— -- (Editor's note: This article first appeared on Babble.com and has been reprinted here with permission. Disney is the parent company of both Babble and ABC News.)
One of the first steps in the recovery of an addiction is admitting there’s a problem. I think I’ve known there was a troubling dynamic between my iPhone and I for a while now, but I only recently admitted to myself that this dysfunctional relationship wasn’t working. While some days I wish I could go cold-turkey on the whole social media thing (and I secretly envy what few friends I have who don’t have a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account), in reality I not only thoroughly enjoy most of the interactions I have with friends and readers online, but it’s a pretty crucial part of my job. To permanently cut ties with all forms of social media would probably be a bad idea and would pretty much be the end of my freelance writing career.
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Still, this gnawing feeling that I was spending way too much time and energy on my phone wasn’t going away. I was finding myself checking my phone every few minutes, rolling through my Facebook and Twitter feed almost absent-mindedly. With the intense and steady stream of world events going on lately, I found myself getting wrapped up in reading one news story after another, digesting comments and clicking from link to link. I was getting a steady dose of information overload and too often allowing opinions rather than facts to direct my mood for the day. And checking too close to bedtime was often leading to feelings of unease and upset, making my already poor sleeping habits even worse. All this, including the obvious time and attention it took away from my family and general duties throughout the day, was adding up to way too much of what’s supposed to be a good thing. So I decided to simplify and delete Facebook and Twitter off my phone, while still keeping accounts active on my home computer. It’s been a little over a week, and I can already see the difference in a few areas of my life, both mentally and emotionally.
Here are 5 great things that happened when I took Facebook and Twitter off of my phone:
1. I’m less distracted
I read an article last week, on Facebook no less, that listed ways we as parents can help combat the constant problem of competing with the screen for our kid’s attention. To be perfectly honest though, I can see just as big of a problem in my own life, with my kids having to compete with the screen for my attention. Taking pictures for Instagram, editing and posting articles, and interacting with readers online is a BIG part of my “job,” and I explain that to my kids all the time when they’re talking at me while I’m working. The problem with this kind of work is that there’s not always a distinct boundary, and it’s often hard to separate “work” from just wasting time online. What I finally had to admit, and deal with, was that I was letting the endless stream of random articles and ice bucket challenge videos get in the way of my actual work. Taking these apps off of my phone has helped with that.
2. I have more time for family and my to-do list
Logging on for one minute here and there repeatedly throughout the day was adding up to big chunks of time I was losing to my phone, taking time away from folding clothes, cooking dinner, reading with my kids, and on and on. I’m slowly recapturing those little bits of time, which has led to more efficiency throughout the day.
3. My quality of information has improved
Social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook can be a great source for breaking news and getting a steady stream of information all in one place. But there is no filter on Twitter, nor is there fact-checking. The nonsensical gets mixed in with the accurate and eventually it all starts to blend together, making it harder to discern fact from fiction. I’m now making it a point to get my news information from credible news channels early in the morning and after the kids go to bed, and I’ve renewed my subscription to TIME magazine. While these sources may not always be the quickest ways to get breaking news, at least it’s been authenticated before it’s gone to air. No matter what kind of world we live in, getting the facts straight is always going to win for me.
4. I have a more positive outlook
Social media can be a fun, inspiring place to hang out. But let’s be honest, it can also be a bummer, lending to feelings of jealousy, competition, and unworthiness. When you start to allow comments and opinions of the outside world to seep into your life at any place or time of day, it can have a tremendously unhealthy impact on your overall mood. Reading a nasty comment while lying in bed first thing in the morning is no way to start the day off on the right foot. And learning of a devastating world event right before you shut down for the night will most likely lead to a night of zero sleep. Staying informed and learning from criticism are important parts of life and my job, but allowing access to all of that information and feedback during all hours of the day is not. Setting boundaries has been an important way to recapture my positive outlook on life.
5. I have more desire and need for human contact
Social media is great for staying in touch, but it can all too often leave us with a false sense of knowing what’s really going on with our friends and family. Sure, you can recite what your best friend had for dinner last night since she posted it on Instagram, and you know your niece and nephew got off to their first day of school okay, but how are your friends and family really doing? How are they feeling? What are they struggling with that they may not feel comfortable opening up about online? Taking away that constant stream of information on my phone has left me wanting more from my friends and family — more real-life, in-depth conversations, more hearing their voices, more seeing their faces.
Now I’m sure you’re probably wondering whether I’m just spending more time on my computer now that I don’t have access to these sites on my phone. And the answer is no. With all three kids entrenched in different activities and my computer sitting in the far back of my house in my bedroom, it’s remarkably easy to stay off it during the day. We’re either out and about a good portion of the day, or I’m just too dang busy keeping an eye on a toddler fully immersed in the terrible twos to even think about sneaking on the computer. I’ve tried this method before, of deleting Facebook and Twitter, but it never really stuck. This time though, I think I’ve finally found the strength to say so long to the book and the little blue bird.