I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time on Instagram in the past year. I figured it was an acceptable way to pass time during the many hours I spent sitting in a dark room nursing my daughter around the clock. But I quickly got sucked into the never-ending scroll.
I noticed myself feeling anxious. I started comparing myself to strangers on the app. Tapping through Instagram felt like eating too much junk food and I knew it was time to clean up my diet.
While on my new social media diet, I read this article outlining how Instagram is ‘toxic’ for teen girls’ body image and mental health. Using leaked information from the company, the report says the app makes girls feel worse about their bodies and increases anxiety and depression.
Facebook quickly responded saying the article is ‘simply not accurate,’ but it got me thinking about whether Instagram is toxic for moms.
I had my first baby in September 2020, the peak of the pandemic. We spent the entire newborn phase locked down at home. We had no in-person baby classes, mommy and me groups or visits from extended family or friends.
After spending the previous decade as a busy TV news reporter, I was grateful for the time at home with my daughter. Still, I craved connection, and the easiest way to interact with the outside world was Instagram. From my phone, I had access to an endless pool of moms, experts and influencers with recommendations, tips and advice on everything from baby sleep to baby products. I learned, I scrolled, I shopped.
While I love getting information and making connections, I realized it isn’t normal to have unlimited access to millions of people outside of my circle of friends and family. This makes it hard not to compare your life to what other moms post on their grids. You see your real, raw, messy moments in contrast to their perfect, happy, neat lives. We need to stop comparing our offline lives to the curated images and videos people post online. Instagram is a highlight reel, the glossy magazine version of reality.
Once this became clear, I decided to carve out strategic breaks from my phone, and it has dramatically improved my mindset.
My 3- Step Social Media Diet:
1. Nighttime Cutoff:
After I put my daughter to bed around 8pm, my phone goes on the charger and that’s where it stays all night. In order to remove temptation and avoid seeing notifications, I dock my phone far away from my bed. Of course, there are exceptions and I do tap my screen from time to time to make sure there are no emergencies. You can also limit notifications through the phone, but this way works best for me.
2. Mornings to Maximize Productivity:
I hold off on social media as long possible in the morning. I usually wake up around 5am. I know that’s very early, but it’s my most productive time of day. Before the sun rises, I typically have two uninterrupted hours alone. I want to maximize it by focusing on creative tasks or self-care before responding to notifications or emails. I generally start checking notifications after 7am.
3. Weekend Social Media Breaks:
This is the toughest part. I try to stay off social media all weekend so I can be be present with my family. I started by taking a break from Instagram on Sundays. It noticed my thumb automatically went the app by default until I removed the option. I extended that rule to all social media on Sundays. Because that was so beneficial, I took it a step further and now I try my best to take a break from all social media all weekend. I'm not overly strict. If I need to log on, I make it quick – no scrolling! The goal is to take at least 24 hours away from social media.
Social media is an incredible way to connect with loved ones, meet new people, share ideas or build a business. However, when it starts to drain you, it’s time to create boundaries. Just like a healthy diet, it’s all about balance. If you’re too restrictive you probably won’t stick with it. I encourage you to start thinking about how you feel while using social media. Is it increasing or decreasing your happiness? Is it making you feel more or less connected?
Your phone needs to recharge and so do you!