I have been unplugged from social media for over a week now. One full week. It was never my intention, but after two getaways with my family where I didn’t use my phone for anything other than texting, I came to a sad realization. We, as a society (myself included), spend far too much time on our phones. We get so caught up in the lives of others or documenting our own, that we forget to just LIVE. I would feel the urge to grab my phone and browse to see what everyone was up to or I’d get anxious about the emails that I needed to respond to. It made me think back to what my life was like before social media. Years ago, before I got sucked into the online world of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, blogs and Googling everything, my life was very different. I used to spend more time reading, writing, creating, exercising and simply being more present in the moment. Since Willow was just a few months old, I began writing in a journal to her every night. I realized just how much things had changed when I opened her journal one night and saw that it had been two weeks since I wrote anything. But that wasn’t the only thing that changed.
After returning from our camping getaway, you might remember me saying how I felt overwhelmed. During our two days away, I had my phone off and out of sight. I didn’t get distracted by incoming texts, notifications from IG or Pinterest and I had no idea how many unread emails I had…until I turned it back on. Those two days were incredibly freeing. I found I was more present and mindful as a mother and wife. There was more eye contact, deeper conversations and just an overall increase in engaging interactions. Turning my phone back on immediately brought about anxiety with all the things I felt “needed” to be done. Then my overnight getaway to Seattle with Josh for the Trader Joe’s party opened my eyes even more. I was spending far too much time on my phone after Willow fell asleep that I was missing out on quality spouse time. After Willow fell asleep, we were doing our own things – he would read, play video games or fall asleep early, while I spent hours catching up online.
Before Willow was born, Josh and I did everything together. Not because we felt we had to – we genuinely enjoy one another’s company. We’d go grocery shopping together, cook together, watch movies together and just spend time together. When we became parents, our focus and priority became Willow – her health, happiness and well-being takes the top spot. We soak up all the precious time with her, but my time with Josh is just as precious. You see, Josh works 50+ hours a week and not your typical Monday-Friday 9-5 gig. His work week starts on Friday (12pm-10pm) and ends on Tuesday (4am-2pm). Hours are all over the place with long work days.The recent trip to Seattle made me realize just how important it is to have that time together. I was reminded of all the little things we take for granted, such as an uninterrupted conversation or cuddling up on the couch together to watch an episode or two of a series.
When i was smacked in the face with the realization that I was spending too much time on my phone, something had to be done. So, I unplugged. I turned off push notifications, told myself I wasn’t allowed to open the IG app, and only checked my email once a day (I would have cut it out all together, but emails are how I get notified of an Etsy sale). As the days went by, I found myself becoming less stressed and overwhelmed and more calm and mindful. I could feel creativity creeping back in and far less distracted. My days were filled with more joy, smiles, laughter and adventure because I was less worried about catching up. It was honestly freeing. Rather than reaching for my phone excessively to capture photos of food or something that Willow was doing, I was learning to just live in the moment and ENJOY.
I highly recommend clicking on this link HERE – you’ll see some photos that show you just how much our society is heavily dependent on their phones, along with some pretty great quotes.
Here are some observations I’ve made, as well as things I’ve noticed within myself. If any of the following signs hit home, you might want to unplug for a bit. I honestly feel that all of us could benefit from unplugging, even if it’s for a day or two.
10 Signs you Need to Unplug:
- When you wake up, you instantly reach for your phone to check your online profiles – who “liked” or commented on your posts, who started following you or browse your Facebook/IG feed. I’ve been guilty of this. I used to be so good about saying affirmations or just taking a few deep breaths before greeting the day. Lately I find that some mornings I am too quick to grab for my phone to see what I missed. Most mornings I sleep in with Willow and don’t have time to even bother with my phone. I now realize that whatever I “missed” can wait. Unless it’s an urgent voicemail or text message, it can all wait.
- You can’t go a few hours or an entire day without checking your feed and/or online profiles. Really pay attention to just how often you’re reaching for your phone.
