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Disconnecting from my phone: A response to 'The Social Dilemma'

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About three weeks ago, I settled in for the night, ready to relax. The kids were tucked in bed, and the husband was out with friends. It was a perfect night to watch a little show—something I rarely do. When I opened my iPad, “The Social Dilemma” was the first thing I saw on my screen. I had heard about this documentary on several platforms and decided I should check it out.

Fast forward, an hour and a half later, and I was rocked with conviction. My life had been changed—I hope forever. Upon completing the viewing, I immediately deleted Facebook and Instagram from my phone. My accounts remain active, but I am not on them. It has been 20 days since I last viewed social media, and my eyes have been opened in ways I never could have imagined.

I was like the millions of people walking the planet who enjoyed social platforms to stay connected with people, view cute pictures of my friend’s pets and kids, and as a way to stay in touch with my nieces and nephews across the miles. I thought I could use social media to champion good causes, share positive messages, and utilize the platforms for good. Isn’t this why we all use social media? For the good? The richness is brings into our lives and the lives of others?

But under closer examination, do our phones bring us good? This documentary literally stripped the scales off my eyes and helped me to see that while there are some positive aspects to social media, there are far more negative aspects.

First and foremost, it was robbing me of my time—the only commodity which is truly finite. What I was giving in those moments, minutes, sometimes hours, was taken from me to never return again. And for what? To what purpose was I devoting these precious hours of my day?

I am part of a unique generation that has lived both with and without social media. I had my first baby as Facebook was also born. Both infants, I have watched them grow in my life. I spent the first months of my daughter’s life, rocking her, holding her. Completely undistracted because I did not have a smartphone. We sat in the quiet together. Prayed together. I studied her every feature, over and over again. I did not miss a moment.

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Two years later, I had my son. I spent his early days of infancy still as a doting mother, albeit a bit more distracted. I tried to limit my screen time and relish those moments with my son, but the reality is, I had a toddler demanding my attention, and I am not referring to my first child. No, I am referring to Facebook, which had become a nagging, demanding toddler in my life. Beckoning my attention with likes, alerts, and interesting updates from friends and family. I missed more than a few moments.

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Another two years passed and I welcomed my third child. As you can imagine, the toddler, Facebook, had grown into an even more demanding preschooler. Not only that, but Facebook now had a sibling, Instagram, who was also beckoning for my attention. Unfortunately, the social media siblings weren’t the only ones demanding my focus. There were news sources, Pinterest, email, countless shopping sites, etc. The monster of my phone was something I thought I could control, but the truth is, I couldn’t. I missed countless moments.

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I could see how the growing screen time had impacted me—my relationships, my marriage, my children, my friendships. The trips I desired to take, the décor in my home, the outfits I would wear. The influence affected my emotions. The likes brought with them joy, while the news stirred up anxiety. How in the world did I think I could control this all consuming monster?

I am one of the few who have the privilege of recognizing the difference in my life before and after smartphones. I have a before and an after to compare. What gravely concerns me are the generations being raised without this comparison. This is normal for them. The mass consumption of media is standard.

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My daughter is 11. She does not yet have a phone, but that day is coming. I have a brief moment in time to demonstrate to her how to use a phone as a tool to control and not a device that controls. I can still have an influence on her, and I pray I can reverse the past 10 years, and truly live by example, and not a “do as I say and not as I do” approach. After all, I want her to watch the sunset, play with her siblings, sit on the porch and chat with me. I want her to experience what I had at 11, but in order to do that, I have to model this new behavior and there isn’t a moment to lose. I have already lost too many.

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So, what have I learned in the past 20 days? What has this disconnection from devices fostered in my own life?

I have read more. Actual books. Wow. Who would have thought?

I have had more conversations with my spouse and my children.

I have felt less stress.

I have experienced the world in a smaller, simpler, and more manageable way.

I have been more content.

I have sat on my porch and watched the kids play.

I have sought out ways to encourage friends that didn’t involve a “like” button—taking flowers over, sending a text, stopping by to say hello.

I have taken fewer pictures. Which makes me wonder, why was I taking pictures before? Were they really for me? There’s a hard truth to swallow.

I still have a lot to learn, after all, it takes time to undo a decade of phone dependence, but so far it has been a profound experience.

I don’t know what my long term plan is with social platforms, other than I needed to separate completely from the monster. Maybe it will shrink back to infancy and I can handle it in controlled, small doses, but for now, it is goodbye.

I encourage you to evaluate how you are living your life. Is your phone stealing your peace, sanity, and time? It isn’t an easy question to answer, but it is certainly worthy of a ponder.

Don’t lose another moment.

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