7 Lessons from a Social-Media-Free Weekend

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We live next to a very active playground. It is THE place to be on a weekend morning or evening after work and school. When we first moved here, I wasn’t sure how I would like it. Would it be noisy, distracting, not enough privacy? But I have really loved it.

It makes me so happy to see kids running free, enjoying being outside, creating games, and making new friends. It also prompts us to get out more often and say hi to our neighbors. And I would be lying if I told you I didn’t sometimes stand at my kitchen window just to people watch. (I’m not much of a TV watcher, but the view from my kitchen window is my small dose of reality TV.)

One thing I’ve noticed over these last few months, is that so many parents use the time while their kids are playing independently to stare at their phones. The weather could be beautiful, their kids extra cute as they play, and neighbors nearby to say hello to, but instead, they are head down, scrolling or typing.

I have even caught myself judging them, (I’m not proud), for not being present with their kids. For not taking in the beautiful scenery. For not engaging with REAL people right in front of them.

But last week, when I was supposedly “playing” with the kids after work, sitting on the living room rug, toys spread out on the floor, kids climbing on top of me, my toddler told me to “put down your phone mama”.

I was no better

I didn’t even REALIZE that I had been sucked into the scroll. I was watching IG stories of other people. Seeing what my friends’ evenings were looking like, checking out other small business owners’ marketing strategies, comparing my life to others’.

I was no better than all those parents at the park, missing out on real life.

So I did what I do best - I decided to experiment. It’s how I learn and ultimately make lasting change. I challenge an assumption, a habit, a routine, and try something new for a short period of time. And then I compare, tweak if needed, and move forward with a better way.

It’s how I’ve come up with the planner/to-do list method that works to support my productivity. It’s how I’ve come up with routines and a gratitude practice that support the crazy schedule that I have as a mom of 3, a full-time professional, and a life coach.

The Experiment

I deleted the Facebook and Instagram apps off my phone starting at 5pm on Friday evening and I didn’t reinstall them until Monday morning when I was back at the office.

I paid attention to how I felt, what I did instead of social media, and how I interacted with those around me.

Was it painful? Was it a tough habit to break? Was it a long enough break?

Here’s what I learned:

1. I typically have really strong will-power, but this was a STRUGGLE.

I’m the kind of person who says, I’m giving up sugar, and then starting tomorrow I just do it. I don’t know how I got that way, I just have always been able to do whatever I’ve decided I’m going to do. But not reaching for my phone, and ESPECIALLY, not looking for the FB or IG icon? That was hard for me, EVEN THOUGH, I’d told myself that I was giving them up for the weekend. That tells me just how strong the habit is.

2. I stopped picking up my phone in general.

After the first day of remembering that those apps were gone, I felt less compelled to even pick up the phone. There’s not much on it when you don’t have social media. Email isn’t that exciting. I don’t get THAT many text messages and phone calls. And other than checking the weather or reminding myself when Wyatt last woke up from a nap (I still use Baby Connect), I didn’t have any reason to check it. So I stopped.

3. I spent more time watching my kids.

Not watching them as in providing childcare, but watching them as in observing them. I realized just how frequently I was supposedly playing with my kids but actually I was just staring at my phone in their presence. Without the social media apps, I watched them play, I engaged with them, and I REALLY listened.

4. I felt zero pressure to do anything other than what I FELT like doing.

With no updates on what friends or family were out doing for their weekend, I felt no pressure to keep up. No guilt that our weekend wasn’t “fun enough”. In short, it removed all possibilities for me to compare my weekend to anyone else’s. It was liberating.

5. I’ve missed holding ACTUAL books.

I’ve been able to read quite a bit this year (26 books so far) while having a baby at home, because of the digital books I check out from the library and read on my phone. It’s convenient and efficient and I always have my phone with me. But because I didn’t have a compelling reason to pick up my phone, I decided to try sitting with a REAL book. And I learned that I have missed that since having Wyatt. I’m not sure what my balance will be going forward between digital books and paper books, but it’s something to think about.

6. It forced me to confront my own thoughts and feelings.

I realized that so much of my mental space is taken up by consuming other people’s lives. Without their stories and updates to fill my mind or my thoughts, I was forced to actually focus on me. I learned some things about myself this weekend and was able to process some big thing that have, unknowingly, been weighing on me.

7. I had more REAL conversations.

This is embarrassing to write, but I didn’t know how often the conversations I have with others entail nothing more than updates about what I saw on social media. I’m reminded of that quote about how small minds discuss people. If anything, this last lesson is enough to really make me think hard about the impact social media has on me. I want to discuss dreams, ideas, and life. Not who posted what!

Where Do I Go From Here?

As idealistic and dreamy as giving up social media entirely is, I don’t think it’s going to be my reality. I use it for the work that I do here, to connect with people, and to keep up with family and friends who don’t live near me. And that does provide value to me.

And I did miss the personal connection side of Instagram and Facebook. I’ve had so many wonderful conversations in DMs with some amazing working moms, and I did miss that aspect of it. But I think I can do those things AND create some healthy boundaries.

So I think I’m going to continue experimenting with taking one weekend day off from social media completely, and also in the evenings from when I get home to when the kids go to bed.

Aside from giving myself some time off, I’m also going to try to open the apps more MINDFULLY. I want to make sure I’m not avoiding something else by scrolling. And I want to make sure that it’s not just a tool for me to regurgitate information to others in conversation.

Have you ever experimented with a break from social media? What are your own boundaries? Did any of my learnings resonate with you? Tell me all about it.

Katelyn Denning