I Became a Social Media Addict, Now I Understand Why My Teens are Always on Their Phones

I’ve been inside those mom circles. You know, the ones where tired voices exchange complaints about our children’s social media habits and ample advice is offered without invitation. Limit screen time. Read their posts. Investigate for secret chat rooms. Delete Snapchat. Heck, delete all social media platforms and call them Evil. Except it’s hard to pry social media from my children’s finger tips when it’s touched my own.

woman on computer
I was in denial about my social media addiction. (Twenty20 @criene)

How I Became a Social Media Addict

My appearance on social media began as a writing platform for adoption and parenting. I sought relevance in a world already flooded with talented writers and speakers on every subject under the stars. But I was determined to make a difference. As I opened one social account after another, I told myself the social media claws wouldn’t pry their way into my mind. I told myself I was stronger than my school aged children. I wouldn’t get hooked. I was an adult after all.

It didn’t take long. Addiction set in before I felt the grip social media had on me. Hypocrisy became a daily staple in our home. I poured over articles describing the negative effects of social media on teens’ mental health within the same time frame that I’d brainstorm ideas on what to post on my instagram feed.

I’d wag my finger at my kids lack of attention at the dinner table in the same instant I wondered about my likes and comments. It wasn’t until my spouse pointed out my phone light flickering in the late evening hours as I checked my Facebook account under the bedcovers when it dawned on me…

I was hooked.

I learned I’m just as susceptible to social media addiction as my children.
And my world had become just as sugar-coated…and empty…as theirs.

It took willpower, more than I expected, to step away and take a break. I created a post announcing my intentions to spend more intentional time with loves ones, and then deleted social media apps from my phone and computer. Then, I looked at my children with understanding and empathy. “I get it,” I said.

What I learned during my social media break-up

1) Comparisons fester and multiply on social media, and they remain the death of joy. Whether you’re thirteen, twenty-three, or forty-three, comparisons on social media do not discriminate based on age. I tried not to compare….

But your pictures look so beautiful.
Your social media feed is stunning.
You write with elegance, charm and wit.
Your “likes” triple with every written word.
Your marriage looks so strong.
Your family appears so happy.
I wish I could travel with you.
You look flawless in that dress.
Your arms are toned…and…on and on it goes for me.

My skin isn’t as thick as I’d like to think. After graduating and spending years outside a classroom, I found myself still aching to be part of the “In” crowd. My longing to fit in may look different than my kids, but the desire lingers, hiding in secret places. Insecurities still cloud my judgment.

2) I’ve cared too much about what people think of me.

As I invested more and more time in social media activities, I found myself thriving in a world of positive affirmations and air-brushed photos. Only, it wasn’t real. I was living in a fake world, and my relationships lacked authenticity.

I want others to like me. I want others to see me. I want others to think I’m smart, talented, and good enough. I want others to think my words make a difference. I began to see that I was looking in all the wrong places for affirmation. I’m smart, talented, and good enough without applause from others.

I’m worthy without the likes. My words make a difference whether they are written on a social media platform or in the comfort of my home. When I stripped away the facade and faced my own insecurities, I looked in the mirror wide-eyed.

I had a lot of work to to do.
I would need to ask for help.
I would need to redefine my relationships.
I would need to stop seeking daily approval from others.
I would have to exchange my perfect world for an imperfect one.
And I couldn’t do it with social media tapping on my shoulder.

3) Social media robbed time with family.

Oh, I was there. I hiked with my kids. I ate popcorn and watched movies. I took them out to lunch. I made them pancakes. I played card games. I sat at family dinners. But I wasn’t really there. I wasn’t present. My thoughts would wander to social media more often that I’d care to admit. While surrounded by my people I’d sense a wave of anxiety as I’d wonder:

Did that post make any sense?
Will I get more “likes” if I post on Tuesday versus Monday?
Is the lighting here good enough to take a instagram-worthy picture?
What am I going to write about tomorrow?

Pretty soon, one of my five children would say, “Mom, you’re on your phone too much,” and I’d quickly dismiss their complaints and defend my actions as “Me” time. I believed I was putting in the effort for a cause, a good cause, and that I deserved to have the space to do just that. When I peeked over my computer screen and noticed my kids were on their phones waiting for me to finish posting so we could interact as a family, I knew it was time for a social media break.

4) I still have a voice, and there is a time and place for it.

My voice still matters. It is significant and unlike any other. I tell my kids the same thing. Our voices should encourage and strengthen those around us. How we use our voices shouldn’t be confined or dictated by parameters of social media. Sometimes it takes more strength to pause and reflect than write another post or blog.

It’s beneficial to spend time serving others to better understand the world in which we live rather than post our latest viewpoint. And it’s always better to connect on a personal level than it is to connect with the world at large. I now ask myself and my kids, “Where are you making the greatest impact with your voice?”

After my short-term break up with social media, I still post on occasion but with greater caution. Would I wave a red flag on social media? Not necessarily. These days I find myself more empathetic with our youth and less harsh about controls and rules. I’ve come to realize that making restrictions will rarely reach the heart of those who are desperate for connection. I should know, I was one of them.

Instead of another lecture, I will tell my children that I understand their insecurities and I continue to struggle with the same thing. I will take social media breaks whenever I feel the urge to compare, and will encourage my children to do the same. I will remind my children that authentic relationships are rarely found on social media.

I will put down my phone at the dinner table and let family time take center stage. I will be an example to my kids, because I will choose to be real with them. I will tell them I’m still growing and learning.

“I get it.”

You’ll also love reading:

Grown and Flown: The Book

Adrian Collins writes about the real-life complexities of being both a birth mother and an adoptive mother. She has testified before the Colorado Senate committee on behalf of the Colorado Children First Act. Published on a variety of sites, Adrian studied journalism at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego and is married to her high school sweetheart where they currently reside in Castle Rock, Colorado. Adrian is working on her first memoir about hope and healing through the journey of adoption. She can be reached at http://adriancollins.org, Facebook, Instagram or email at [email protected]

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