I came into this year thinking a lot about my relationship with social media— mostly out of a need for it to look different. As a social media manager, the lines of work and play are constantly blurred. As a work-from-home mom, with her husband often out on the road, I used it as a way to fill the silences. To feel less lonely. To feel more connected to civilization. For me the draw to social media has never been “growing a following” or checking my likes. It’s been a vice I’ve used to keep from feeling lonely.
But as 2018 drew to an end I didn’t feel any more connected, or less alone. Instead I felt vaguely anxious, short-tempered, consumeristic and shallow. I hated it, but if I’m honest I also felt scared to turn down the noise. I actively filled the empty moments of my day— moments while Danny was sleeping in the car, waiting for my coffee to brew, in between folding laundry or sending an email— just scrolling. At the end of the day when Danny was in bed, I would “recharge” by turning on Netflix and scroll until I fell asleep, never feeling any fuller or more connected than when I started.
Maybe those conclusions seem obvious to you. But I didn’t really know how to quit. I’d roll my eyes and keep on because quitting social media altogether didn’t seem like a realistic option for someone in my line of work, or even as someone in our world today.
But one day, while I was making dinner in the kitchen, I heard the Holy Spirit say “You don’t need to feel lonely without social media. I will be your friend.”
I’ll admit, I was skeptical, it sounded too Jesus-y even for me, but I also decided I had nothing to lose. So I took a break from social media and everything began to change. I’ve taken breaks before and nothing has ever changed. This time I wanted to take a break to reevaluate my relationship with social media. I didn’t want to “endure” the silences social media created, I wanted to fill them with something else— namely, Jesus.
Jesus began to speak loudly into the open spaces I made for him. I’m not being dramatic when I say He started healing things in me that I forgot even needed healing. The first morning of my social media sabbatical I got up early before Danny and prayed, and he answered. For the first time in a long time, I got out of bed feeling full, peaceful and less anxious. A week went by and I stopped starting my days by feeling like I was behind some nebulous deadline I couldn’t define.
I began to change too. My short-temper got better. My marriage got better. I got better. I felt creative and less judgmental. I felt energized and more connected to life. I felt more connected to Jesus, always leaning in to try and hear if he had something to say.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve taken breaks from social media before. But I’ve never structured them like this last one. I’d usually take a break, check it off my list, and move on. This time, I set out to rebuild the internal life I could sense dwindling slowly by the glow of my blue screen. The truth is, we can never build an internal life on an external platform. It’s just not the environment needed for a rich internal peace to grow. A private life should be just that, private.
Social media grows more invasive and corrosive of our private selves on an almost daily basis. We are literally encouraged to share every waking moment of our lives. To document it. To display it. And I don’t think the act in and of itself isn’t evil or anything, I just think we give into it out of a fear of feeling lonely. Here’s some truth:
- You WILL feel better if you keep some of the best parts of yourself a secret. This feels so counter intuitive, especially to an external processor like me. But the best parts of who we are, the things that make us grounded, whole, happy, thriving humans, are sometimes the part of us that require the most privacy to grow. These days before I pick up my phone I find myself asking myself and the Holy Spirit, “Will this be better or make me happier if I keep it a secret?” Sometimes the answer is no, but other times I click my phone off with a smile and sink my soul into the preciousness of that moment. Do this enough times with the things that matter and you will be happier. You can take that to the bank.
- Every healthy relationship has boundaries. So why shouldn’t your relationship with the universe? My current routine looks like getting up an hour and half before Danny, making coffee and only allowing myself to do things that bring me joy. For me that looks like spending time reading the Bible, praying and writing. If you aren’t a Christian it might look different for you. But drawing definite boundaries around that time has been a game changer— no emails, no work, doing nothing that would appear on a to-do list. For me that even includes working out. I need to tend my soul before I even care for my body. I’m not here to tell you what that should look like for you, just that I think we all need space like that in our days.
- Real friendships happen intentionally. Don’t get me wrong, I love keeping tabs on my friends via social media. I love watching their kids grow up, their annoying days at work, I even genuinely love seeing what they’ve had for breakfast. Maybe it’s the extrovert in me, but I love it. However, during this social media break I decided I would pray for them and intentionally reach out if they came to mind. I felt more connected to my friends through prayer than I ever have through social media.
These are just some of the things this break has taught me and it’s been so good I had to share. I know a lot of you have been starting the year off with an intentional break from social media, I would love to hear what you’ve learned too! I’ve got another half of this post coming too, so stay tuned!