Behind her brown eyes and through the glass like glaze from her tears I could finally see her pain. Her resentment and her heartache could no longer be hidden. Before me stood a broken mother and wife. The father and husband she once knew just a short time ago had faded away, lost to his devices. Her tears flowed so rapidly, her body shook with so much anger that she almost choked on her pain. Defeated, lost and looking for answers she desperately tried to open my eyes to what I had been doing to her and our family. She had been pushed aside and forgotten long enough. It was time for her to fight. It was time to get her husband back.
“I feel like you don’t even see me anymore”
“Me and the kids play second fiddle to Twitter”
“It’s as though you don’t exist anymore and none of us matter to you”
“Don’t you see what this is doing to us?”
Social media addiction is new, it’s real, it ruins relationships and I’m a recovering addict. I started my journey on social media in the spring of 2018 on Twitter. As soon as one of my early tweets received a few likes and interactions I was hooked and hopelessly lost down the rabbit hole of social media addiction.
I quickly discovered “parenting” twitter, the #dadlife, #momsquad, #parenting corner of twitter where parents shared their jokes and ups and downs in their journey as parents and I loved it. As it turned out I was fairly good at writing and sharing my parenting humor and I quickly became twitter “famous” sort of speaking. As a fairly small account I was quickly and constantly being featured in various online parenting blogs and websites. Major sites such as Babble.com and Buzzfeed.com started featuring my content. I even went “viral” multiple times over. I was enjoying the ride and the rush I’d get from all the attention. But it all came at a cost.
Unbeknownst to me, my relationship with my wife and kids was suffering. I’d find myself checking notifications, always forming my next joke in my head and rushing to get it written down before I forgot it. My addiction got so bad that even my oldest daughter started calling me “Mr. Twitter” and “Twitter man.” That should have been eye opening enough to make me scale back my social media usage, but it wasn’t. I tried to put the phone down, but I was pulled to the instant ability to chat and interact with hundreds of other parents. The ability to share my stories, jokes, failures and wins as a father was too much for me to resist.
Unfortunately, I failed to see that my little “twitter” kingdom was slowly eroding away my real kingdom. I wasn’t being the father I needed to be to my 3 children. I wasn’t the man and husband my wife needed and was desperately missing. Multiple times I found myself not paying the proper attention to my kids, only to be slapped with cold reality when they almost hurt themselves. For months my wife felt like a bystander in our relationship.
Looking back on it all, I wish she had opened up to me earlier instead of holding in her frustrations, fears and anxiety. She wore a happy face for me and our kids, but it wasn’t genuine. Behind her beautiful brown eyes was a broken and frustrated woman, a wife who felt neglected, alone and scared. She missed me. She missed us, and I refused to see our ship was sinking. A few days after Christmas, December 28th 2018 to be exact, was the breaking point. My wife needed me, and I wasn’t there for her. Emotionally and spiritually I had been absent long enough.
On that day I finally saw and realized all the damage I had done to her and to us. I deactivated my account that day and I have not looked back. Our relationship since that day has blossomed again. We’ve reconnected like we hadn’t in years. Even now, two months later I’m still rebuilding our relationship back to where it was pre-addiction. I’m finally “seeing” my wife again. After 10 long months I was again becoming the father and husband I was before I briefly lost myself down the twitter “rabbit hole.”
Although there is no official medical recognition of social media as a disease, the negative habit of its excessive use has become the subject of much discussion and research. When people “like” or “share” or “comment” on what you’ve posted you feel happy as if they agree with you. When this happens your brain cells stimulate dopamine and this makes you feel good and happy. This is one of the main reasons causing the addiction. The “notifications” going off on my phone were my drug and I craved them day and night.
If anything I have written sounds familiar please take action now before your work suffers or you ruin relationships.
1. Your account is the first thing you check in the morning and you look forward to it
2. You waste time or procrastinate on social media instead of getting things done or accomplished
3. You feel the need to check your notifications all the time
4. You constantly are concerned with how many “likes” “shares” or “retweets” your posts are receiving
5. If you have a free moment the first thing you do is check your account
6. You fear that if you don’t check your account enough you’ll “fall behind”
7. You think you have to keep up with and “like” everyone’s posts that you follow
Social media has become a big part of our daily lives. We cannot ignore the power and control it has over us. The problem is without control social media starts to control us. I severely underestimated how it was affecting my life until it was almost too late. As a society we need to set our priorities and as a father I had to learn to reset mine.
I’ll never return to Twitter. Since deactivating my account, I have found other outlets for my desire to write and share my parenting quips and humor. My wife and I joke and laugh more now than we have in a long time. I’m there and in the moment for my children all the time and not just between tweets and scrolling my account. I’m amazed at all the time I have for them now that I’ve finally put my phone down and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
And best of all my 5-year-old daughter doesn’t call me “Mr. Twitter” anymore!
Shaun was born in Atlanta GA but currently live in Memphis TN. He graduated with BA in Sports Management and Business from the University of Memphis in 2005. He's been in banking for 8 years but started in sales with a health club. He lives in a nice quiet suburb outside Memphis with his 3 children (boy/girl 2yo twins and a very precocious 5yo girl) and wife of 9 years. He loves sports, fitness and super-hero movies!