Social media addiction (and smartphone addiction in general) is almost normal these days.
As a mom I find myself wanting to reach for my phone when I should be more focused on my kids. I’m alarmed at how easy it is to slip into a potentially destructive habit unless I’m very deliberate about putting it to a stop.
We often reach for social media because we want an escape, when in reality the constant stimulation backfires and makes us more stressed. If you want to check out some healthier strategies for self-care, be sure to check out my self-care toolkit for Christian moms.
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When my first son was born, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that being a mom involves this weird paradox: you are incredibly busy and exhausted on one hand, but on the other hand you can have long bouts of boredom and loneliness.
And if you’re a stay-at-home mom—especially one who came from the workforce—the lack of adult interaction and intellectual stimulation can make you slightly crazy.
I remember nursing my firstborn in the middle of the night, not wanting to fall asleep but not sure how to keep myself occupied. It was 2009 and I had this pretty slick little device—a first generation iPhone.
I caught up on all the latest news among my friends on Facebook. Back then, as I recall, it was pretty basic: just photos and status updates and that was about it. It didn’t take long for me to scroll through my entire newsfeed and realize that I had caught up on pretty much everything anyone had to share.
Flash forward several years later and I have this weird reflex. Any time I get a second to myself, I reach for my phone and wonder about what’s going on via Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest/Gmail/Wordpress. The amount of information available to consume has exploded, yet most of it lacks much value.
Social media and smartphones aren’t evil in and of themselves, but if I’m not careful I can be stuck to them throughout the day, which affects my productivity and focus on real-life relationships.
I know why I do it—I am addicted. Social media provides some of that mental and social stimulation I want, but too much of it is like binging on candy. The instant validation and stimulation you can get from your phone can release dopamine, which means you can actually get addicted to the pleasure.
Icky. I don’t need that much; I don’t want that much. But breaking the habit is hard.
I’ve been pondering social media addiction a lot lately, perhaps because the problem has worsened since I’ve been building my online business. I suddenly have every reason in the world to be constantly connected. But do I really need to be? There have to be times when I get a break.
Quitting social media or even taking an extended break isn’t an option for me right now. I don’t think it’s necessary either (although for some people it is highly effective). However, I have discovered some strategies of late that have been extremely helpful.
I feel more clear-headed and less…icky. Even when I don’t follow my rules exactly, having guidelines in place is helpful because it gives me a clear way out when I feel like social media addiction is overcoming me again. Here are several habit-breaking strategies, followed by ideas for what to do with yourself with down time instead of social media.
Ideas for Breaking Social Media Addiction
- Define social media’s purpose
What is social media really useful for and what purpose does it have in your life? Spend some time thinking about this and write it down. I split my purposes into two categories—personal and business—and made lists. Referring to those lists helps me keep a healthy perspective.
- Set daily limits
I have oner or two times a day set aside to sit down and work on social media. And then I get off so I can focus my attention elsewhere. Your day might look different than mine, but I highly recommend figuring out a limit that works for you. Maybe check your accounts once at lunchtime (10 minutes max), and again later in the day. Set a timer if it helps you.
- Turn off notifications
Recently I turned off all of my phone’s push notifications, including email—what a relief! I also turned off most of my email notifications from my social media accounts. It’s a lot easier to stick to your limits when you’re not constantly being bombarded. Trust me, you won’t miss anything.
- Use your computer instead of your phone
I’ve removed several social media apps from my phone and try to only use the ones that are left when I don’t have access to a computer. This naturally limits the urge to reach for my phone whenever I have a quiet moment.
- Don’t check your phone first thing in the morning
This was another thing I used to do out of habit, thinking it would help me wake up. The problem is, when I check my phone first I start thinking about all the information I’m being bombarded with, which makes it really difficult if I want to start the day right—like focusing on prayer!
Here’s a little tip: plug in your phone at night across the room. That way it’s not a temptation when you go to bed or when you first wake up.
- Define breaks and boundaries
For the most part I take a break from social media on Sundays and I’m trying to stay off my phone at night. We also don’t have phones at dinner, during family night or other times we connect as a family.
Things To Do Besides Social Media
Who has time to read anymore? You do if you aren’t stuck on Facebook all day. I recently listened to this podcast from Read Aloud Revival about “cultivating a reading life.” When you’re filling up your mind with something substantial, social media is much less enticing. Audiobooks are another method to fit it more reading.
- Listen to podcasts
- Talk on the phone
To break your social media addiction, I never said you had to ditch the phone entirely! Use it the old-school way; call your sister or your mom or your friend and just connect with them. It’s a million times more refreshing than Facebook.
Even if you’re not a writer, jotting down your thoughts or your prayers has many benefits. (I happen to have a really awesome prayer journal you can download for free!)
- Keep your hands busy
Figure out what works for you; some people like to crochet, draw, color or do puzzles and games. I like to play the piano if I have a few minutes. Personally I think it’s more fun when you can make something beautiful.
- Start a garden
I have a really pitiful little garden, but when the weather is nice it’s a fun way to pass time when my kids are outside and they don’t need my direct attention.
- Keep a paper planner
This is another way I can keep my hands busy and my mind occupied: planning my life! And it keeps me off the phone and helps me feel more accomplished. If you want to learn more about my planning systems check out The Ultimate Time Management Guide for Moms.
- Pray or read your Bible
Need motivation? I have a free worksheet called “Let’s Get Motivated” along with lots of other faith-building tools in my Free Resource Collection. Click below to sign up!
- Write cards or letters
Whether it’s someone’s birthday or just an opportunity to say you’re thinking about them, writing a card helps you be less self-focused and can be a great way to connect.
- Read aloud with your kids
A lot of the books I’ve been digesting lately have been children’s literature. When do kids outgrow the need for you to read with them? Never! I’m loving Read Aloud Revival for some ideas about what to read. Here are also some ideas for books young kids can read to you.
- Bake something
Better yet, bake something and give it away. It’s a great opportunity to get your kids engaged in loving others.
- Work out
Breaking yourself of the social media habit requires discipline; I find that when I’m exercising regularly, I’m more disciplined in other areas too. These are still my favorite workouts for busy moms.
- Follow real news
- Commit to learning a new skill or hobby
Do none of these things appeal to you? Then find something that does. Even if you don’t know how to do it yet, commit to learning it and fill in those “in between” times with mastering it.
I see people like me on their phones all the time. And I think social media addiction is sad when I consider how much of life we’re missing.
Don’t forget: sign up for the self-care toolkit if you want to work on healthier ways to fill up your tank.
What to you do to prevent social media addiction?