As you all know I have been having a bit of a love-hate relationship with social media. Mainly love. A lot of love. But the little bit of hate I received made me take a big back seat from Facebook. From Instagram. The ripple effect of that was I used my phone just to text people. Just to ring people. Imagine that. Using a phone only as a phone. In doing so, I honestly felt my stress levels go down. My world did not cave in from not having my phone within a 10cm radius of my body. The need to check my phone the second it vibrated or “pinged” to alert me to a new post was gone. At times, it was left in a whole other room. Unheard of I know!!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m the friend that when we go out to dinner puts her phone on silent on the table. The boys are out and about a lot now, in town, in cars, at parties, and I want to be contactable if needed. I also sleep with my phone next to my bed in case I am needed in the middle of the night by Mum or the boys, if they are not home. Those reasons are what we all have phones for. But we are not spending large chunks of our time texting or talking on our phones. It’s the social media apps that seemingly are “controlling” us.
Since the boys were little, we have always tried to have a family movie night once a week. Favourite snacks in bowls, pillows and quilts pulled off beds we would all snuggle up and get comfy and be completely together. This was very easy to do until both boys got to high school. Then the task of finding a night they were both home, homework-free and a movie they/we could agree on became a bit trickier. Still, we managed to do it and quite often it would be one of them who would make the suggestion, “Let’s watch a movie together as a family.” I usually took that request as a sign that they needed to just chill out and relax from whatever stress was affecting them at that time.
The last couple of years though with Uni, high school, and their social lives getting busier by the day, the movie nights are few and far between. And, when we do settle in, I have noticed that their phones come with them and are checked. Constantly. “Get off your phone,” we say. Phones get put face down, placed millimetres from their hands. We then hear a buzz and with lightning speed that phone is turned face up to check, whatever!! Honestly what could be so important? Oh, and just to clarify, I know the tones, beeps, buzzes of all devices and what apps they belong to. Facebook and Messenger and Snapchat work overtime I am here to tell you. Our family movie nights are not their “time out” anymore.
I get it. I have thought I have lost my phone, dropped my phone and forgot my phone and, on all occasions, I was hit with high-level panic. “My whole life is on that phone.” Is it though? I get my photos printed off and put into albums on a very regular basis. The old-fashioned past time of looking through photo albums is alive and well in our house, and I love it. Handwritten notes next to much-loved snapshots of fantastic memories……………………just feels nicer, to me, than plugging in a USB or scrolling through photos on a computer screen.
My contact list. Well, yes that would be a bit trickier to retrieve if I lost my phone, given I only know 5 mobile phone numbers off by heart but in reality, I just probably “need” those 5 anyway. The rest I could retrieve when I actually saw the person. Texting is not the only form of communicating; face to face chats are fantastic too.
Don’t get me wrong, without social media none of you would be reading this so for that I am a grateful subscriber. To be able to keep in touch and up to date with all my family and friends overseas is a beautiful thing as is watching cute babies grow up all too fast. But without sounding “old”, I am extra grateful that I didn’t get my first, very basic, mobile phone until the boys were in primary school. I didn’t use it to text for months and, as for having an iPhone that had apps installed on it, my first was from my brother in law who kindly gave me his old one. By that stage, both boys were in high school. So luckily for me when I took the boys to the park or watched them kick a soccer ball around I was actually watching all of the time. My head was up not down.
Only the other day I went for a walk, and there was a family of four at the park, the two youngest on the swings. Mum was on her phone, and the older sibling, around 14 years old was engrossed on her iPad. It was such a beautiful day, and the two on the swings were laughing in delight, but no one was watching. They were missing out on real life because they were potentially absorbed in another’s.
A friend was telling me the other day that at her son’s childcare centre they have a sign on the wall that says “Get off your phone. Your child is happy to see you show you are happy to see them too!” I am sure that is there for the minority, but I know my jaw dropped open when she said it. How sad that some need to be reminded to do that.
So I am going to try and live in the moment more, rather than share the moment. Use the phone to take a photo, as we have all been doing since forever with cameras, and not upload quickly for all to see. Savour a particular time for my eyes only, not all eyes. And, try not to take ten photos to get the perfect shot. Go filter free. Ala natural.
Today we went and looked at some German shepherd puppies. They were beautiful. Black balls of fluff, eyes shut, we gently held one as their Mum anxiously watched us, pacing and nudging our leg with her nose. As I held this sweet, sleepy girl it brought back lovely memories of our dog Izzy at the same age, they both had that distinctive puppy smell. We went on to spend a fun hour or so with all the other dogs in the backyard from previous litters. And, deliberately, not a phone in our hand or pocket. It felt so good to consciously detach from an instinctive reaction to “post” and share.
I’m feeling less stressed already.