The Internet is Probably Ruining Your Life

Maybe you’ve experienced this:  “I’m just going to check my email.”  “I’m just going to pop online for a few minutes.”  “This will just take a sec.”  And then BAM!  Forty-five minutes or two hours later, the dishes are still not done, the toys are still strewn around the house, the menu is still unplanned.  And it’s late and you need to get sleep because your kids will be waking up at the same time no matter how unproductive you’ve been.

I’ve written before about my love/hate relationship with the internet, and I’ve also written about the real positivity social media can bring about.  But no matter what amazing things you’re accomplishing online, it’s not positive if it’s taking away from your ability to function in your non-internet life.

Two weeks ago, Mishpacha had a thought-provoking feature on the “hidden costs” of living this wired life that we do.  Even for those of us who keep Shabbos (and benefit from 25 hours of being totally free of all electronic communications and demands), there is a real challenge to not let all the texting, emailing and online browsing adversely affect our lives.

Basically, all this “connectedness” is costing us real satisfaction, deep friendships, bonding with family, attention span (quick, how many tabs do you have open right now?), communication skills, self-development, and the ability to just be quiet and reflect.

But those things aren’t so important, right?  Certainly not as important as reading that Very Interesting Article your friend just linked to.

I have good weeks and less good weeks when it comes to the internet.  I can tell when I’m having a less good week because it clouds all of my interactions with my family.  I just want to go to the screen.  The screen is so interesting!  It has lolz!  It has interesting articles!  It has delicious and healthy recipes!  

What happens if a child wants my attention while I’m entranced by the screen?  I notice a subtle tinge of annoyance or impatience in my responses to them.  “In just a minute,” I might say.  And I’ll spend time with them, sure.  Of course.  They’re very cute.  But on weeks when I’m more online than not, I’m kind of antsy when I’m playing on the floor with them.  It’s like there’s this little voice saying, can I get back to doing something interesting already?

Because the internet is more interesting than my children?


That is obviously so wrong, but I know that I’m not the only one who struggles with this.  All you have to do is go to any children’s museum, zoo or playground and take a look around at how many parents are looking at their kids, and how many parents are looking at their phone.  We are all losing this battle.

Since so many of us are struggling with this, I thought that we could all help each other out.  If you follow my blog’s Facebook page, you may have spotted a couple of posts where I use the hashtag #insteadoftheinternet.  The idea is to take a moment of downtime where our reflex is to pop online for “just a minute” and to not go online, but do something else instead.  And then, to encourage each other, you could post about it online (ironic, I’m aware).

If you want to use the hashtag #insteadoftheinternet, great.  If not, great.  The point is to remind each other that we can actively choose to not go online.  We don’t have to be slaves to habit.  We can be present in our lives.  You don’t have to go cold turkey.  Maybe start with five to ten minutes a day.  Set a timer, if that’s helpful.

Or here’s a list of possible things that you could do (I’d love for you to share some more ideas in the comments, please!):

  • Take a short walk
  • Do some dishes (less exciting, I know)
  • Stretch
  • Put some laundry away
  • Declutter
  • Cultivate a talent
  • Play with your kids
  • Call your mother (or mother-in-law)
  • Write a note for your significant other
  • Talk to your significant other
  • Sweep the floor
  • Prep for dinner
  • Make a shopping list
  • Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea
  • Meditate
  • Daven
  • Say Tehillim
  • Read a magazine

On a related note (oh, bad pun, unintentional), as a result of our discussion about whether or not a mommy can develop her talents while in the parenting trenches, I wrote this article for Kveller on how I’m not going to stop playing music just because I’m so busy with the internet my kids.  If you have a chance, pop over and let me know what you think.  Or, maybe don’t pop over right now, but go do something else instead and let me know what you chose to do #insteadoftheinternet.

28 thoughts on “The Internet is Probably Ruining Your Life

  1. I love that you’re trying to spread this idea! Just this morning I spent 45 minutes playing lego with my kids and it was a blast! I wish I would spend more time doing things like that.

  2. I love this. I do the same thing, with the excuse that it’s for work. It always starts off with research, lesson plans and great intentions, but somewhere after 15 minutes I’m reading some blog about the dangers of shopping carts or the 35 reasons vegetables are bad for you. It’s terrible. I don’t use hashtags, but I love the concept. Thanks for the chizzuk, logging off now to take out a new board game we’ve been saving!

  3. I love your #insteadoftheinternet movement. Love your post. So cute. Brilliant actually. We can all be in this together – and encourage each other. I’m a grandmother who didn’t even “know from internet” (a la Yiddish lingo) until my oldest was 17. But my youngest was only 4 then so it was a struggle for me. But all that being said, I have to tell you not to be so hard on yourself – because distractions were always around for us stay-at-home (sort of with part time jobs) mommies. I would read to my kids, take them to the park…play with them…but hey, I did talk on the phone (guilty) when I shouldn’t have. Did practice piano and sneak some music theory homework in (i was doing my music degree when the kids were little) and so forth….but then again, with music practicing when kids are little (or in utero) – we can always say, “the kid will turn out musical.” With computer stuff, can we say, “oh I played on the computer while pregnant with this kid and he’s sooooooooo techno-savvy!” Oy….

    1. This is a good point, Miriam, thanks. It can often be hard to just “be” with your kids, even if you don’t have internet in your home, and it’s good to cut ourselves some slack.

