Friday, August 5, 2016

3 Signs You Need a Break From Social Media


Earlier this summer I bought a smart phone for the first time. Prior to purchasing my smart phone and a data plan, I had a stupid phone on my parents’ old family plan. You know you need to upgrade your technology when eight-year-olds are adamantly telling you, you need to upgrade. To which I would reply, "you’re accustomed to a standard of living, little child, that you do not have to pay for. I have to pay for everything I own!" But that’s another story for another day. Before I bought my smart phone I didn’t really think about all of the ramifications of owning one. For instance, I didn’t realize just how much I would love emojis and Instagram and how much of my time both would consume.

However, it didn't take me long to discover how easy it is for me to inadvertently spend hours scrolling through snapshots of the lives of my friends and acquaintances, scrolling through posts by people who I am not even sure can legitimately be considered my friends...or acquaintances for that matter. There is nothing wrong with slowing down each day and taking time to catch up with family and friends online, but when it comes down to it, social media is a distraction and sometimes it can be a distraction from really slowing down, resting, and having some quiet in our lives. I am still working on finding the healthy balance here, and would deeply appreciate any input you might have!

Here is what I have so far; three pitfalls or warning signs, if you will, that it's time to take a break from social media. And by take a break, I mean go cold turkey for several hours, days, months, however long you need. 

1. When social media becomes a constant distraction from reality. Before I bought a smart phone, I already spent plenty of time on Pinterest and Facebook on my computer, but for some reason it’s easier to compartmentalize my time spent online when it’s just the computer. I can turn off the computer and it won’t buzz with notifications every five minutes or so. It’s not as easy to lumber a laptop around, whereas with a smart phone, it can go everywhere with you--everyone expects it to go everywhere with you. Basically, it becomes an extension of you and I’m still not sure how I feel about that. Just because my phone is on and charged, does that mean I should be available 100% of the time? Is that a realistic expectation for anyone? Or should I set aside time in my life to simply focus on what’s around me and in front of me, be all present in what I do?

I am constantly hounded with the temptation to pull out my phone at every turn and capture the moment on camera, share it on Instagram, or simply write something on Twitter or Facebook. What’s more, I’m tempted to exaggerate the truth, put a saturation filter on life to make everything look a lot prettier than it really is. But a part of me is still more inclined to leave my phone in my purse and simply be all-present in every moment as they come.

2. When social media is a forum to celebrate narcissism. It’s no secret our culture is a culture that celebrates and promotes narcissism. I recently saw an article about how women now wear engagement rings on their left pinkie fingers as symbols of their “self-love”. Now, there is nothing wrong with loving yourself, but our Savior Jesus teaches us that the purpose of loving ourselves is so that we might also love others. “Love your neighbor, as you love yourself.” Loving ourselves comes naturally, at least to most of us. The difficult part is getting past our own image—whether we love or despise ourselves—and focusing on others and loving others.

More importantly, the greatest commandment given in the Bible is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. This comes before loving our self and loving our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40, Deuteronomy 6:4-6). The love we have for our self and for one another should be a secondary outpouring of the love and worship we have for our God. The self-destructive narcissism comes when we substitute our Creator with the creation and instead worship ourselves--our image, accomplishments, etc.

3. When social media provides a cheap form of self-validation. There is nothing wrong with sharing pictures, even pictures of ourselves (yay selfies!), online with our friends. C.S. Lewis reminds us in his Reflections on the Psalms that praise is the ultimate completion of human joy, that it is a natural human response when we see something that excites our wonder to want to share it with others. That is why the praises of Jesus are meant to be sung together by the saints and sung to one another. Singing praise to God and to one another is like the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae that is our joy in Jesus. It’s not enough to see God’s goodness and to think of God’s goodness—we have to declare it. We have to see others delighted by it.

But if we are honest with ourselves, the majority of pictures and posts we share online do not reflect a heartfelt worship and adoration for our mighty God and His creation. Rather, social media serves as a distraction to our everyday lives and a cheap validation of everything we do. We put filters on our lives and faces to exaggerate and amplify reality. I don’t want to sound disparaging because with everything else in life, I think there is a healthy balance to social media. I love Instagram filters and I think there is something to be said for an artistic photograph, just like any other artistic creation. I love seeing pictures of my niece and nephew and the rest of my friends and family each week. I guess what I wrestle with is finding that healthy balance.

The struggle is real because according to the world, there is no struggle. This is the standard of living, this is what we do, and no one really questions it. But narcissism is destructive and constant distraction—whether that distraction is socializing online or overworking—is just as damaging.  At some point we need to be willing to be raw and real with one another, authentic and true, focused and present. And I’m not sure if essential authenticity can be fabricated over the internet. 

With that being said, I understand how difficult it is to escape social media forums and take breaks, especially when Facebook is often the go-to for practical contact for many people. For me, social media is also a means to promote my blog and keep up with comments and messages on my website. There are still simple ways to fast from social media: 

1. Choose one or two social media websites/apps, for instance, Facebook or Twitter. Stay off these selected sites for a week, a month, however long you need to. 

2. Old habits die hard and quitting for even a day might be easier said than done, so be sure to set yourself up for success. Uninstall that app on your phone. Block those websites from your browser as a reminder.

3. If you're worried about keeping up with your website during your absence, schedule your posts in advance and give your followers some forewarning that you will be absent from social media but will reply to their comments and messages when you return.

4. Just like fasting from food, it's not always a smart idea to try and go cold turkey for long periods of time. Sometimes it's best to pick one day each week where you stay completely off of all social media. 

I am genuinely interested in your thoughts and would love to keep this conversation going as I am sure this is a subject I will be reflecting on in the months to come.