- Your child has to repeatedly say, “look at me!” or has to repeatedly call for your attention because you’re too busy on your phone. I’m generally pretty good about staying off my phone while Willow is awake. I’ll occasionally text someone back, post a quick photo on Instagram or glance at emails, but I stopped browsing IG a long time ago and wait until Willow is asleep. Why? It hit me one day that I want Willow to look over at me and see me looking back at her. She shouldn’t have to hear the words, “Hold on” or “One minute.” I don’t want her to know me as the mom who is glued to her phone. I want her to know that she is far more important than online profiles and the number of followers I have. I’ll never forget this awful play date we had last year. The mom had her phone in her hand the entire time – I think we made eye contact once during the few hours we spent at her house. She was consumed with replying to emails, texts and who knows what else. What saddened me most was her son’s behavior and how she reacted to him. He was screaming, throwing himself on the floor and clearly in need of attention. Rather than talking with him and figuring out what was going on, she took him up to his room for a “time out” and left him there for a good 20 minutes. Willow and I sat there awkwardly playing while she resumed whatever she was doing on her phone. That was the one and only play date we had with that family.
- You find your mood being negatively affected after time spent online. I will be the first to admit this has happened to me. Whether it was a hurtful comment, judgmental post or people unfollowing me, I no longer take it personal. There will always be haters and the amount of followers you have does not dictate your value or importance. Within the last month or so, I stopped looking at the numbers and post whatever I feel like. I tried running two separate accounts on IG, but it was time-consuming and I realized I’d rather attract people who were interested in all aspects of what I post. This works for me, but I can understand why people keep it professional. Along those lines though, when your online profile begins to feel more like a chore and less fun, that is a clear sign that something needs to change…or you need a break.
- You spend more time on Facebook/IG (etc.) rather than spending real quality time with the people in your life. I already discussed this earlier in the post.
- A large portion of your day/night is spent replying to emails, comments on posts or browsing the web. We co-sleep with Willow and after she has fallen asleep in my arms or on top of me, I reach for my phone and catch up. I had no idea just how much time I was spending on my phone until I timed it one night. Responding back to individual comments, questions, direct messages on Instagram and then browsing/catching up with what others were up to….are you ready for it…three hours. THREE HOURS. It was then that I realized that I can no longer use the “excuse” I don’t have time. Those few hours could have been spent meditating, doing yoga, exercising, writing, reading and a long list of other things I struggle with finding the time to do. Limit usage, for example, allow yourself to spend an hour to browse or respond to comments. Remember, it can wait – so don’t feel like it all has to be done in one sitting.
- Your phone joins you at meal time(s). I know many of you are guilty of this one. Josh and I don’t use the phone during meal times together, but I’m guilty of snapping photos of our meal before eating. I’ll be eating dinner with my family and in my head I’m planning out the caption to go with the photo. Rather than being present at dinner and spending REAL time together, my mind is elsewhere. Such a sad thing to admit.
- You feel the need to document everything online (what you ate, what you’re wearing, what you’re doing) – in other words, if you’re posting excessively. I’d like to think that I’m not one to post excessively. I try to limit myself to one or two posts a day, if that. Ask yourself, “Who am I posting this for?” and “Why?” Are you trying to impress someone or gain popularity? Think of social media as a way to inspire – a tool to spread knowledge or ideas. I recently unfollowed a page that was posting six or seven times a day….every day. It all felt repetitive and this person was sending the message that he/she spent ALL day on there.
- You feel the urge or need to respond to every comment or email right away. Guilty. When I started receiving more comments on my posts, I felt the need to rush to respond back. I know it’s not expected of me, but I like to respond to each comment individually. To let the person know that I read and acknowledged their comment/question. I later realized that it can wait. I can’t do it all – no one can.
- Your sleep is suffering. Are you going to bed too late and waking up exhausted? I was. There were a few nights where I was up until 1:00 am responding to IG notifications and/or emails and then waking up wiped out. Willow typically sleeps through the night, but sometimes she wakes up needing me. So, on those mornings, I was extra exhausted which lead to me feeling lazy, sluggish, grumpy and stressed. I’ve heard some people say that they charge their phone outside of the bedroom so as not to be tempted to check it so frequently OR spend the last hour before you go to bed phone-free. Use that time to meditate, journal or read a book.
