A few days ago I returned from my self-imposed, week long social media exile.
Amazingly, the world continued to turn. Life went on. Can you believe it? I certainly had plenty to do while I pondered existence outside of the social media circle. Namely, dirty diapers. A couple of weeks ago my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. As I write this, I am just a couple of days from the end of my paternity leave. I decided before my leave began, that I would plan a social media fast that would start after my baby arrived. I am thankful that I did.
During my fast, I made notes in a journal in order to properly and prayerfully capture how the time away from social media affected me.
Here are 3 observations from my social media break.
#1 I am addicted to distraction
The extent of my addiction shocked me. Standing in line at a grocery store I found myself habitually hitting the home button on my iPhone in order to pull up my Twitter app only to be reminded that I removed the app from my phone. Removing social media from my life revealed a lurking idol of distraction in my heart. There is a craving in me to escape being “in the moment”. A need to break away from whatever is currently engaging my attention.
Prayer: Jesus, I repent of my lack of self-control. Help me live in the moment and not in the collection of captured moments in the lives of others on my social media feed.
#2 I seek the approval of others
During my fast, I would find myself missing the small burst of adrenaline that comes with “likes” or retweets. It is tempting to think that if someone doesn’t “like” a post of yours, they do not approve of you as a person. How subtle and destructive are the Enemies schemes?
I recently read Tony Reinke’s tremendous book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. In the book he writes this:
“The sad truth is that many of us are addicted to our phones because we crave immediate approval and affirmation. The fear we feel in our hearts when we are engaged online is the impulse that drives our highly selective self-representations. We want to be loved and accepted by others, so we wash away our scars and defects. When we put this scrubbed-down representation of ourselves online, we tabulate the human approval in a community index of likes and shares. We post an image, then watch the immediate response. We refresh. We watch stats climb or stall. We gauge the immediate responses from friends, family members, and strangers. Did what we posted gain the immediate approval of others? We know within minutes. Even the promise of religious approval or affirmations of other Christians is a gravitational pull that draws us toward our phones.”
Ouch. Ouch Ouch.
Prayer: Jesus I repent of my sinful desire to seek identity and rest in the approval of others. Help me find all of my peace and satisfaction in you alone.
#3 I am prone to waste precious time on social media
Intentionally staying away from social media for a week freed me to spend simple sweet moments in an unhurried way. John Piper once remarked:
“One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”
I tend to think he is right. Time is a gift of a limited quantity that demands thoughtful stewardship. Time spent away from social media helped me see how much time I waste on social media. I was surprised at how much more time became available to read, pray, think and talk.
Prayer: Jesus, help me value and steward each moment you give me. Help me pray and think intentionally about how I spend my time.
Don’t get me wrong. social media has its place, but we must work to keep it there. Like money or nice things, social media is not inherently evil. I am blessed by social media on a daily basis. I can connect with friends, read encouraging notes and share powerful Bible verses all from my iPhone. Becoming a Social Media Monk isn’t necessarily the answer, at least not for everybody. But, stepping away from social media helped remind me of what “real life” is. I am not what my Facebook Profile says I am. I am a husband with a wife that I can spend time with. I am a dad with a daughter I can hold and gaze at. And most importantly, I am a child of God designed to enjoy Him forever.