What are your thoughts on social media? Do you struggle with being distracted from reality by social media? How do you find a healthy balance? 

13 comments :

  1. I was seriously considering getting a smart phone in the near future earlier this year, but now I'm leaning toward just getting a flip-phone. We sort of expect young people to be distracted by their phones, but I'm seeing even older people--in their 60s and 70s--with their phones distracting them! If people my parents and grandparents' age can't resist the temptation/distraction of smartphones...I might just be better off without one (My laptop is enough of a distraction). As you said, it's always good to be present. The online world can wait.

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    1. There are a lot of things I love about having a smart phone. I love Instagram and I also really love my Bible app and all the aweaome free daily devotionals by John Piper, R.C. Sproul, and Tim Keller that are free on the app! It also makes keeping up with my blog a lot morw convenient.

      But like everything, it's a two-edged sword.

      Thanks for stopping by, Bethany! My advice? Hold onto the flip phone as long as you can. They have better battery life anyway. 😉

      Dani xoxo

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    2. My daughter and I have smart phones with limited plans. We don't get FB notifications and can't search the net anytime we want. However, we can text which has been a definite help for our family. :) The laptop at home is certainly enough of a distraction. Thanks for sharing Dani and I hope you find the right phone plan for you Bethany. :) ~Lisa

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    3. Thank you for sharing,Lisa! My data plan is very limited as well. I think it helps to set a limit in the first place. My phone only has so much space and data so I can't download or play games (no Pokémon GO for me!)

      Dani xoxo

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    4. Awww...no Pokémon Go?! What a pity! ;) Thanks for the tips Dani and Lisa! :)

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  2. Ways I deal with staying present and not living through social media:
    1) Track my data usage each month and challenge myself to keep it as low as possible. This limits my usage of apps when I'm not on WiFi.
    2) Turn off sound/vibrations/etc for all notifications except for texts and calls, and turning off some notifications altogether. This means that my phone isn't constantly buzzing in my pocket.
    3) Try to keep my phone in my pocket when I'm with others, unless I'm using it for something important (navigation, checking the weather, responding to urgent messages, etc.)
    4) Leave my phone at home when I legitimately don't need it. This doesn't happen very often, since I like having it along just in case my car breaks down or something, but it's good when I can step away for a bit. It reminds me that my phone really isn't my life.
    These steps still don't always guarantee me a balanced interaction with social media, but they certainly help.

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    1. Keslei, these are great! I have very limited data as well so I have to be careful how much I use. Apart from home, I really only use my phone for calls and texts and Google maps. I get a refund if I don't use all my data for the month, so that is extra motivation. 😀

      Dani xoxo

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  3. Hey Dani! Thanks for sharing! I really appreciate your thoughts/take on social media! I think your idea to take one day off a week sounds helpful. I have taken a break from Facebook once and went cold turkey for about a month, I believe. The sad thing is, my usage went straight back to the way it was before. Thanks again for sharing! I definitely have (and still do!) experienced how easy it is to be caught up in distraction.

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    1. That is so true for me as well. I guess instead of simply taking a break from social media, we should try and find activities and ways to fill our time. It's kind of like going off of junk food isn't effective unless you replace bad eating habits with good ones. Thanks for sharing, Abby!

      Dani xoxo

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  4. Hey!
    I'm getting a smart phone--sorta. It's from trac phone and touch screen and you can get on internet, etc, etc, but actually the phone is a gift from a family member, who very generously bought it for me.
    I only wanted a flip phone and was perfectly fine with that, because I'd be paying for it and need money for other things then internet.
    BUT I am extremely thankful for the gift so I didn't say anything about my resolve not to get one (I think God is wanting to test me and see how I do haha). I can only text and call though since I have limited minutes so that's the bonus! The family member will know I'm on the internet a lot if suddenly I'm using tons of minutes to surf Pinterest! ;)

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    1. Kara, having accountability is awesome! I think there are actually apps and programs for computers you can use to share your search and browsing history. My first phone was a Trac phone too! 😁

      Dani xoxo

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  5. Dear Dani,

    This was such a thought-provoking post! I too struggle to balance my time, especially as I have a somewhat O.C.D. Nature! Ha! Thankfully I don't have a smartphone, although I have considered it...and three weeks ago I made the leap and deleted my Facebook profile and page. This was the best thing I ever did...even though I didn't spend heaps of time online, the little I did use on Facebook was negative - usually I would feel discontent with who I was and what I was doing after a quick FB session...I decided that I couldn't keep up with it and would rather invest what little time I did have in my blog or by writing emails to certain friends. But...many days I wish I wasn't active online at all... Technology is meant to make our lives easier...but sadly it does not! One reason I haven't gotten a fancier phone is because I know I would either lose or drop it by accident! {{Smiles}}
    Pinterest and Blogger are wonderful social media platforms and I must say, most of the time it is a blessing to connect with like-minded ladies across the world! I love having access to the internet and enjoy it in moderation. It definitely isn't easy finding a good balance...and yes, going cold turkey is quite crazy!

    A blessed day be yours, Dani! I so appreciated you sharing what has been on your heart.

    Hugs,
    Kelly-Anne

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    1. I am so glad to hear that, Kelly-Anne! It seems to me Facebook has this dual affect where it makes us feel superficially accomplished with ourselves and how we appear to others, while at the same time it feeds comparison and envy in our selves. The problematic nature of social media is ultimately that it's not real. It has its place, but as soon as it has a reign over emotions, maybe it's best to forego it altogether or at the very least limit ourselves. Thank you for sharing your experience. I think you have made a very wise decision and I hope you continue to find joy everyday in our Lord!

      Dani xoxo

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