Does the internet make us unhappy?

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I’ve been spending less time online lately. And I’ve noticed I feel happier. Less scattered and not as prone to overwhelm by 3 pm.

 

Which has me thinking; does the Internet make us unhappy?

 

Does the constant connection, the constant ability to see what others are doing (and inevitably compare our own) actually make us feel less happy?  (And yes I realise the total irony in writing this on the Internet)

 
I used to think motherhood would be so lonely without the constant chatter that goes on with the people who I mostly only know through the small rectangle in my pocket. And whilst I count quite a few of these women as true friends and a have met a handful of them in the ‘real world’ I also follow  far too many who only serve to make me constantly feel like I could be doing more everyday.

 
I used to think about my Mum in the same position as me and thinking her days would have been so lonely without the connection the Internet brings. It would’ve been months between her seeing some family and yet I only have to check in on Facebook to get the latest update on everyone, even those who live far away.

 

But am I really more connected? Am I really less lonely? Or does it only seem that way?  Yes I can see what they are doing, and they me, but is it a REAL connection?

In many ways the answer is no.  Of course it’s all a balance and in how you use it but in many ways the Internet mostly just disconnects me to here and now. It’s an escape from the constant demands of two small people yet most of my scrolling and flippant commenting doesn’t actually create real connections with anyone.

 

Instead of being inspired by the Internet I’m finding more and more I end up feeling overwhelmed that I’m not doing enough, not creative enough, not flexible enough (real life yogi problems! Ha), not strong enough, not patient enough, just not enough.

 

And I feel it in my body. That slightly anxious shortened breathing. The tightness in my shoulders from holding them tight. The inability to sit still, feeling physically uncomfortable – so much so that I tend to want to fill that hole with more distraction (and round and round the negative cycle goes.)

I think it’s easier when you’re working, or even just spending your days around other adults. It’s (mostly) socially unacceptable to be scrolling on your phone around other adults yet I do it with my kids. Yes conversations with Eamon are not always the most riveting I’ve ever had, but for him- they are his everything .They are his philosophical wonderings, his version of figuring out the world and yet here I am giving him half-hearted answers whilst mindlessly scrolling pictures of what other people ate for breakfast.

 

I’m not only short-changing him, I’m doing it to myself. I’m missing it by being distracted. I’m missing seeing the intense little furrow on his forehead as he processes my answer and inevitably asks the same question because my first answer wasn’t good enough. And I’m missing enjoying the quietest moments Rory and I will ever have as he feeds because I’m too busy liking other people’s quotes on the importance of being mindful.
So where does that leave me? I could disconnect completely. Shut down my Facebook and Instagram, maybe even stop blogging completely. But I know that’s not the answer. I REALLY enjoy these things when they are purposeful and here’s the most important part – limited.

So here’s what I’m trying to do.

1. Use my phone freely for photos and phone calls (which I rarely make anyway because who can talk on the phone with two children!?)

It’s so easy to want to take those pictures and post them instantly to Instagram for feedback but what does that take away from the moment? How important do I make the people around me feel if the people in my phone are more important in this moment?

2. Set specific times for ‘mindless scrolling’ and sharing my own stuff and don’t confuse the two.

Motherhood is far from mindless. It takes ALL of me. So I really do enjoy checking out here and there – losing myself down the rabbit hole of the Internet. But it needs to be controlled. I’m giving myself two times a day for mindless scrolling and I’ve set myself 15 minutes max each time. If I’m on at other times then it’s because I have something to post and I get in, and get out. Respond to messages and comments and shut it down. (This varies in time every day but I try to do it when Eamon is occupied playing and Rory is asleep.)

3. Limit the creative tasks I have on the go. 

I’m a creative hog.  I like to do all the things – all the time! And I am forever starting new projects. For me, creative overwhelm (ie. having a billion and one half-finished tasks) is usually something that sends me straight into seeking distraction mode. You know how it goes… I can’t decide what to do or where so scrolling Facebook for five minutes (which ALWAYS becomes half an hour) seems like a good option.

4. Clean up social media accounts.

I recently went on a big cull of all my likes and people I follow. It’s harder to get trapped in mindless scrolling if you don’t have anything new in the feed to look at.

5. Have alternatives on hand.

I know I’m prone to reaching for my phone as soon as I sit down to feed Rory so having a book handy helps to stop me going straight for social media and that way I spend the 20 minutes reading something I enjoy rather than wasting it on something I likely will not even recall five minutes later.

I’ll let you know how I go! Here’s to controlling my online time a bit better and hopefully reducing the overwhelm!

If you’ve got any other tips I’d love to hear them.

3 Responses to “Does the internet make us unhappy?

  • I am definitely with you on this one – I shudder to think of the example I am setting my kids with acceptable phone usage. I also find the mornings were I check my phone LAST (after getting everyone fed and dressed and the house tidy-ish) are MUCH less stressful than when I check first thing.

    • littleoldsouls@hotmail.com
      7 years ago

      Yes those first few hours really need to be totally tech free to be productive don’t they?!

  • I am with you.
    I have been trying to use my phone less…some days I am successful and other days I am not. It does seem to build on itself though…the more I check my phone, the more I want to check my phone. I read an article recently that said that the notifications that we get after posting something activate the same brain receptors that are triggered by other addictions.
    I find having books on hand helps.
    And I have been loving pod casts as a social media alternative…I know it still involves your phone but it is akin to having a radio on the background.

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