“No phone, Mama.”
My 2-and-a-half-year-old is new to speaking sentences, but this was one of his first, and it woke me out of a stupor.
During the same days I pondered this directive from my youngest child, I also found myself falling into the trap of FOMO (fear of missing out) while browsing social media and happening upon events happening without me—a playdate featuring my daughter’s closest friends, a mom’s night out, a group dinner.
I know I don’t need an invitation to every event, nor do I want one, but I found myself spiraling into a cycle of feeling left out, lonely, and ignored. I knew this was my problem, not anyone else’s, and I needed to find a solution.
So, I quit.
Most of my phone time—noted by my phone’s all too accurate weekly screen time reports—consisted of time posting, commenting, and checking, checking, checking social media.
I had to make a change.
In the first two weeks of my social media break, I didn’t feel any different.
It was like a diet change that didn’t immediately result in weight loss. I didn’t magically have more time in my day or the desire to take up non-screen-related hobbies.
My social media apps started sending me emails about friends’ updates—with no clear pattern to the notices, I’d finally broken the algorithm. I hopped on here and there as the weeks passed, checking on a specific friend or looking for an old photo. And I was able to avoid being sucked back into the social media rabbit hole.
I noticed—and so did my handy, dandy screentime report—that I had my phone in my hand less. I saw my friends checking their phones and realized I wasn’t sure I’d brought mine with me.
My relationships started to shift too.
Friends started texting my cute images of their kids or sharing funny anecdotes because they knew I wasn’t on social media. I started to see that my main social media friendships really existed only in that space, and that’s OK. I have a better perspective on my IRL (in real life) friendships, and I can tend to them in ways I haven’t in the past.
And those new or rediscovered hobbies finally surfaced as the weeks away from social media progressed. I wrote enough book reviews that a publishing house invited me to review advanced readers’ copies. I pulled out my sketchbook and markers and started drawing again.
My phone’s photo album has far more pictures of my children in action than it does of the perfect foam on my coffee. And while my toddler, as any proper toddler does, still has plenty of requests and demands, it’s been months since he reminded me to put down my phone.
When I looked up from my phone, I saw everything and everyone I’d been ignoring.
I don’t feel guilty about the way I let myself be drawn into social media because there have been seasons when I desperately needed that particular sense of community and connection. And I may need it again.
But for now, “No phone, Mama,” is an excellent rule for me to follow.
And with my hands free of a phone, they are available for so much more.