I will be the first to admit that finding balance is hard. My struggle is that I can’t do things half-heartedly…for me, I put all my focus and energy into whatever it is that I’m doing. Trying to do that across the board meant spreading myself thin. I could literally feel myself breaking apart. When I begin to feel overwhelmed or too anxious, I pull back from just about everything. Everything but being a mom. Making the decision to be a parent is a HUGE responsibility and it was MY decision…not Willow’s. I think as parents, we need to be more mindful and remember that WE brought our children into this world, that they deserve our undivided attention. I feel happiest when Willow is happy. When I know that I did the best I could, that I soaked up the moments with her. We’ve also made the decision to unschool, so over this last week, it has been a lot of fun being 100% focused on following Willow’s lead. Her passion for learning is strong and that’s something I want (and need) to keep feeding. I’ve done a lot of reading on mindfulness over the years and here’s a short list of ways to be more mindful as a parent…which is deeply connected to unplugging from technology.
How to be a More Mindful, Present Parent:
- Put your phone away and spend actual time WITH your child.
- Turn off push notifications for social media, emails, etc.
- Turn off the TV.
- Let go of the To-Do lists.
- Always make eye contact while talking with your child.
- Get down on their level – play on the floor, sit next to them.
- Be a “YES” parent.
- Involve your child in day-to-day activities.
- Put yourself in their shoes.
- Forgive yourself.
I’m not saying that you can’t use your phone at all during your child’s awake time, but most definitely put a limit on your use. If you’re one to check your phone every 20 minutes, try limiting it to every hour or two. If you feel the need to carry your phone in your back pocket, don’t. You’re a parent and the people who know you, know that. Don’t feel like you have to respond to every text immediately or rush to the phone with every beep, or vibration. If it’s important, they’ll call you! Let go of expectations – rather than being consumed with all that “needs” to be done, realize that none of it is going anywhere…it will be there later. If you have deadlines to meet or feel pressure, don’t hesitate to ask for help – whether from your significant other, a close friend or family. Don’t use the TV as a babysitter. When you are spending time with your child, get down on the ground and play with them! Whether it’s doing a floor puzzle, building with Legos or digging in the dirt – they appreciate you joining in with them. Willow’s face lights up every time I grab crayons to color with her or when we build a tall tower of blocks together just to knock them all down. I do believe that independent play is important, but if they ask you to do something with them, don’t deprive them of that.
I was in Target the other day and the number of times I heard this mom say, “no” to her child was ridiculous. I’m not saying that we should spoil our kids and say “yes” to everything, but what’s the harm in a $1 pack of note cards or post-its? Avoid the power struggles and learn to pick your battles. I always think to myself, “how would it feel if that were said or done to me?” I’m pretty sure I would feel defeated if everything I brought up was greeted with a “NO.”
The one thing in the list above that was a bit hard for me at first, but definitely an important one, is to include your child in day-to-day activities. I am a perfectionist and sometimes I’d rather do something myself so it gets done in a timely fashion. As Willow has gotten older, I realize that everything is a learning opportunity, a chance to teach responsibility or new experiences. A meal that would take me 20-30 minutes to put together will now take an hour or longer, but Willow LOVES to help and it is all worth it to see the smile on her face. Same goes for when we started involving her in feeding our dog, Abbey. Willow runs to help and does it proudly. What used to be a quick 30 minute workout, now takes a good bit longer because I’m either teaching Willow a new move or we’re rolling on the ground laughing.
I am far from being a perfect mom or wife, but I learn from mistakes and greet each day as another chance to do better. When you find yourself juggling a lot of tasks or responsibilities, it is important to find that balance. Don’t let the stress of it all get the best of you. There is absolutely NO shame in taking a step back, a break or unplugging from it all for a bit. For me, I needed to unplug from almost all of it to center my soul and reconnect with the people I love. If you’ve never disconnected from your phone before, do it. You might be surprised by what you learn.
Thanks for stopping by!
So as I was sneak-reading this while in the car (as a passenger, not driving!) while only half listening while my husband was talking, it occurred to me that perhaps I was guilty of a few things you were describing! I put the phone away immediately and waited until we got home to finish reading. So happy for you that you have found more balance! I had a taste of unplugging this summer and I hated it but I do agree that to be in the NOW needs to take more of a priority than being in the past or the future. As always, an excellent, thoughtful post. Selfishly however, I do miss you on Instagram!
