We all need time outs from the demands in our life — parenting included.
Often, many of us turn to social media to decompress – a pause from the moment we’re in to appreciate something different. Or at least that’s how I once looked at my relationship with social media as a parent. However, after taking a one week break from social media with my husband, I wonder whether social media is truly a time-out at all.
I came out of my week off with a very different perspective and the consideration that too much social media is more like a tune out; one that, as it turns out, definitely wasn’t helping me feel good. Life moves so fast, and I am committed to not missing out on the many moments ahead.
Breaking from the social media world led to all kinds of benefits in our household, but one important lesson was the clear distinction between a tune-out and a time-out. Sometimes a tune-out is needed – a quick moment to briefly turn away from the present when it feels overwhelming. Sometimes consuming yourself in the worlds of other people is exactly what you need.
As a parent though, a truly effective time-out should embrace the present with one goal: restoration.
When you’re a parent who is exhausted from juggling the relentless demands that come with tiny humans, the small moments for yourself should leave you feeling better, feeling ready for what’s ahead. I would go as far as saying that a truly restorative “time-out” should leave you more delighted by the many other moments, as taxing as they can sometimes be.
Distancing myself temporarily from social media was one of the most restorative things I have ever done since becoming a mom.
I realized that often, my time spent scrolling doesn’t leave me feeling better than before. Sometimes, it left me feeling worse. After that week, my family made some changes that we hope will allow us to set boundaries and maintain the good vibes, with the full awareness that if they don’t, social media is not mandatory for either of us; we can choose to fully opt-out at any time.
Here’s what we’ve embraced over the last few weeks:
1. Set time limits
IOS (for iPhone users) has a feature that allows you to set a time limit on your app or group of apps. We both set a 30-minute limit for all social networking apps. The key here is not to click “ignore” once the timer blocks your access. You have to respect the limit. Right now, I will go on Instagram during my nighttime nursing, and usually, I hit the time limit during a nursing session, which means no more social media all day long – and it’s no problem.
2. Turn your notifications off
This way you aren’t tempted or baited into wanting to check your phone. I do have some people who use Instagram DMs or the Messenger app as a primary mode of contact – I had to make an effort to connect with them and direct them to my cell number for texting purposes with the awareness I was not going to be consistently available to them on Instagram.
3. Move the target
So many of us automatically click on the social networking apps available to us, even if the purpose of picking up our phone was something like checking the weather. It just happens. I moved all social networking apps into a “group” and put them on their own page — the third page of apps on my phone. This requires more intentional swiping and navigating to get there.
4. Volume up, phone down
This is a new policy in our household, and truthfully, we’re still trying to get it right. If I am really honest, some days it can be tempting not to drown out the constant demands of a picky eater for a few moments. However, when we are not at work, we make an effort to put the volume of our cell phones on high so that we don’t miss a call (if someone really needs us, they will call), but otherwise, the phones are parked somewhere and we don’t pick them up. Occasionally there may be a need to use maps, choose the music, or check the weather, but we try to voice what we are doing in those moments so the people around us know it’s intentional.
5. Scheduled breaks
Once every few months, I plan to take a week off. The break was so important in the long term, and a repeated break every two or three months will help keep me in check when it comes to my social media use, especially when I am with my kids. It’s easy to fall back into bad habits, and this should help.
I often think the convenience of mobile technology is so incredible, but sometimes what comes with that convenience is a normalization of getting things done in quickly by splitting our attention on a fairly constant basis. I am so grateful to live at a time where I can be so connected to my friends and family and to writers, actors, and photographers who inspire me. I’m appreciative of the ability to respond to work emails and banking needs basically immediately. I am thankful daily for the ease with which I can navigate through construction, find my way anywhere in the world with the click of a button, stream any type of music I want to fill my household with, and access information in any format I choose.
With all of that appreciation comes one rule of thumb: as with anything really good (I’m looking at you, chocolate and cheesecake), limits and boundaries remain essential.