Family tries week without social media

The biggest killer of meaningful time is a component you can completely control: the cell phone in your pocket.

Recently, my family and I took a week off from school to have some intentional time as a family in Sarasota, Fla. Prior to our trip, my family told us all that we would either be leaving all of our phones except one, or powering them down for the majority of the day … every day. This thinking was inspired by my mom (Jenni)’s philosophy of what phones can do to you when they are controlling you, and what you can do for yourself when you control them.

“Well, first, being off the phone makes you forced to have conversation with those around you. You have no device that could tempt you in distraction, similar to how a TV would bother you,” Jenni said. “Phones also limit creativity and imagination. We had to create a game in the pool because we didn’t have those distractions. Instead of TV, we made ourselves create, and then it came so naturally. We had such fun nature walks. We delighted in beauty, and it inspired us to have open thinking and therefore a much better time.”

While this sounds wonderful and relaxing, phones still tempted. My brother Josiah fell prey to his phone about midway through our trip. At first he checked it briefly, but once he started, his isolation with it only grew.

“I felt the need to check my phone in order to stay updated back at home,” Josiah said. “I wanted people to value me, and by checking my phone, I can reaffirm people care about me and want to know how I’m doing when I’m gone. I never enjoyed checking social media. I never felt good after seeing everyone’s worlds spinning just fine and maybe better than my own. It made me feel like other people were having a better time than I was. I left Instagram comparing myself to other people and unhappy with what I looked like, felt like, was doing etc. The happiest I was on the trip was playing ball with my dad on the beach. I didn’t have a phone. I wasn’t distracted, and I enjoyed life in the moment without wondering if someone was enjoying it better.”

My mom has examined what phones do to others and herself for many years. As she has become wise in the matter, she has also become an awesome truth speaker into many people’s distorted views of their lives in comparison to others and simply what “staying up to date” can really do to people.

“I think you can look to it as a pick me up,” she said. “It is like a drug, an escape at times. It’s like he needed to know what was going on, a fear of missing out, and he also sought affirmation in his social media standings. Likes on a picture and his friends questioning where he was made him feel liked and remembered by those at home.”

“The reason he feels worse afterward is because he didn’t find that affirmation,” Jenni said. “Instead, he just sees all of the people in his life that seem to be having a better time or look as though they are coping just fine without him there to be with them. It triggers something in us that is jealousy and ugliness. It throws you in a rut.”

Jenni gave advice on how to spot an addiction with your phone and to really reflect on if one needs it.

“I would say to all the youth and adults, I think that if you are afraid of leaving your phone off, or have a fear of missing out on the social media: you’re addicted. Ask yourself what you use your phone for? Is it for the basic purposes, or is it for social media and that status? Do you need to know what everyone is thinking and find yourself in that controlling mindset? If you’re being honest, and this is true, that is an addiction. How do you solve this? Give up your phone or social media. See how you fill your time. See how much extra time you really do have. Go outside. Talk to people’s faces. Let a suffocated imagination breath and run wild. Ask yourself the purpose of your phone. Why are you afraid to fast from it? Control your phone, don’t let it control you.”

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