Mom Talk: I Took a Social Media Hiatus

Written by

Jess Seely

11:00 am
03/22/19

Photographed by Chelsea Lane

In today’s Mom Talk, Jess Seely opens up about how new parenthood and a big move pushed her into a screen time spiral. Her thoughtful realization about the precious moments her phone was taking from her will surely resonate with many of us. Read on to learn about how she untethered herself from social media, and what she learned in the process.

Isolation is a common side effect of new parenthood. It’s hard to find time to socialize when you’re navigating the ins and outs of caring for an infant, not to mention being held prisoner by an ever-changing nap schedule. And for me, the birth of my daughter was coupled with some major lifestyle changes: Just before she was born, my husband and I decided to move from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., to a quaint village in rural Vermont. A few months after she was born, I decided to leave my job—a job that I loved—when she refused to take a bottle. We had wanted change and we certainly got it! Just like that, I had reached SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) status.

And while my husband still had some strong connections to the world outside our little family—he grew up nearby, had a job he went to every day, and a few old friends to hang out with—I was basically starting from scratch. I really struggled to find my sense of self as a new mom in a new town with no social outlet and few friends.

It was around that time that I started relying on my phone at all hours of the day. I reached for it to help me feel connected, to quell my new mama nerves, to answer those ridiculous 4 a.m. questions, and just to pass the time. There is literally an app or a forum for everything, and I was there to click on it. Want to share a daily update with family and friends? There’s an app (or fifty) for that. Want to track when you nursed, on which side, and for how long? There’s an app for that. Want to know if it’s normal for your six week old to projectile poop? There’s a forum for that. Want to scroll aimlessly through photos of bathed, clothed, beautiful mamas in their renovated farmhouses baking homemade bread while their newborn coos sweetly in a silk ring sling, and their smiling toddler happily plays with her locally sourced wooden truck wearing a $228 sweater she’ll outgrow in one season? There’s an app for that, too.

Ironically, it was also an app that clued me into the fact that my screen time might be getting out of hand. Thanks to recent iPhone updates, my smartphone started tracking the time I spent staring at my screen and allowed me to understand just how much time I was dedicating to certain apps. Just before the holiday season, I came face to face with the fact that I was spending more time trolling social media than I would ever care to admit.

I started by setting timers on those apps and made a point to not check social media while actively playing with my daughter. But I realized that all of the in between times were still adding up. I was bringing my phone to the bathroom, to bed, and to my daughter’s room as I nursed her in the middle of the night. Instead of admiring her seemingly endless eyelashes and enjoying the cuddles I know will all too soon be a distant memory, I was seeing which of my “friends” was on vacation, perusing a designer’s feed in search ideas for an upcoming renovation, following a new mommy influencer with a perfectly curated blog, or noticing who didn’t like my posts. It was a #blackhole.

And so, in a desperate effort to curb my obvious addiction to the unattainable, I decided to give myself the gift of presence, and I quit social media cold turkey. I didn’t go as far as ditching my accounts, but I vowed to simply stop logging in for an indeterminate amount of time. Enough time and space, I hoped, to reflect upon social media and its role in my, and my child’s, life.

I’m not going to lie. The first few days were hard. I had to hide the apps on my phone to avoid temptation. But then, things got easier. And better. I started reading again—something I hadn’t done since the baby was born; I started checking boxes off my to-do list; I started appreciating the way my daughter plays with my belly button as she nurses; I started sleeping better; I started talking to my husband in the evenings; I stopped judging my failures against everyone else’s seemingly easy successes.

It had been ten days since I’d logged in when I realized I’d left a dear friend hanging in the message center. ‘Twas night before Christmas and all through the house, I couldn’t contain myself any longer and clicked the computer mouse. I responded to her message, cleaned up my friend requests, and then…I scrolled. But something curious happened. I found zero pleasure in looking through image upon manicured image.

It’s now been nearly four months and I have barely posted anything. It’s not that I don’t want to share updates with friends and loved ones. It’s that I no longer feel the need for validation via “likes,” and realize that I should probably focus on cultivating real, lasting relationships with those I care about, including an incredible group of amazing mama friends I’ve found here. Or finish the baby book I started working on a year ago. I’m probably not breaking up with social media for good, but this experiment has been an important exercise in self-awareness, self-control, and sanity.

If you need me, there’s a good chance you know where to find me, anyway—at the end of the bumpy dirt road, burning chocolate chip cookies, with unwashed hair, wearing leggings from yesterday, while my toddler drinks out of the dog bowl in her avocado-stained wool onesie. I’ll even mail you a hard copy photo, if you’d like.

Ready to curb your own screen time? Check out our 10 Favorite Screen Time Limit Apps, Screen-Free Activities to Do With Kids, and Healthy Screen Time Habits.

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Leave a Comment

1 comment

Katy

This article is exactly what I need – thanks Jess. I can learn a lot from this.

But also I just love the last paragraph. That is me right now, through and through!

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