10 Lessons from 1 Week Without Social Media

2:16 PMHeather

I'm not really sure that any 12 step program would give a chip or token for one week without social media.  But, I think I'm coming to realize that our culture might need a 12 step program to deal with social media. And I have nothing to be proud or boastful about here.  

As I blogged last Thursday, I decided that I needed to take a break from social media. I saw myself in the Biblical story of Peter who starts to walk along with Jesus and suddenly looks over his shoulder to see John.  He basically asks Jesus, "What about him?" 
Jesus told him to not worry about the other guy--to just follow.  I realized that social media is an avenue where I tend to look over my shoulder.  It fuels my tendency to compare myself to others or to some unattainable Pinterest plumb line.  

To be honest, I did a one week technology fast a year ago.  Just to clarify--by fast, I mean I abstained from it completely.  It was good.  And hard.  It was all part of my journey through Jen Hatmaker's book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. A book that I now see as an ongoing challenge to gauge and remove those things that distract me from the most important things.  My faith.  My family.  My friends.  My time and resources.

Last year's social media fast was part of a bigger picture of the 7 weeks of fasts of the book.  This year, it is just me trying to listen to a still small voice that has been whispering that I have a problem.  And I need to deal with it.  Oh, I could choose to ignore it.  But the choice boiled down to this for me.  Do the hard thing and see what happens.  Or, continue the status quo.  And perhaps deny myself some greater gain.  

Deep breaths as I dove in.  Declared it here so that I felt I had to put my money where my mouth was.  Here's what I've learned one week into this.

1.  Social media is a problem for me.  I have long defended my use of social media.  Because yes--it has merits.  It has allowed me to catch up and reconnect with friends from all seasons of my life.  It has kept me up-to-date on their struggles and joys and allowed me try to encourage them along the way.  And friends who follow me have done the same.  It has allowed me a beautiful glimpse and challenge into the hearts of some amazing people.  It has even given me some great recipes, budgeting ideas, and craft ideas through Pinterest.

But, when I felt a compulsive itch approximately every three to five minutes during that first day of this fast, I found it hard to deny the hold social media has over me.  Any compulsion like that--without which you have a sense of withdrawal--means that you have given it power over your day.  It's a harsh reality.  But social media is a problem when I have a dependency on its distractions.

This brought to mind the warnings of Hebrews 12:1.  Sorta hard to deny that social media can be something that hinders and entangles me.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
2.  Social media takes up my time.  Call me Captain Obvious! I think we all like to pretend--or perhaps I should speak only for myself--I like to pretend that I hop on social media when I have down time.  It's just a brain dead thing to do while sitting in the waiting room or watching television.  You know--you just hop on for a few minutes here and there.

But, like any temptation that you consciously decide to avoid--you suddenly realize its place in your life.  And the truth is that my daily habit of social media takes up valuable time.  Whether it's a day when I hop on and off and it equals maybe twenty minutes or it's a day when I become engrossed in news feeds on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.  Either way, it takes up my time.  

And anything that takes up time in this busy culture and season of life should be evaluated.  Because I need to guard my time.  I need to count it as a treasure and be wise how I spend it.  It's a commodity that can't be retrieved.  And to give one thing my time and attention means that something else is on the losing end of that deal.

3.  Social media creates an emotional frenzy.  It just does.  I've liked to pretend that it is relaxing.  But the truth is that in summation, it feeds a frenzy in me emotionally.  Perhaps it does not have the same effect on you?  But for me, the removal of social media this past week has proven that it creates an emotional response in me.  I feel happy over someone's status.  Or angry.  Or frustrated.  Or sad. All in quick succession. I see measuring sticks that I apply to my own efforts or activities.  I feel a strange sense of striving to be sure I'm up to date on all news feeds. Since when has getting updated on social media news feeds become a task on my task list?  Tsk. Tsk. 

Once I began to literally feel the withdrawal decrease, I have found a freedom emotionally.  Like releasing a ball-and-chain.  I feel a peace and rest that was being disrupted by an abuse of social media.

