Could too much social media or series binge-watching be affecting your family time? We asked two moms if changing their screen routines could bring new benefits
As technology has evolved, it’s literally become part of our lives. Our habits now include logging onto social media for hours – in fact, on average, South Africans spend nearly three hours on social media every day, with Facebook being the most popular site. But it’s not just the phone screen that has our regular attention. Could TV be to blame for the decline in family dinners around the table, too? While there’s nothing wrong with liking the odd Instagram photo or enjoying a favourite series on Netflix, screen time can become problematic when it replaces quality time with your loved ones. We challenged two moms to give up their screen time habits for a week to see if it would have an impact on their family time. Here’s what happened…
Losses of Social Media and Series Photo Gallery
The social media ban Mia Nixon, 42, is an English teacher. She lives with her husband Ken, 43, son Andrew, 10, and daughter Layla, eight, in Edenvale. We asked her not to use social media for a week. When asked if I was prepared to embark on a social media ban, I felt confident – maybe a bit too confident. Apart from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, I’d also have to give up, to my horror, Pinterest. Similar to an athlete carbo-loading the night before a race, I spent the evening before the start of the challenge scrolling through my newsfeeds and timelines. In recent months, I have noticed a pattern: I have every intention of ‘taking a quick look’ at social media on my phone before bed, but ‘just five more minutes’ inevitably turns into hours and, before I realise it, it’s 1am and my brain is so alert that I can’t fall asleep. That’s when the panic sets in and I worry about how many hours of sleep I’ll get. My solution is to pop half a sleeping tablet, which makes me wake up groggy. I think the social media ban is exactly what I need.
I woke up with Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger playing in my head and I knew that I was of to a great start. While sitting down at the kitchen table – rusk in hand and with a cup of tea – I nearly choked on my first sip. I glanced down at the phone in my hand and there it was: the familiar blue Facebook log-in screen. I don’t remember actually opening the app – it’s clearly an unconscious habit. Horrified, I quickly closed it. I hadn’t done any scrolling, so I felt like I hadn’t really broken the rules just yet. But, two hours later, I did exactly the same thing again without realising it! The rest of the day went by without another unconscious Facebook check. I did struggle when the push notifications arrived on my lock screen; it wasn’t the comments on Facebook or the Instagram likes that bothered me, but the tempting red bubble that popped up on Pinterest with 109 notifications. What new craft craze was I missing?
Even though I’m missing my morning Pinterest trawl, day two didn’t go too badly. It was school holidays and I took the kids tenpin bowling. I hardly noticed the morning fly by; I was enjoying my time with Andrew and Layla so much that I didn’t give my social media accounts much thought. Although, it would’ve been nice to share our eventful morning with the world by posting a selfie or two.
I intentionally left my phone at home when we went out to have lunch. In any other week, I’d use the moment of peace that the restaurant’s jungle gyms provided to catch up online; instead, I watched the kids play. Sitting there made me think about how much playtime I’ve missed out on while I’ve been attached to my phone. So far, I’ve managed two days with no social media and tonight before bed I picked up a book instead of my phone. I’d convinced myself that I never have time to read, but clearly this has just been an excuse. Unexpectedly, I still find myself insisting on just ‘one more chapter’, and still going to bed late. But my brain isn’t as wide awake as when I’ve been scrolling. WEDNESDAY Something truly miserable happened today – I received notifications that I’d been tagged in two diferent comments on Facebook. I was dying to see what they were, but I stuck to my guns and did a bit of spring cleaning instead of picking up my phone. Clearing out the kitchen cupboards and ironing clothes might not have been my first choice for a distraction, but it worked and I feel good about avoiding the urge.
Today we left on our journey down to the coast for our family holiday, so I barely looked at my phone. The drive was long, but I enjoyed chatting to the kids in the car, singing songs and being excited to see the sea.
When I woke up this morning, I didn’t feel a compulsive need to check Facebook and Instagram (well, the feeling has subsided somewhat, at least), but I was battling my Pinterest withdrawal. It didn’t help that my sister- and motherin-law were teaching me how to crochet and all I wanted to do was look up patterns for my new-found hobby.
I’ve another successful social mediafree day under my belt! We spent most of the day at the beach and the kids splashed about in the pool. Thank goodness for beach holidays because I don’t think I would have fared as well if it was a normal work week. I have also realised that checking social media every five minutes is just a form of procrastination, and I count myself as one of the world’s worst ofenders.
Day seven came and went without me even realising that the challenge was over, and I still haven’t been onto Facebook. We were all having such fun on holiday that I didn’t think to look at my phone. I still don’t know why I was tagged on Facebook, and I don’t really even care. Now that the challenge is over, I have, however, been on Pinterest to check out a few new crochet patterns.
I’m proud to say that I didn’t break my social media ban once this week. Well, at least not intentionally, if you count those two accidental Facebook checks on day one. Our Twitter timelines and Facebook feeds are often choc-a-block with bad news – if it’s news at all – and as much as it’s important to know what’s going on in the world, being constantly confronted by negative stories and trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ eventually takes its toll on your mood. Just three days into the challenge, I felt less wound up about everything. I’ve realised I don’t need to know what everyone else is doing all the time and, actually, I don’t really want to know.
I’ve also figured out that I was using these apps as a crutch for my boredom and procrastination. As much as I love my job and family, I’ve been teaching the same subject for 20 years and my routine rarely changes – I need to try out something new. As a result, I’ve applied, and been accepted, to study a Master’s degree in history. My time is now filled with fascinating insights into our country’s past and I can safely say that I have little interest in social media. I still communicate with my family using Facebook and I’ve searched Pinterest for a few specific craft projects I wanted to try, but I’m not spending nearly as much time on my phone as I used to, and I feel far better for it.
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