I am a hypocrite. I spend a lot of time on my computer, iPad, and iPhone. As a business owner and a mother I really don't see how I could be any other way. I wish that I could be less connected, and when that magical time comes at the end of each day when I do unplug it feels great.
Like many other business owners, my phone is a lifeline. I have to multitask a lot of the time. I very rarely get the opportunity to sit uninterrupted at my computer to work, so having smart phone technology really is an asset for me. Without my iPhone and iPad I cannot get in contact with my clients, I cannot access my schedule, I cannot get paid (you get the idea). I have made the decision as a therapist to make myself accessible online. This means that many of the people I work with oftentimes email me when they are having trouble, or stay connected through the week as a means of accountability. I have made that commitment to them and I would never have it any other way. I have figured out over the years how to set my own boundaries with my work, but it is definitely not easy to stay consistent.
I recently went on vacation with my family. My small little family and my extended family went away for a week to a beautiful cottage on a lake. Much to my dismay when I arrived, the cottage had WiFi. This left me hearing that nagging voice over my shoulder telling me that I "should" be working. I made it clear to my practice that I may not have a reliable signal and therefore may not be as connected as I usually am. But I was. So I should work through my holiday right? Well, I managed to reserve my phone checking to a couple of times a day and I think did a good job of being present. I wish I could say the same for everyone else. The whole family had their phones as extensions of their arms! I love my family. I have one of those rare relationships with my family that I actually do love each and every one of them. This was just a small case study of a much larger problem. I could not help but ask myself, if we didn't have a connection, would we have bonded more? Would they have left the cottage early? Would they have completely lost their minds? I can't count how many times I asked them "what are you doing on there?"—which my husband always tells me is very rude, but honestly I am just curious!
When I was in University doing my undergrad, a lot of my courses discussed consumer culture and how we are negatively impacted by consumerism and mass media. Now, I am dating myself, but this was referring to print advertising, TV, and magazines. We had not even begun to scrape the surface of the Internet, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. We knew then how negative it was for us to be viewing all of these images and messages, a lot of my research was on Eating Disorders so I we studied how different cultures with more or less exposure to these types of messages were impacted. We were taught to constantly look critically at the ads in the magazines and to not "buy" into the commercials on TV. I remember thinking how impossible it would be to completely avoid all of that. BUT NOW, think of how many hours you are spending scrolling through your phone, how many hours spent consuming not just paid advertisements, but everyone else's opinions, images, and lifestyles. It is genius really from an advertising point of view, but when anyone can post whatever they want and have millions of people consuming it, to me we have created something very scary.
To think of anyone who is not 100% fully confident in who they are, what they want, and where they are going spending hours a day on their smart phones just "looking at stuff"... What are they taking from it all?
I get it. It sucks you in. I blame late nights feeding my babies for my overuse of Instagram and Facebook. I am not claiming to be this perfectly balanced individual. I suppose I am just a concerned mother, friend, and therapist. When I decide to search around at some of the ridiculous crap that is on some of the most popular sites, it is really scary.
Life in photos looks perfect, beautiful, and seamless. This can lead to a constant state of comparison where you are spending hours scrolling through and wishing you could have just that one thing they have. If you are—heaven forbid—not financially stable, fit, and in a loving relationship, then most likely these sites are not making you feel amazing. Do you see how this could lead to you not feeling so great about yourself? I could be wrong. Someone please feel free to call me out and tell me how searching through and spending hours on these sites makes them feel amazing. I welcome that and don't disagree that sometimes it can really feel great to see people succeeding in their lives. I do wonder, though; if you are not in a good place yourself, is that really helping?
I challenge you right now to try and limit your time on your smart phone, tablet, etc. I ask that you sign off for one hour a day even to start and see what you can do with that time. I challenge you to go through your site of choice and "filter" out the unhelpful people, things, or sites that you follow. Unplug and look around and be present. Life is more than a series of stories on a page you scroll through. We have the live version right in front of us.