Four kids, Single and Addicted to Facebook

The unexpected side effects of loneliness

By Catherine Latimer

Addiction or being labelled and Addict is a scary word. But then again so is loneliness.  Addiction, according to the dictionary, is “the fact or conditioning of being addicted to a particular substance or activity” while loneliness is defined as “sadness because one has no friends or company, isolation”.  So put the two together and I was addicted to an activity because I felt I had no friends and was isolated.

You see I am a single mum.  8 years ago my life was turned upside down when my husband decided he no longer wanted the ‘white picket fence life’ and flew to coop in to the world of the unknown never to be seen again.  So, like so many other cliché stories go, my life became chaotic as I was thrown in to the world of single life after 17 something years, but this time I had the responsibility of 4 other human beings.  I was no longer 18 and able to freely go out when I wanted, instead I was 35 with baggage, saggy boobs and a few stray greys!

So, after a year of singleness being torn between the life we had known, with other parents who now had the pity look in their eyes, and the life I really wanted,  we moved to a little coastal town so that I could breathe, clear my mind and (so I thought) start a fresh.

The first 6 months of coastal living was a whirlwind of settling in kids, getting to know locals along with starting my own business.  So the days where hectic – to say the least!  But the nights, well they were hell lonely.  The kids would go to bed by 8pm and suddenly my crazy busy world would become an isolated silence and the mind can be a wonderful place of insecurity, jealousy and hurt when no one else is around.

Social Media became my source of entertainment.

I would look at what my old life friends were doing, where they were eating at, the expensive clothing that their children were wearing, the parties that were being had….all now without me.  Firstly, I remember scoffing and thinking “look at them and their fake lives” but then I also felt jealous because I was no longer part of that scene.   Of course the side effects of loneliness set in and before I knew it I was addicted to what they were doing on my little phone screen.  Even though I was Facebook friends with my new life friends I was still friending people from the city, who I barely knew, and now had nothing in common with.  Their lives would consume me. Literally. I would even get up earlier just to jump on and see what was happening before the kids woke up!  If I got a break at lunch time it was consumed with where my old friends were having lunch.  I was not even making time to get to know, or partaking in conversations with my staff as I was so busy checking in on what people where doing that I no longer even spoke to!

I think the word ‘addiction’ really hit me when I had stopped one morning to drop the kids at Primary School and instead of saying goodbye I had picked up my phone habitually.  I remember my daughter slamming the door with the comment “mum is way too in love with Facebook to even bother saying goodbye”.  Then and there my world shattered.  I watched my two youngest walk in to school without even a word of “goodbye” or “have an awesome day” from me.  Who was I? Who had I become? Was I so concerned with ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ that I couldn’t even see past my phone any more? Seriously! What had I done?

I called my staff and let them know that I wasn’t coming in that day.  I was so sad.  I went to the beach and sat.  I thought about my old life and my new life.  All I had ever wanted to do since I was a little girl was live by the beach and because I was so consumed by the past I had not even taken time to enjoy what was right in front of me!  I had not even taken time out to have fun with the kids.  They would tell me about hiding spots in the rocks and caves around the beach but I was so addicted I had not even bothered to go and look.  Where had I gone?

So I deleted, unfriended and blocked.  Anyone who I had not had contact with in the last 6 months were gone.  If I passed you in town and we didn’t speak….gone.  If you were not my ‘real life’ friend then you were not going to be my ‘screen’ friend.  So as you can imagine my list was cut by about 80%.  Scary….hell yes.  Satisfying….hell yes.  Feeling like I had some control….hell yes!

When the kids got home from school we sat down as I had a huge apology to make.  I think, for me, admitting to them that I was addicted was the hardest thing I had ever done.  I made myself accountable to the most precious people in my life.  I had let them down.  I had let myself down.  Things had to change.

Rule 1:

No phones at the table at dinner time – and I would just like to point out that this did not only apply to me!  Wow, we actually have conversations now!  About everything!  When the kids’ friends come over they get told the rule too which I find very amusing.

Rule 2:

Social Media for me is now a means of business.  It gets used during work times only and if I get a friend request then I must know the requester personally.

Rule 3:

Keep following Rules 1 and 2 until I feel that I am ready make more rules for myself.

You see, for me giving up an addiction is taking little actions to make big outcomes.  If I set myself too many rules then they would get too easily broken or bent.  Achievable rules first and the rest will follow.

Every morning, instead of checking my phone, I walk the dogs along the beach and I look…head up.  I admire the water, sand, sky and waves.  I give gratitude to everything I see.  I say ‘Good Morning’ to the people I pass.  I do not think about kids or work – I just give thanks.  I also give thanks to myself for having the strength to move to a new location, be where I always dreamed of being, and for giving my kids the opportunity to have a better life.

I now know where the hiding spots and caves are.  We have even discovered more.  Phones are left at home and kids are filled with real life knowledge, wonder and entertainment.  Dirt on our feet and salt on our skin.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still a work in progress.  I have moments where I search up old friends again but I do not ‘friend request’ and before I try to look at their feed, I ask myself if it is really a healthy choice for me to be making?  I still have moments of loneliness, but I have committed myself to a couple of my children’s sport club committees and I have also started an online Business Coaching Course so that I can study of a night.

Life for me now feels a lot freer.  I make my own choices as I am no longer looking at what ‘friends’ are doing on their ‘feeds’.  I speak to real people in real time with real lives.  I now see the good, bad and ugly – not just the superficial.  I no longer have to pose then filter!