Social media – the friend I hate to love

I was desperate for a break. What with a new baby, my hubby having a miserable time and facing a tonsillectomy, and changing my teen daughter’s school, the last few months have been a tad stressful to say the least. I’d booked us a week in Cornwall with my two sisters and their families about six months ago and I couldn’t wait.

The run up to a holiday is always stressful, sometimes I wonder why we bother as the sheer effort of packing a family of six seems too much. It was even harder this time with everything that’s been going on as well as end-of-school-year activities and work deadlines to get on top of…blahhh! I felt like I was drowning in things to do. My phone has been permanently in my hand as I use it to manage so much of my life, but I had begun to resent the way it also saps my attention.

I’m in demand from all corners. While each member of the family constantly need me in some physical or emotional capacity, I also have a home to run, clients making demands and bills to pay. I also have a whole other life’s worth of demands on social media making me feel compelled to comment on or like posts (even though I know I don’t have to). I know I’m all too guilty of letting this bad friend distract me from all the other crap that I should really be thinking about.

So, as well as getting to spend some quality time with my sisters and their husbands and children, I really looked forward to taking a break from the social media life, in fact the entire internet! Keeping up with my stresses as well as, it feels, the stresses of masses of friends and acquaintances has not been doing me any good at all.

Anxiety is a demon that loves it most when I’m online, reading random posts about so-and-so’s illness or family tragedy, or the scare stories, however helpfully intentioned, posted by the media or other parenting pages I follow.

I’m totally addicted to checking my phone throughout the day, a habit formed after starting my own business twelve years ago. I could delete the social media accounts of course, but I worry about cutting myself off. Not only do they help me stay connected with people, they keep me company!

Yes, I’m that sad.

Work-at-home mum = no fun! 

Since starting my business from home, I seemingly have the perfect solution. I get to work around the children, to a point, and can choose my own hours. In reality this means I get to look after the children, do the housework, shop and cook, and bring in a wage to cover the bills… pretty much all at the same time. I’ve been successful, thanks to childcare and being bloody amazing at multitasking. However, I miss the simple aspects of office life, such as leaving the home to do something else just for me, even getting dressed in non-mummy clothes, but most importantly I miss the social side – chatting to colleagues about my stuff, listening to their stuff, having a laugh, putting the world to rights, working on projects together (without a mini-me pulling at my leg or puking on me), getting stuff done and generally feeling accomplished…

Being a work-at-home mum can be a slog if there’s no clear structure… every day is a muddle of childcare, rushing off emails, battling deadlines, chasing my tail, working virtually and not having anyone to discuss things with… all before a hectic after-school schedule and somehow providing an edible healthy balanced meal for a large family… (who eat far too many pizzas and cake bars!).

It’s no surprise I’m a little jaded! So I turn to social media to be my ‘friend’. My escape.

Virtual friends = easy life 

Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of lovely friends, you know, real people. I’m not one to be particularly socialable and I genuinely love my own company but I also recognise that being alone for too long isn’t beneficial and sends me a bit loopy.

I arrange meet-ups with friends, so it’s not as if I don’t get out but it’s hard to fit in around everything else and often I crave days when I can just sit in and stare at the wall.

Social media has become my new best friend, but she’s a bit high maintenance. I turn to her for laughs, advice, support, love and, yes, appreciation. But friends like these can be draining if you spend all day, every day with them!

No signal = no stress?

This holiday was in a quiet location with very limited Wi-Fi. So how did it go?

Well, it took a day or so to lose the habit of carrying my phone around everywhere. I turned off all notifications so that I didn’t feel compelled to check my phone every time it blinked at me.  I shared photos on instagram as it’s easy and I love photography (have a look 👇). I checked facebook about once a day (which is nothing!) but even that was pointless due to the crappy signal. And you know, while I liked catching up on posts, I really didn’t miss it at all.

I noticed how, on the beaches and in restaurants, nearly every other adult was looking at their phone, probably like me hoping to see a little bit of ‘G’ to look up ‘that restaurant’. I used my phone a lot as a camera so I still handled it, but the lack of signal meant I didn’t even bother ‘having a quick look’ at social media after a few days.

It was also amusing whenever we travelled to somewhere a bit more civilised and we all got our phones out, excited by the ‘G’! Our lives are utterly controlled by these things!

I loved having time to sit and just feel my mind emptying. I even read – and finished – a book that I’d been meaning to read for months.

Of course I could live without social media but while I’m at home with a baby and a toddler, I need it more than it needs me. But I’m aware – and planning – a long-term exit plan, so just knowing that helps me feel a bit less guilty about my addiction.

Old habits die hard 

It was on the journey home that I decided to use the few hours sat in the passenger seat to get a few things done online – checking emails, shopping, present buying etc… but got increasingly frustrated by the lack of signal. I realised I couldn’t fulfil my holiday dream of upping sticks and living a totally switched-off life on our glorious coastline, not unless I changed career and became an artist or a thatcher!

Back on the drive at my house, the Wi-Fi kicked in immediately and I got a load of things off my to-do list, then put a load of washing on and had a cuppa in no time at all. Technology rocks!🤘

But I didn’t immediately check in with social media. It wasn’t until bedtime that I shared our holiday snaps with my social media friends and enjoyed looking back over the great week we’d had. I also had a nose at what others had been getting up to while I was off. And yes, the world was still turning!

Despite the winge, this isn’t one of those posts that ends on a life-changing note! I’m not about to cut social media out of my life, heck no! I like the distraction. I like the virtual photo album. I like writing and interacting. But a change is as good as a rest, I think a little weaning is in order…!