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.

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.

  • Karen Finch

    Great post! My partner and I had brunch this morning with my son and a mate of him – both late 20s… OUR phones weren’t part of the brunch date. THEIR phones were on the table face up, and got picked up, on average, about every three minutes ago to be checked, answered, to find a photo to show us to augment the conversation, etc… I have a friend that I don’t see as often as I’d like to almost entirely because I don’t ever just get to spend time with her – I spend time with her, her device (phone or tablet, and sometimes both), her Facebook friends, etc. I don’t like it. So, in the end, out of sheer frustration, I end up not initiating get togethers.
    I DO spend time online – at home, on my laptop. I do check my phone if I’m out on my own. I don’t expect other people to share time with me and my phone…

    • I think that’s the balance I want to achieve – phone checking for when I am alone only. I am quite fascinated with how young adults use their phones. My friends and I tend to check them very discretely and almost embarrassed by them. I watch kids share their phones, talk about the pictures on them – the phones themselves are very much a part of their social interaction.

      • Karen Finch

        Absolutely – my stepson has to be surgically removed from his phone! He’s 19. There’s a brilliant thing I’ve heard of that people are doing now when there’s a meet up, particularly if it’s dinner. All the phones go on the table face down, and the first person to pick theirs up and answer has to pay for dinner! I LIKE it!!!

  • Donna

    I don’t do any social media. Can’t say I feel less of a person in any way.

    I do read blogs and comment and so get the Sesame Street point. My 3 year old had asked me to put phone down on more than one occasion. Bad mummy

    • It’s a bit heart breaking when they do that isn’t it? I wish I had the balls to say no to social media – I have such a love/hate relationship with it. There’s plenty of potential for good, but my will power needs to change!

  • Great post. I was on holidays last year and my phone died a timely death. I was WITHOUT a smart phone for about a month. It was glorious once I was over the shock. I checked facebook at night on the computer, I was not scrolling. I had more time and was happier than ever. Now I am back on it but this post has just reminded me that I should delete facebook from my phone again…

    • I just need to get over my FOMO continuous scrolling! I do think it’s worthwhile taking it off our phones. It’s amazing the perspective some time without our phones gives us.

  • Robyna I so hear you. I have taken to handing my mobile and my PC power cord to my husband and telling him to take it to work 10 kilometres away so that I can start to break the habit. And my poor 10 year old has to stick his face in my face at times to be noticed. It IS the new smoking. I am trying to set a schedule so I just check twice a day because I have been known to waste 3 hours on it. Crazy

    • Doesn’t that break your heart? My six year old has done that too – demanded me to put my phone down and pay attention to what he is saying. That’s when I really know I have to change things.

  • Hugzilla

    I don’t have a smart phone. God I miss smoking…

    • And I will just add another thing to the long list of things are great about Hugzilla. You and my hubby would get along very well.

  • Totally hear you, I get mild heart palpitations when I realise I have left my phone at home when going out for a walk but rejoice on return at how much more I enjoyed my that walk and wish I could make myself do it more often!

    • Is it funny how that happens – initially you are shocked and jittery and then a little while later, relieved and relaxed.

  • I quit smoking cold turkey. I suspect I’d find social media a little harder to give up!

    • Oh, I don’t think I could do social media cold turkey either ! I reckon it still does more good than harm, I just have to be more careful about it.

  • Great post! Maybe we could all listen to Sesame Street more often.

    • Thanks Sandra – it was a bit of a shock to see them cover it, but really – they made a valid point!

  • FunMumX3

    How about this tho’ – I think phone-in-hand is the new smoking. But hopefully with much less health consequences (the jury is still out on that, I hear). Mr16 has his phone in hand and used the same way cigarettes were to those of us who grew up in the 70s & 80s. He compulsively holds and uses his phone when stressed, shy, nervous, awkward, in front of the cool kids or just going shopping with his mum when so-and-so might see him. It’s a social safety device that says hey I am cool and not a dork. Today he spend a few seconds trying to “push” a “pull” door and even though no one but me saw he compulsively brought out his phone the moment he was out the door. It’s crazy….

  • Oh! Speaking of posts and crickets… I seem to have missed this one when it came out! It’s funny you mentioning about taking FB off your phone, because I just put it on mine today! (I got J’s old iPhone 6 which, while an excellent phone, gives me the shits because it’s related to Macs and all Macs give me the shits. Is that racist? It sounds racist.) So anyway, hate my new phone (though love the camera!) so at the moment I’m using it less than I used my old one. Win?