I listened to an interview with Elon Musk a while ago in which he said, “Your phone is already an extension of you. You’re already a cyborg.” I have been so addicted to my phone lately that I fear this is becoming true. I check social media apps reflexively and waste too much time endlessly scrolling. I’m anxious if I’m without my phone, but I also really need a break from it.
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My phone habits are deeply ingrained. I will pick up my phone as a reflex and find myself deep into the social media feed of a 90 Day Fiancé “star” without a conscious memory of how I ended up there.
I check my personal email many times a day, purely out of habit, not because I receive urgent requests. Most appalling is when I go to my phone with a specific purpose in mind, like looking up a restaurant, and 10 minutes later I’m obsessively scrolling through Instagram stories, having completely forgotten the actual reason I picked it up in the first place.
The scrolling feels soothing at first, which is not a surprise, since using social media gives you a hit of dopamine. But after a while I hit a wall and will literally throw my phone down on the couch, disgusted with myself for having wasted so much time “rotting,” as my husband and I affectionately refer to mindless scrolling.
I don’t even engage with social media or post much myself. I just consume.
I consume as if I think I can somehow get to the end of the content and feel “done,” but of course that’s impossible. There’s always more.
I feel this way especially with parenting content on social media. I started following parenting experts sometime between the births of my two children, and part of me wishes I had never gone down that rabbit hole. It’s become yet another task I have to do, especially since I often watch videos, read blog posts, and even enroll in classes that I find through their feeds that constantly churn out content.
I tell myself that this information overload is making me a better parent, and that may be true.
But spending more time sleeping and less time scrolling would also do that. I fear, though, that I’ve packed my brain with so much parenting information that it’s hard to hear my own instincts. I also tend to feel inadequate when the experts’ advice doesn’t work or I’m not capable of following it because I’m too busy just trying to survive the day with two young kids.
Speaking of the kids, my phone also makes me less present with them.
I cut myself some slack, because it’s not possible or healthy to be present every minute, and my phone provides an easy respite from the monotony that comes with being a stay-at-home mom. Motherhood can be so isolating too, with most people lacking the village that they need, so I appreciate the value in virtually connecting with other moms. What bothers me is my kids seeing me distracted by and beholden to my phone, more immersed in the screen than I am in the world around me.
Even though I’m pretty Type A and tend to cram a lot into my day, I cringe when I think of what I could accomplish if I spent less time on my phone. I could brush up on my French, paint my bathroom, take a nap. Or just learn to be still for a moment.
It’s not really about the wasted time, though. It’s about the fact that spending too much time on my phone makes me feel worse than before I picked it up. And if it’s making me feel worse, it’s probably not a great form of self-care. As a mom with limited free time, I’d like to find a form of self-care that feeds my soul, and clearly mindless scrolling isn’t it.
I can’t toss my phone in Town Lake, but some days I’m tempted to delete all the time-wasting apps from my phone. But I feel like I should have enough self-control to use them in moderation, even though they are literally designed to be addictive.
I don’t want to give up the benefits of the apps, either. Connecting with moms online or simply witnessing others’ experiences has made me feel less alone and even led to real world friendships. I also don’t want to miss out on the helpful content, information, and unique perspectives that I find on social media.
At least I’m aware of my habits and want to change them, which seems like a good first step. I tried putting time limits on apps but the number of times I hit “Ignore Time Limit” was genuinely depressing, so I may need to set more realistic goals. I also failed at allowing myself to scroll only at specific times of the day, so instead I’m going to prohibit heavy phone use after a certain time at night, which is when I’m most likely to scroll.
I am working on finding soul-nourishing forms of self-care that don’t include my phone.
Reading more books, mindfulness meditation…even watching a TV show without looking at my phone would be an improvement. I started writing in a gratitude journal; of course, I write the entries through an app. But ironically, I hope that using the app reminds me of all the good stuff in my life that happens when I put down the phone.