Why read this article? Because it will help you to stop comparing and worrying on your maternity leave (about what others are doing and what their opinions are) and help to clear your mind. You will feel liberated reading about this project I completed.
Reading time: 4 minutes
Before starting on a food diet at 6 months post-partum, I decided that I would try out a “technology diet” and go offline for 1 month. Why? It was challenging for me, lol.
I am drawn to little challenges like that. But it had far more benefits than I realized. And it was a fascinating social experiment. Below, my experience.
There were many things that led to the digital detox decision.
Comparison is the Thief of Joy
I once heard a quote that said “comparison is the thief of joy.” The incoming feed on social media is literally a highlight reel of everyone’s lives. Even the most self-confident, secure new mama is left wondering if she’s doing a good job, or left in a strange period of mourning the loss of her old life.
There’s a fine line between feeling inspired by someone’s great social media feed and feeling kinda crappy about it (when comparing our lives with theirs.)
In those early days post-partum, we undergo a mourning process, thinking our old life is no longer accessible to us. We stand at the living room window looking out at the world passing by in this strange, foggy stage. We are in a rare moment between feeds and diaper changes, and wonder if it is going to be like this forever.
It shall not be! Trust me!
Think of that immediate post partum period as a 3-4 month detour in your life, where you are fully allowed to watch netflix in your pjs and cuddle a sleeping baby on your chest, and break all the rules, and realize everyone’s lives are continuing while yours is in this strange loop cycle inside the house.
The internet is beautiful; we have access to so much information. But it is such a double edged sword. It intensifies everything, access to information, incoming voices, incoming pressures from the outside world.
If there’s one thing I learnt on maternity leave, it is that there is intense social pressure online to be a part of any one particular style motherhood. The group wants you to join them.
It’s almost like if you were walking down the street through a market and sellers were hawking their wares at you, waving things around. It’s kind of the same on the internet with all of these different tribes of motherhood, hawking their styles and telling you to be this way or that way. lol.
Why do we Let others’ Opinions on the Internet get to us?!
I got the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz for Christmas and reading it, he explains this phenomenon beautifully.
We are born a blank slate and have the capacity to learn quickly. We are raised by our family, by a culture, by an education system. We are inducted into a way of thinking, doing things, and judging people. As a child we agreed with and believed all of the information passed on to us.
In adulthood that child is still within us; the child who that was punished for breaking the rules and rewarded for following them. There’s still that desire to make people happy, to follow their rules, to avoid negative judgement. To join the group. It’s the framework our brain developed within.
Do what we say. Approval. Do not do what we say. Disapproval.
But we struggle with that, because adulthood is faaaar more complicated than childhood.
We realize that we can critically appraise and decide what is good and what is bad, because aside from a few major things, like, oh say, murder, theft, etc. the rest is up for negotiation.
Despite all of this, the outside world is streaming in. A barage of noise that wants us to do things this way, wants us to do things that way. Sleep training. Great example. This is good. That is bad. Do things like us. There are lots of methods and each method has its followers and passionate promoters.
The Internet’s In-Stream of Opinions
When we have our babies, we have the power and ability to receive information, then to decide what is right for us, but it’s hard when there’s 100 people standing in our ear yelling their opinions. That’s what the internet can be like.
Think of it like this: If you had ten people yelling ideas at you in a room, how would you be able to take a quiet moment, think clearly and decide?
And because we have this new, fragile human life, people are even more intense about what you should be doing.
With social media’s advertiser algorithms we are also hammered with exposure to parenting advice and material designed to expose us to the prevalent expectations and culture. I don’t think it’s a sinister plot, it’s just that in any culture, there is a main dialogue, main way of doing things.
The Moment I Decided I Was Done.
At 33 years of age I decided I had enough training and life experience that I could listen to a variety of options, listen to my gut and then choose what was right for myself and my family. I just needed time to think clearly. Having parenting information coming at me from left right and centre on social media feeds, I decided it was enough.
It was time for an information detox and to follow just my gut for a month.
The Surprising Reactions from Others
I wasn’t prepared for the reactions I was getting. “Is everything okay?” “How are we going to stay in touch with you,” “I’ll miss out on the children growing up,” “You must think you are special doing this” (ouch!) “How am I supposed to get a hold of you,” “did you delete me from Facebook?!” “What are you going to do if you need information?” “OMG did something really bad happen to you?!” “You’ll never be able to do it for 30 days.” Whoa. WTF.
Some of them were surprise, some of them were strangely passive aggressive and some of them were curious. It was amazing that such a simple action could cause all of these reactions. Which made me want to rebel more 🙂
Do You Need a Detox?
A good way to decide if you need a digital detox is to ask yourself how comfortable you are with the idea of giving up technology for a month. If you can’t imagine it, you are precisely the one who would benefit 🙂
Also ask yourself this. Do you have a general overall mission or goal for 2016? If your brain seems foggy when you ask yourself this, perhaps you are overwhelmed in the stream of incoming ideas and information.
The Benefits of a Detox
So here’s what I gained from a month of digital detoxing
-I truly felt like I was released from the cacophony of noise on parenting, babies, how to be a parent, how to be a mum, etc.
-I learnt to follow my gut and develop my style
-It was much easier to think about and then execute on decisions. I didn’t waffle on things, because I wasn’t being subjected to 5+ different options.
-Truly, ignorance is bliss sometimes.
-I felt like I was liberated from the process of comparison and wondering if I was doing things right, how I could improve my life, how I was failing, etc.
(I know if I do it, others do it, so it was also a bit liberating knowing I wasn’t being judged(positively or negatively) either.)
-I freed up my attention; I was much more focused and less distracted
-It was refreshing to see family or a friend and have them ask what is new, and be able to have an exciting conversation. Having access to someone’s life on Facebook means that so often, points of conversation in real life (IRL) are removed because we already know “what is new.”
-Reduced time on social media once I “reconnected.”
A digital detox is also great for “re-balancing” especially if you love social media. Without a detox, you incrementally spend a bit more time on it each day until all of a sudden it dominates your time.
Until one day you realize you are watching a dance video (that will provide no benefit to your day) while your kid is looking at the back of your phone waiting for you to take them out. That was my “ah hah” moment.
One Month to Recalibrate
With a one month detox, it is like hitting a reset button and re-calibrating. All of a sudden, 10 minutes on Facebook after a month of nothing, is enough. It is satisfying. Pre-detox, 40 minutes on Facebook would feel like it was enough.
It is easier to undertake any action if you have some information that deepens your understanding of why it is beneficial. My blog post here is just a start.
Check out some of these articles:
The NY Times ran a fascinating series called “Your Brain on Computers.”
Fast Company’s article deals with the trail blazer behind Kovert Designs and her company’s funded digital detox for 35 individuals in Morocco – Kovert had Neuroscientists and other research professionals observe the individuals. Plus, this woman is absolutely fascinating.