In search of that digital sweet spot
By Raheli Harper
A few months ago, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone, and that was enough to reduce my mindless scrolling. I occasionally checked in on my computer, but the draw was limited. My husband had deleted his account, and I wanted to cut some ties, too. Not all the ties, maybe 80 percent. Facebook is full of lots of noise, and I live in a beautiful, rural place because I don’t like noise. Birdsong, I love that, the wind in the trees—even when it’s an angry wind I am fascinated.
And I didn’t miss Facebook. Mostly.
I loved the found time for knitting and I loved that I didn’t compose posts in my head. I did realize that I still need Facebook for managing our social lives—event invitations are helpful, if you want to go to birthday parties or a clothing swap.
And a lot of my parenting support happens online. I have my parenting group—they are the reason that I put Facebook back on my phone. I was lost and floundering when my kids started fighting over the winter. It got rough and vicious and all I could do was react and yell. So I posted an SOS to my parenting group, unloading all the shameful details. Within minutes after I pressed post, I was surrounded by friends and parents-in-the-trenches. I got a sweet mix of love, commiseration and sage advice. Sitting on my couch, alone in a sleeping house, I found my community again.
It’s hard to navigate a new digital landscape while my kids are watching. I want to help them find a balance between the birdsong and the tweets. But I don’t think I have found my own balance yet. I only got a smartphone five years ago; they didn’t even exist before 2007. So I hide in the bathroom, scrolling through Facebook, to get away from my kids’ arguing. Or I hide my phone in the closet, so I don’t see it and feel tempted by it. I put a tracker to see how much time I really spend on the phone. When I was on vacation recently, I only used it for essential communication and taking a few pictures. A week later, I put Facebook back on my phone, then stayed up late every night for two weeks because I couldn’t stop scrolling.
Maybe it’s a drug. Maybe it’s our new community center. And maybe I can find a sweet spot that makes life better but still leaves plenty of place for the birdsong.