Haha!! I would hope you wouldn’t be driving AND reading! I was worried about publishing this post because I didn’t want it to come off as pointing fingers at anyone…I also know that people use IG and social media in general, as a way to keep in touch with everyone or a way to distract from stress. I think that it’s so important to be selfish in a sense and unplug from it all. Unplugging showed me how my stress/anxiety was connected to being on my phone so much. Focusing on the here and now and just enjoying the moment has taught me so much. I have missed many of you on IG, but I plan to be back soon! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post, my friend! Lots of love! ❤
I absolutely love that you’ve written this post, Mandy! I’ve been noticing the same anxiety myself recently, and realised that the more time I spend online, the less I’m actually achieving – for lots of reasons. A while ago I realised that I was wasting so much time after work by just switching on the tv and mindlessly watching whatever was on, even if it was rubbish! So I stopped watching. And after a while, it was so great to feel like I had al this extra time to myself, I started doing things for myself – like writing the blog, creating in the kitchen, talking to Dan and the cat (!). We’ve even disconnected from the tv service and now only have Netflix, so we choose one thing to watch together each evening and that’s that. It’s so great!
Anyway… I thought you’d like this New York Times article, if you’ve not already seen it: http://nyti.ms/1O5pky0
Thank you so much, sweet friend!!! Right?!?! When I unplugged, I found myself creating in the kitchen more, writing and reading lots of books…and my stress level went way down. I thought I was the only one in regards to the anxiety. Isn’t it nice to have some extra time for yourself? And same here! When Willow was born, we canceled cable/tv service and only use Netflix or Amazon Prime for movies and shows. The best part about unplugging was reconnecting with Josh and some dear friends that i had lost touch with. I am incredibly grateful for the connections I’ve made through IG, but I was just spending way too much time on there! I hope you’re doing well. Thank you so much for sharing that article – I hadn’t read it before and when I did, I found myself nodding my head in agreement with so much of it. Thanks, again!! ❤ xoxo
Hey Mandy — I wholeheartedly agree. I appreciate your unplugging very much. I have such a difficult time keeping up with social media precisely for that same reasons. I always marvel at how people are able to be online everywhere all the time. It just seems impossible while still living a life outside of the internet… Or maybe I just haven’t discovered the secret to eternal presence in both worlds 😉
Anyhow, I guessed you were taking a break, but I still missed your updates so glad I checked in and enjoyed reading your thoughts.
I LOVE that photo of willow cooking — I love how present children are when they’re on a task — there’s a lesson to be learned from them in that, that’s for sure.
Enjoy your newfound freedom ❤
Thank you so much, Audrey! I have missed you a lot and been thinking about you. Like I said, I only intended on unplugging for a day or two, but then it turned into a couple of weeks! I admire those who can balance/juggle it all…I just couldn’t keep up! Haha!! If you ever do discover the secret to eternal presence in both worlds, you have to share it with me 😉
I so appreciate you checking in, it means so much. I need to see what I’ve missed on your blog…I fear I’ve missed a great deal!
She sure is focused in that photo, isn’t she?! She’s like that with everything – I’m learning a lot from her. Thanks, again, friend!! Looking forward to chatting some more. I hope all is well with you ❤
Somehow I missed this post come through Mandy! I love everything you’ve written here and agree on so many levels. I, definitely have been guilty of being online too much. I go through periods. I know you and I have discussed this very thing about IG. I used to be on it too much and I love that I’m only on it every couple of days or so now and when I am, it’s just a few minutes here and there. I typically don’t respond to comments until a day later or so in most cases. The pressure was just too much and not fun like you said. I definitely believe there has to be a balance for sure. I know I try to show and teach Olivia that there is play time and there is work time, so she understands that life isn’t always about play and it isn’t/shouldn’t be all work either. I want her to know that Mommy time is important to Mommy too and I like to set time out to do all these things. She always helps me cook and do the dishes, unload the groceries, go through the mail….all of that, so I totally agree with you on that. She LOVES to be a little helper and makes her so happy, as I’m sure Willow loves it too.