  4. Really great stuff here, especially your honesty. Since we live in a small space and my laptop’s home is the kitchen table, it’s always around and it’s always right there. I definitely think a lot about how to make sure it doesn’t get in the way of Imma and baby time. One thing I do is wait until he goes down for his morning nap to turn it on for the day, which means the first 2.5 hours of the day are computer-free. For the rest of the time, I try to minimize it. I want to get myself going with the good habits now when he’s young. :)

    1. That’s a great strategy. I find that naptime is challenging for me because it’s the time when I can really get a lot of other things done, and thus, have a big yetzer hara to be online for too long. Hatzlacha!

  5. A great post! My problem is, I don’t really get any significant relaxation time. I know I can’t sit and read a magazine article for more than five minutes, and it frustrates me that I can’t, so I don’t even try. But checking email? That takes two minutes, I have a chance with that. I know a quick washing up might only take two minutes also, but house work isn’t really relaxing for me. Tehillim is a good suggestion. You can really achieve a lot in two minutes there.

  6. This is so great and so relevant. In this past year I had to choose to get ‘back into’ writing on PAPER! Meaning, other than shopping lists! Who’dve thought that would ever go out of style? But really there is something about writing on paper that is peaceful and expressive and not like typing at all.

  7. I work online and spend most of my time on the computer which is precisely why I will not get a smart phone. When I am offline I want to be offline.I don’t have little children any more but, I am much more present for my family when I am with them instead of constantly looking at my phone.

    1. My mother-in-law also has a very computer-heavy job, and barely even turns hers on when she’s home, and doesn’t have a smartphone, either. I’m sure your family benefits tremendously from your lack of smartphone. Kol hakavod!

  8. You’re right that it’s a balancing act. But I can say this: I remember mothering before social media. I remember being at my kid’s beck and call 24 hrs without the distractions of Facebook and Twitter. And you know what? It wasn’t really any different than it is now. Back then I took time to watch TV read a magazine or book instead of checking FB for updates. It’s not like I was some super-mom because I didn’t have social media. In fact I struggled with resentment towards my baby boy because I had no life anymore.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that mom’s (especially SAHMs) can get VERY lonely. It is a hard job to take care of kids 24-7 especially for years on end. Though getting out for play dates is certainly an ideal it isn’t always an option. A kid is sick, the car is in the shop, the baby needs a nap… and before Facebook and Twitter I felt I would go DAYS without adult interaction. And while I adore spend oodles of time with my kids (that’s why I had them haha), my brain started to ache for adult stimulation. I created my first blog when my 13 yr old was 8 months old and it was simply life changing! I could be both a SAHM (my favourite job!) and still feel a connection to friends, family, and outside places. tttt

    I feel ya that being so overly connected has it’s draw backs. No doubt!! Holy cow I find that sometimes my kids are talking to me and I’m just ignoring them and looking down at my iPhone for new comments or updates. EEK! So I’ve been trying very hard to make chunks of my which are NOT connected and then chunks of my day which are “mommy time”. I’m continually balancing it all.

    1. Thank you for sharing your pre-social media mothering experiences. I’m vaguely aware that before the internet, mothers were ignoring their kids by reading a book or talking on the phone or whatever. I guess it’s always been a challenge to connect, especially when the job is demanding and very constant. It can definitely get very isolated as a SAHM, and the way the internet has helped mothers seek out help and like-minded mothers is invaluable.

      May we find the balance we need.

  9. Totally agree and feel the same. I gave myself a three day Internet respite where I only logged onto my accounts to see if I had personal messages, and didn’t check FB or any of the blogs I usually do. It feels great and I hope to keep it up, checking in on some blogs only once a week.

  10. I too remember pre-internet mothering days. Gosh, there have always been ways to ignore your kids. On shabbos, for example, I get consumed with reading. Or chatting with a guest. Raising small kids is really hard and can feel mind-numbing. Sometimes I get lost in my thoughts when they’re chattering! And I have to zoom back in and focus. The internet is just another (granted, super-interesting and glamorous) escape hatch. Sometimes a salve, sometimes an enemy.

  11. The timing of this post is the ultimate in irony, since I JUST took my brand new smartphone out of the box yesterday. I’ve already downloaded the facebook app, but now I’m re-thinking it…maybe I should make a “you bought the phone for good reasons, and now you should stick to them” rule (e.g. NO FACEBOOK!)

    1. Ooo,the newness of the phone! I actually took my Facebook app off of my phone, and messenger, too. I still have access to my blog’s FB page, but I like to be a little disconnected. But you’ll see what works for you. A neighbor of mine disabled the “push notifications,” so she doesn’t get a beep or ping or whatever when something new happens. She has to choose to check it.

  12. A friend of mine recently deleted her fb app off of her phone, and her husband (without warning) bought her a beautiful ring to thank her for taking that step! She had no idea it even bothered him. I guess the people in our lives really, really want our attention.

  13. I totally get this. Especially since I sat down an hour ago to work and I’m still online. I need to log off Facebook entirely because I keep hearing the notifications and can’t seem to stop checking. It’s so sad!

    I like your list of things to do instead. Whenever I feel like my internet time is reaching epic proportions I think of Wall-E and the blobbish humans messaging those sitting right next to them, then I cringe.

    1. Sorry that I didn’t respond to your comment until now! Not sure what happened there, but probably I got distracted by the internet! And I love the imagery of Wall-E. I was *just* thinking about the movie on the way to carpool today. Whoa!

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