4. Good intentions can be directed differently.  I have never had anything but good intentions with my use of social media.  I want to stay connected with friends.  I want to keep up with how they are doing.  I want to glean good ideas and tips.  I want to be resourceful or simply have down time.

Guess what I've found in the vacuum social media has left this week?  I have downloaded some books I'd been wanting to read and I've plowed through 2.5 of them.  I've reconnected to that love of reading and being transported to another world.  I've downloaded a new Scripture memorization app and begun to work on memorizing some important Bible verses that encourage me and uplift me every time I think on them.  I've created some play lists and listened to them--song after song that speaks to me and feeds my soul.  

I've realized the vacuum left where I had been plugging social media into my day.  And I've filled it with some other things. Good things.  Edifying things.  The "whatevers" of Philippians 4:7-8--thinking on those things that are noble, true, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praise worthy.  

5. Social media creates some myths of connection.  I am deeply relational.  I love to connect with my friends and family and really dive into what is going on with each other.  Social media does indeed facilitate some great connections that might otherwise not come to pass.  It is a meeting ground with friends I may not stay in touch with otherwise.  But it also creates a myth--a shadow or counterfeit of connection.  It can take the place of better connections.  It can serve as a substitute--a false reality.  It can distract us from running to God to pour out our problems or to actual face-to-face contact with people He's placed in our lives.  You know -- the people we live with or live near.  

This past week, I have intentionally connected with friends via text or a quick Facebook message (seriously--hop on, message, hop off).  I have found myself freed up to follow-up on specific things I'm praying for them about or that we have discussed.  I have had some intentional conversations with my children, given time and energy that I'm finding from my fast from social media.  I even enjoyed a long and deep conversation with one of my dearest friends over a cup of coffee.  Face-to-face. In person.  No like buttons to push.  No LOL.  Just actual shared laughter.   

My emotional energy has been directed with greater intention to connected to others and to my prayer life.  I've tried to run to Him in prayer about things that I realized I had been running to social media about before.  Hard lessons about my natural tendencies.  But sweet rewards as I work to unravel them.

6. I really need to get over myself.   The first page of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren says, "It's not about me."  Guess what?  Social media is pretty much the antithesis of this, isn't it?  It's all about ME.  My status.  My photo.  How many likes did I get?  What validation and strokes can I receive through social media?  What new decor and clothes and such do I need to have?  

Listen, bloggy friends, when you start you live out your day thinking in statuses about what is happening, you realize you might have a problem with "it's all about ME."  Well, maybe you don't actually realize that until you force yourself to face it.  And then you really do grasp the bigger picture.  It really is not about me.  There are people in our lives we are meant to connect with for real.  To carry their burdens.  There is a household and neighborhood and community where we have each been placed and where we can make an impact.  If we can look up from our electronic devices and see the needs around us.  

Egocentric living, I've found, is only satisfying for so long.  Because it's never enough.  Entitlement creates a beast with an unsatiable appetite.  For followers of Christ, it's the exact opposite of our call to follow Jesus' example of pouring out love and grace as we walk through our day.  Sure, you can write out loving comments on someone's status or post Scripture.  But there is a REAL world around us, begging for our attention.  If we can just get ourselves out of the way.

7.  There are bigger rewards to gain.  As I stated, I've felt this still small voice calling me to do this hard thing for awhile.  Yeah, I kinda like my routine.  Not so much a fan of doing the uncomfortable or difficult.  However, I have found the truth that I've long espoused to my children to be so very true this last week.  Obedience to God brings blessing.  When we step out in faith to do as He asks and make some hard choices, He blesses us.  I don't mean material blessings.  This is not some prosperity gospel.  

No, I mean that He has been found as I have sought Him more intentionally this week.  Some things that I have been wrestling with in prayer have not necessarily been answered--but He has spoken to them as I've dove into His word more and thought about it throughout the day.  I've seen fruit in my own prayer life and in my home.  There is a peace I'm finding in the place of the frenzy I was allowing through social media.  The freedom of energies and time freed up has been channeled to more eternal things.  I can't quit thinking about the verse that tells us to look to the unseen and not the seen.  This is fleshing out daily for me here, in this social media fast.

