Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Social Media Baby Steps

This week I was watching morning television while getting ready for the day. During an entertainment segment, the anchors were discussing a new product they'd seen advertised, a placemat with a pocket for your phone. The logic is that by putting your phone in the pocket, you won't look at your phone as much, and will connect with the people around your table, not just the people on the other end of your social media account.

Has it really come to this?

Uh, yes. Yes, it has. I know because I asked Siri if social media addiction was real and I was given pages upon pages of search results. I learned that almost a full 2/3 of the respondents admitted to checking their social media accounts "up to a staggering 10 times per day." I also learned that females age 16-25 are especially susceptible. These statistics were from a few web pages that were two or three years old—woefully out of date by internet standards.

My first thought was that 10 times is really not a lot over the course of a day and second, that I've never been so happy to be old. Because this is clearly not me. Right?

This past spring, I caught my kids sneaking their devices into their rooms after bedtime. I thought it was just one of them, but a quick investigation showed that they were colluding, playing games with each other in the privacy of their own rooms using the wifi.

This could be why the streaming Netflix was always buffering when I was trying to watch my stories.

I was scared, as it seemed they had finally figured out that if they combine their power, they can own my ass. I'd really hoped to have a few more years before this happened.

Ironically, earlier this month while searching for something, I found a blog post I had forgotten about, written a few years back, about how my kids were unable to cut their digital tethers. I guess some things never change.

I emailed my girl Dani for guidance, as she has similarly-aged and inclined children, and she reminded me—to kids, digital devices are like a highly addictive drug. They almost can't even help themselves. And yeah, I wasn't doing all that I could to stay on top of where the devices were at the end of each day. Because they'd never given me a reason to worry.

Well, not that I knew of, anyway.

So, we had a big, long talk about integrity and the sleep needs of preteens and how just because their friends say they are allowed to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, the likelihood is that they are in bed possibly earlier than my own kids. Oh, and they lost their privileges to use electronics for a good few months. I cleared off the crap corner on the kitchen counter and set up a space for their devices to live... should they ever regain their privileges, that is.

At first, I thought this would be difficult... but I was amazed at how resilient they were, and how they were able to fill their time without relying on a digital crutch. And I didn't even have to Google ideas for how they could spend their time offline.

Unfortunately, it also pointed out to me how much time *I* spend on my own devices.

I have justified my social media usage with blogging and promoting and marketing and making plans and all the reasons at all the times! But the truth of it is, if left to my own devices, I'll spend way too much time with my head in my phone.

So, after weaning the kids from their devices, I realized that I might need to do the same thing for myself. I removed games and apps from my phone and tablet to make them less appealing. I set up alarms on my phone, set to go off every two hours each day Monday-Friday, in an attempt to limit my social media and time spent with my nose in the sticky interwebs.

Yes, every two hours. Hey, baby steps are still steps.

And, yes, I may find myself already online when the alarm goes off to let me know that enough time has passed for me to go back online again and still feel good about myself.

Baby steps.

Every person I mentioned this to has responded positively. I see I'm not the only one struggling. There was even an article in the July issue of Real Simple magazine (which I adore) that referenced limiting screen use during the summer. Three full pages of article about how to be a kid in the pre-digital world. Seeing as how I've actually done that, hopefully we can figure it out together.

But I might need to ask Siri to look up some alternative activities for me.

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