September 25, 2017

The Cell Phone Challenge that made me a Better Mum.

I am a social media junkie.

As the mum of an autistic son, social media is a distraction that I often use to take a break from an eventful life. I am addicted to Facebook—or at least I was.

This summer, I participated in Elephant Journal’s Academy . I signed up as an apprentice because I always loved to write—but when I finished high school I lost my way, and my love of writing followed. After I became a wife and mother, writing was the last thing on my mind. Elephant Academy challenged me to write mindfully, and over a couple of months I learned about social media, journalism ethics, writing, and editing.

In the first week of my apprenticeship, I was challenged to become more mindful when using my smartphone. To disconnect from the internet and social media while walking or sitting in the car. I struggled with the mindful smartphone challenge for the first couple of weeks. Taking the terms of this challenge and turning them into a habit was not an easy thing.

Here are four useful insights I gained from being mindful about this piece of technology:

1) Being mindful and “unplugging” makes us better people/parents. 

During the challenge, my son was given a place at an autism school 45 minutes away from our home. So, three hours of my day are spent driving back and forth.  My son’s obsession is music, so the three hours it takes each day to drive back and forth are usually spent sharing our favorite songs.

I identify as a “karaoke tragic,” so music is my thang too! We dance (in my case—chair dance), gangsta rap, and sing along to music on the radio or my phone with the windows down. We enjoy ourselves in this way five days a week. Not interrupting this mummy/son time with phone calls means we start and end the school day positively.

2) Being constantly connected disconnects us from those around us.

There was an incident at the very beginning of my mindful smartphone challenge. I remember sitting down to lunch and my phone chirping with notifications. Usually it was Facebook, but in this case, my email was set to sync every five minutes. It got so distracting that it was actually stopping the flow of conversation around me. When we are looking at our phones at the dinner table, we are not engaging with the people around us. We become distracted and are not fully present in conversation, and could be missing out on amazing stories and anecdotes.

3) There is a time and place for your phone.

I am what I like to term a “paparazzi mum.”

I was told I couldn’t have children—so when my son was a baby, I posted a lot of pictures. My friends called this “baby spam.” (There was a fair bit of “kid spam” as he grew older too.) Add to this his autism diagnosis, and my Facebook timeline is clogged with small victories, autism awareness posts, inspiring quotes—and of course, many photos of my son.

Memories are formed out of the connections we make around us. The world doesn’t need to know about my son’s passion for Lego because I post a new Lego construction every five seconds.

Thanks to Elephant Academy, I learned conscious and mindful use of social media. I have applied it when interacting with my son. I take a couple of photos, but then I put my phone away and play with my son. If we are walking through a shopping mall, we hold hands and talk to each other, and instead, I choose to post to my social media accounts during a quiet moment. First mummy/son time, then social media time.

4) Putting down our phones makes us appreciate life. 

Choosing not to chat on the phone while I walk around my suburb makes me appreciate the good things happening around us and in our lives. We can look up while we walk and see a cloudless winter sky, trees in a park, or even skyscrapers in a city. We can listen to the birds singing their beautiful songs, smell the coffee from a café as we walk past, and feel the warmth of the sun on our faces. In engaging mindfully, we become more aware of our surroundings. The five senses can be used without the distraction of (or need for) a constant connection. We can be grateful for our lot in life when we make a conscious decision to put down our phones.

This was just the start of so many positives that happened during my time as a summer apprentice in Elephant Academy. Mindful smartphone and social media use can make such a difference. Being constantly connected can drain us, remove us from our loved ones, and disconnect us from life.

I challenge you to put that phone down and unplug from the internet. Start today. Connect to those around you. See how much your life can change by putting down your phone and looking up at the sky every once in a while.


Author: Sonja Gray
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Jen Schwartz
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Nicole Cameron

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