Thank you so much for sharing all of this and I’m so happy you are doing better and have more peace. I’m in total agreement with you on this my friend!! xoxo
Oh, Brandi! You are so busy, I’m honestly surprised, but grateful, that you took the time to read this. We’ve talked about IG quite a bit, so I know we’re in agreement with a lot of the frustrations – it’s not as fun as it once was, but I’m not ready to unplug from it forever. It’s all about the balance, which I’m still working on figuring out.
I agree with you completely when it comes to being a mom – it is so important to teach them the same balance (work and play). Josh will play with Willow so I can get a blog post finished or play with a recipe for the blog. Sounds like you’ve got a pretty great balance with Olivia!
I appreciate you reading this and know that I’ve missed you quite a bit! Thinking about you. Lots of love, my friend! ❤ xoxo
Love this post Mandy, and really love everything you’ve written…pretty much took the feelings and words out of my mouth for the past year. I’ve only recently been more into social media when it comes to my site, but I consider myself a very ‘present’ Mom in that when the kids are with me, I try to be with THEM. Get down on the floor and do things with them, as you mentioned. But of course, with this day and age, I am definitely guilty of many of the things you listed, and I agree with you completely. It’s a tough balance especially with having a blog. If I look back, I used to take a bunch of pictures on my phone of the kids 5 years ago, but somewhere along the lines a few years back, I stopped and realize I don’t want to reach for my phone. I just want to be present in what’s going on. I try to take video from my video camera at times. I think I realized it more so when ‘said someone’ (extended family memeber) constantly took pictures and videos of my kids the 1-2 days they were visiting, and really did NOT spend any quality time with the kids. It hit me then and I stopped for the most part except for a few cute ones I just can’t help myself =) But in general, I agree. It is nice to unplug. Especially with my new blog, it is VERY time-consuming. And you’re RIGHT not just with kids, but with your husband at night when the kids are sleeping. We try to make it a point to do ‘date-nights’ in where we hang out with each other instead of do our own things (which is sometimes what I want to do because it’s my only time to get things done). But you’re right…it doesn’t matter so much. What matters is being in the moment.
Kids grow up way to quickly. My oldest is in K and although that means a little more time to myself, I’m first to admit I totally cried and would trade it to have him home in a heart beat. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, or even an hour from now. Unfortunately I know that all too well. It’s made me try to focus on what’s most important to me, let things go, and live in the moment, even if it means not getting as far along with my blogging or other personal goals. Everyone to themselves, it’s definitely a personal choice.
Nice to hear from you. I thought you may just be taking a break, but I was a little worried =) just wanted to make sure you and your family were doing well, and it seems like you are all doing great. The one up-side to social media is I get to meet wonderful people such as yourself! Enjoy your day Mandy! Thank you so much for this post and the reminder to live in the moment!
Anjali, I am just adore you and I am beyond grateful for connecting with you on IG. I couldn’t agree more when you mentioned that you may not be getting as far along with blogging/goals, but at least we will never utter the words, “I wish I had spent more time with my kids.” You are absolutely right, it is a personal choice and I do not think that the way I live suits everyone else’s lifestyle. My kid comes first and all the other things are hobbies for me, so I’m more of a casual blogger…and I’m OK with that. Living in the moment is so important and sadly, not done very often in this fast-paced society. I had to laugh at when you mentioned taking all the photos of your kids. During Willow’s first year, I pretty much had the camera/phone glued to my hand and snapped thousands of photos. We’ve got two Shutterfly photo books that we made during her first year, but haven’t made one since! I’ve been learning how important it is to just enjoy the moment and not worry so much about documenting all of it. Thank you SO much for checking in, means a lot! I’ve got some catching up to do with your blog (I’ve got the emails saved)! Hope all is well ❤
This post brought me to tears.
I literally have been feeling all these very similar emotions toward social media, my phone and technology in general. Some days I really want to delete all my accounts and literally through my phone out with the trash!!!
Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting all this into such beautiful and articulate words.
May we all – as mothers especially – stop, put our phones down, realize that we need to BE with our children — JUST BE…. in this moment…. With this breath… With our precious blessings.
Much love to you Mandy!
