’d get off your damned phone and do them. There are the articles telling you how to make your life better (oh. I just realized the irony of this). There are the friends who aren’t really your friends and the people with the awards and the great kids and the great lives, and if you look at them long enough you’ll learn to smother your jealousy and keep clicking. You know those people who worked hard enough to take all those vacations you keep looking at? You can pretty much bet they weren’t on Snapchat for most of it.

So: stop it. You stop it right now. You’re just avoiding life. Don’t avoid life. You don’t need to check your phone at stop lights. You aren’t THAT bored during dinner that you need to see what’s happening on Facebook. David and I don’t let the kids have devices when we’re out together (and really, the only ones they “have” are my iPad and SK’s iPod nano because we’re hippie Puritans)–not out at dinner, or at SK’s basketball games, or in the car. Nowhere.  So they color at the restaurant table. They sit on our laps and watch the game. They talk to us in the car, or read. They’re only just starting to catch on to the fact that we’re weirdos, but it’s been a good ride so far.

But, if we expect our kids to be “in the world” and not on devices, why the hell are we always on ours? Why aren’t we reading or talking or creating? Is it so very hard to live now that we need to always be distracted? I think of farmers, who work from sunrise to sundown, out in the fields, with their hands, with just their breaks for food or water. What do they think of me, sitting there on the couch amid a sea of toys with my head bent over my phone? I must look so lazy. So boring.

So lost.

So Step Two of The Year of Living Intentionally: cut it all down to 30 minutes a day. I’ll try this for the next six weeks or so and see how it goes. Will I get better at calling friends? I hope so. Will I be more disciplined with my time since I have more of it? I better be. Will I get more sleep because I actually go to sleep when I’m tired? Oh, dear golly, please.

Will it be easy? Oh, jeez, no. You know know that. I have to physically pull my hand back sometimes when I’m reaching for my phone. It’s so, so much easier to zone out than it is to be present. I may not be able to afford a trip to Thailand right now, but gosh I can sit here at the playground while my kids play and stare at the pictures. (My new favorite? Those minimalism/tidying feeds, which I look at on Instagram while sitting on a bed piled up with clean laundry.)

No more. Thirty minutes or less, once or twice a day. I can do this. And it’ll get so much easier once my hands stop twitching from the withdrawal.

Are you an embarrassed-to-admit-it internet addict, too? Do you want to cut down with me? Come on: you know you (kind of, maybe) want to. 

Updated postscript: A friend just asked (on Facebook. Hey-oh!) for specific tips on how to cut back. I’ll post again in the future with my own thoughts, but for now, we’re scouting for suggestions. (A friend of mine leaves her phone in a different room after 7:30 at night, for example.) Do you have any suggestions–anything that’s worked for you? Please leave them below!



13 thoughts on “Step Two: Back Away from the Internet”

  • Great Idea! Our family keeps devices downstairs most of them time and always at night. Even in my hotel rooms I keep my phone across the room at bed time. Another friend took Facebook off her phone and only uses it on her computer.

  • This is definitely me! It’s SO much easier to space out than to relate. Delete apps from your phone! When I’m trying to cut down, I have to realize that Facebook will be on my laptop when I ‘need’ it. I also disable Instagram/Facebook on data alone (there has to be wifi) which seriously cuts down on those accidental browses (in the car, waiting in line somewhere, restaurants, you know…).

    My husband also loves music, so we are trying to play more music in the house because then suddenly I can’t have on the Real Housewives while I’m cooking/folding laundry/etc.

    But yeah, do I feel this. Hard.

    • I love that you’re doing this now. I swear my own clinginess started when Q was a newborn–it’s how I passed the time during a late night nursing session, or checked in with the outside world when I felt alone/needed a break. I didn’t have a smartphone when SK was tiny, and I swear to you that’s why I remember so much more of her life as a baby than I do Q and C (it hurts to admit that. But I read SO MANY books during all those 45-minute long bf sessions that first year with SK. Ha!). Your music idea is genius (and I’m just thinking now that we used to listen to a lot more of it around the house than we do now–weird, right?). Do you ever listen to podcasts? I know they’re still phone-dependent but for some reason I feel like when I’m listening to one I can’t/don’t want to check my phone for the dumb stuff.

  • I put mine in my school bag for work and realize I’ve forgotten about it for hours. At home it’s so different. Find a replacement for that dopamine reward when we see something we like on social media: exercise does it, chocolate does it, wine does it laughter does it, accomplishing something does it. So think about chemically replacing that very real dose of “happy”. It’s not for nothing that we do get addicted!

    • It’s a slow start right now, to be honest. It’s something I have to be constantly mindful of, or else I’ve disappeared down the rabbit hole for 20 minutes before realizing I’d even picked up my phone. Kinda sad, ain’t it?!

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