8. Little eyes are watching.  A few years ago, I saw a blog by someone who called herself Hands Free Mama.  I haven't read her blog faithfully, but I gathered enough to learn she is a mom of young children who made a very drastic choice to be a hands free mom and quit parenting behind an iPhone.  Oh, yes, of course.  I mean, we are all in on that, right?  

Except that I've deceived myself into thinking that I'm in control of my social media usage.  I've lied to myself that it really doesn't impact my kids.  Because we don't allow phones at the table.  And I only look at my phone when they are distracted.  Or at red lights.  Or you know, maybe ten times an hour.  

But little (and in my house, not so little) eyes are watching.  My kids are noticing this attempt to have self-restraint and gather self-control in an area where I can no longer pretend that I've got it together.  They see as I've started leaving my phone out of view--maybe even upstairs.  One has even talked about their own technology fast as a way to refocus their attention on what is important.  They are not all rushing to join me, mind you.  But I believe I'm planting some seeds here about how to dig deeper, walk more intentionally with our God, be obedient, do some hard things, be teachable.  Or rather--God is planting some seeds.  This is more of the fruit from this endeavor.

 9. Social media is not evil.  Listen, don't mishear me.  Social media is not satan's pawn.  It's not in and of itself evil.  That is not what I'm saying.  What I am pretty much unable to deny at this point is that its up to me.  How I use social media is the problem.  Setting healthy boundaries and perimeters is the key.  With social media stripped away this week, I've had to come face-to-face with the root of the issue.  And that is ME.  And my approach and use of social media.  I have no idea how long I'll be working through this social media fast--jumping on only for one specific purpose and getting right off.  Right now, that is just to post my blog or message someone about a particular thing.  For now, I can see that one week has begun to unravel and bring to light some things I need to change about my use of social media.  

And I don't want to cut this teaching time short.  I don't want to miss some things I need to realize, however hard they are.  I want to glean all that I need to learn in this little endeavor to refocus and regroup.  So that I can have a healthy relationship with and use of social media in the future.  

10. Sabbaticals aren't just for professors or preachers.  I think most of us are familiar with the term "sabbatical" as it relates to a particular amount of time off given to professors or preachers or missionaries.  A season of rest.  An extension of the commandment that says to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.  To rest on the seventh day, as God did when creating the earth.  

This is not just some old fashioned and outdated concept for ancient Biblical times or certain professions.  God knows us.  He made us.  He knows the hairs on our head.  He knows we require seasons of rest.  Farmers know their fields need to rest every so often in order to grow productive crops.  We need to refuel, as well.  It's a sacred practice, designed to refresh our souls and our bodies and our minds and to equip us to go and be productive.  

We all need breaks in this fast paced and overscheduled society in which we live.  We must not neglect to rest our minds and thoughts and hearts from the daily grind and distractions.  It is not unusual for me to normally jump on to social media to do one thing.  An hour later, I cannot remember what that was and I've chased numerous rabbits.  This is not restful.  

Consciously created pockets of space or margins in our lives is a very healthy and necessary practice.  It is part of God's design for self-care.  So wherever we can create these margins, we are doing ourselves a huge favor.  Who knows?  Right now, I'm all about a social media fast.  Maybe I'll try a house cleaning fast next?  

This last week has been interesting.  I am not meaning to step on anyone's toes or make anyone feel badly.  I also do not intend to sound prideful or self-righteous in this endeavor.  I'm just wanting to be transparent about my journey of faith and this particular call to obey, in this particular area of my life and day-to-day routine.  

It's not easy.  Yet, it seems easier with every day that passes.  I find myself unwinding, as though on a little vacation where you gradually settle in to a different routine.  A slower pace.  More intentional with your time and energy, away from the distractions.  It's actually quite lovely.  

Won't you join me here?  Try a little break from social media.  Let's see what might be unleashed in our lives when we do some hard things.  It might be status worthy!  Although we will refrain from that for now.

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