Ps. I checked your blog last week for updates on how you’re doing, but it clearly must’ve been before you made this amazing post ! 🙂
Awwwwww, mama!!! Love you, friend! Like I mentioned in a DM to you this evening, YOU inspired me to unplug and be more mindful. Our kiddos deserve and should have a mother who is present in all aspects of the word. It literally breaks my heart when I see so many mothers consumed with everything BUT being a present parent.
I am right there with you…I go through phases when I debate deleting all of it and going back to the simple life – communicating with people the way I used to – by picking up the phone to call or handwriting a note and mailing it.
Lots of love to you, my friend!
I can’t even tell you how much I can (shamefully) relate to your post. Like you, I am also the kind of person that has to do everything all in, or not at all. I either get fully consumed by my passions or hobbies or have no interest. And this has been evident in more than just my social media “addictions”. It’s actually the reason I decided to quit medical school a semester before graduating because I realized that being a mom, 100% fully committed and present each day, was something I couldn’t do if I had a full time career like medicine which at times would consume my mind and life to the point that I wasn’t the mom and wife I always wanted to be. And just like you I believe being a parent is the most important thing in my life. I guess my next step is working on the instagram addiction which again I feel like each of your points were directed straight at me lol. Anyways, it’s nice to be able to relate to someone on so many levels. Thank you for sharing your authentic self!
Hi, mama! I had no idea about medical school?!? How did I miss that?! I almost feel like I hit rock bottom, in a sense, like the addiction to social media consumed me. There were days when I would panic if my battery was about to die and I wasn’t near a charger. It became like a knee jerk reaction to grab for my phone excessively – not because I heard a text coming in or that it was ringing, but rather, I felt the need to check it, to check comments, etc. I was becoming forgetful and way too distracted, so now I unplug during the day and let everything wait until after Willow goes to sleep. I find my days are more fulfilling now and that I am giving Willow my full attention. I’ve really missed you and would love to catch up…I think I still have your email address, if not, I’ll send you a message via IG soon. Hope you’re feeling well!! ❤
Mandy I love this post so much! You are so inspiring and I feel really grateful to have you in my life. 🙂
Since reading I’ve turned off my notifications (except my eBay store) lol and I really need to stop worrying about the never ending to do list and just get down and hang out with Nash. You would love his little laugh and smiles, he is a little beacon of love and light.
You truly help me be a better mom and person. I love how willow helps cook and you’ve accepted that it may take twice as long. I’ve had Nash help with baking once or twice and yes he makes a huge mess but it is so beautiful to see how happy it makes them.
Wow, thank you very much! ❤ I am so grateful that our paths crossed on IG and I can only hope they'll cross in real life one day. You're an amazing mama and I've really enjoyed our conversations – It's so nice to chat with someone who just understands and doesn't pass judgment.
It was really hard for me at first to turn off the notifications, but then I started noticing a difference in my well-being…it was honestly hard to come back. Awwww! I hope to meet him one day – every photo you post of him makes me smile and melts my heart. Isn't it such an amazing feeling to look over and just see your child radiate happiness??! Willow's face lights up anytime I ask her if she wants to help me with any random chore or kitchen task. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post and comment. Lots of love to you and your family ❤
Mandy, my friend Laura directed me to your post after I wrote today about my struggle to step back from social media and the desire to share all the time – it was so refreshing to read about your perspective on things. For me, it’s a balance of wanting to record my adventures for myself and sharing my experiences with others. Where it tips the balance, however, is when I tweet or post to stay socially relevant; as I work on freelance projects via my blog or other sites, a lot of what I push to social is picked up by brands, companies, and PR reps, so I often don’t want to miss out on an opportunity.
I also struggle with the narcissism of sharing, even though I actively participate in it. I don’t have any answers but just thought I would share and wanted to thank you for this post!
p.s. I’m originally from the PNW as well! 🙂
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Hi, Jaime! Oh, goodness…such a hard battle, balance, that is. My current struggle is feeling like Instagram is one-sided…I post photos and find that I don’t have very much time to browse or catch up on what everyone else is up to. I think you said it perfectly…”narcissism of sharing.” I really appreciate you sharing that with me, it’s nice to hear that others feel the same way.
No way?! Isn’t the PNW beautiful? I need to check out your blog and any friend of Laura’s is a friend of mine ❤ Sending lots of good energy your way!!
I here you….