Is Social Media is the new smoking?

Handing the blog over to Robyna May today, because I thought it was a good idea to sort out my Tupperware Drawer this morning. Note to self…. there is never a good time.

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The other morning there was a skit on Sesame Street featuring a character who had promised Abby and Zoe a story but instead was constantly checking her phone. Uh Oh. When Sesame Street starts to make social commentary on our phone use and parenting, we know we have headed into the danger zone. The message for kids was clear: it’s never okay to turn your parent’s phone into a chicken, even if they are being a*holes about it. The sub-text for the parents was clearer: get off your damn phone and spend some time with your children. My husband, who was on leave and joining us on the couch, said hmmm, that could be aimed at you couldn’t it? He had the moral high ground – he doesn’t use social media and is the last person on earth to own a Blackberry.

He also had a point – I DO spend too much time with that tiny little screen. But my phone has recently fought back. After upgrading my dated iPhone 4S to the latest iOS, everything has gone haywire. Facebook requires me to log in all the time and turfs me out after about 3 minutes. I am resolutely not installing the app. Not because I am scared of the privacy implications, but because all my storage needs to go to the thousands of photos I refuse to delete. That, coupled with a reduced data plan, means my phone use has changed dramatically.

I now check Facebook at certain times on the computer, rather than idly throughout the day whenever I pass my phone. As I am obsessed with not missing anything, I try to scroll to where I previously left my feed. Of course, FB makes this pretty much impossible these days. It means that I am now consuming large chunks of feed at once. There are things I want to see – photos of friends and their kids, inspiring quotes, blogs I like, travel pictures, advice and support from the groups I am a part of. But there are also a myriad of ads and a barrage of click bait, each promising a story more tragic and depressing than the last. When I saw one or two of them at a time, I was like the proverbial frog, unaware of sitting in a simmering pot. Handling dozens of them at once, made me wonder if I was part of that recent Facebook experiment where feeds were tampered with to make them overwhelmingly negative. It had left me feeling flat and defeated.

To add to my first world problems, my own personal posts were going completely unnoticed. I would post photos of my boys. Nothing. I would posts links to my blog. Nothing. Did Facebook sense my disgruntlement and fight back? Is the algorithm that good? I posted a photo of my baby boy, who had been staging an anti-walking protest, taking his first few confident steps at nearly 17 months. Crickets. How could this be Facebook? How about I just sulk and pop over to Instagram where random strangers like me and comment on pictures. Then I had a thought. A little while ago I shared a link with a singular friend – what if that had changed my settings? Sure enough, all my posts were set to go to just one friend (who must have thought I was being a bit secretive and obsessive). I restored my settings. My friends came back.

My family and I were camping over the holidays. Restricted data access means I have become one of those people who frantically search for free wifi. Free wifi is never very good. Especially when you are sharing it with 200 other campers. I really wanted to post a photo of the beach to instagram. With the caption “Ahhhh, how’s the serenity”. Took me 15 minutes, a lot of swearing and hardly any serenity.

So, my phone has now become quite inconvenient, checking and updating social channels a bit of hassle, and yet I am still doing it. Sometimes I wonder if this obsession with our phones and social media is the new smoking. I know it’s not great for my general wellbeing. I get a bit twitchy when I haven’t checked it for a little while. But all the people around me doing the same thing make think, “well, maybe it’s okay?” Perhaps in years to come we will see movies of people using their phones constantly and tut tut tut about how inappropriate we all were.

And maybe I should just listen to the universe (and Sesame Street) and give it up already.
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Robyna May writes as one half as the Mummy and the Minx, a blog dedicated to empowering mothers and inspiring minxes. She writes about getting the mojo back into your life after kids and expanding possibilities when they contract after having babies. Her passions are writing and creating beautiful things. She has unkempt hair, a messy house, a racing brain and a home and a heart full of boys.