Usually I give up something food related for Lent, since that is my greatest area of excess. This year as a Lenten fast, I decided to give up social media. I am a fan of social media, particularly Facebook, and am very grateful for the way social media helps me to feel connected to far flung family and friends. But I had found myself a bit bruised on the internet lately, more easily getting my feelings hurt, accidentally offending others, spinning into cycles of ragey response to what people post, or sliding into judgmental thoughts.
And I was craving quiet. Desperately needing God’s voice and values to be louder than anyone or anything else. So I stepped away, only checking my social media accounts once a week, on Saturdays.
As usual with my Lent experiments, I had varying degrees of success. I’m never as committed as I want to be, and I too often forget the reasons I gave something up, what I’m hoping to accomplish.
But I did learn some things about myself and social media.
6 Things I learned from giving up Social Media for Lent
#1 I didn’t miss it. AT ALL. At various times in the past, I’ve experimented with giving up bread, desserts, coffee, all things I missed desperately and couldn’t wait to add back into my life. Social Media was a freaking breeze in comparison. I think this is because…
#2 For me, Social Media is a habit more than a need or even desire. I didn’t miss it, but I did have itchy fingers (particularly the first week.) I caught myself reaching for my phone out of habit, particularly in down times: Waiting for the kids after school. Sitting on the toilet (TMI?), first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as I finish one work task and before moving on to the next. Which can be problematic because…
#3 I use Social Media as a means of procrastination. Probably the biggest annoyance for the past 6 weeks? When I had something I didn’t really want to get started on, or keep working on until I actually finished. And I couldn’t make a “quick” check on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, which could so easily turn into a 30+ minute avoidance of folding that laundry or sending that email or making that phone call. I was spending much more time on social media than I realized.
#4 Social Media steals my time and attention from things that really matter. Over the course of the 40+ days of Lent, I was more productive and weekly got more tasks crossed off my to do list. More importantly, I was more present to my family than usual. This is probably my biggest motivator to create healthier habits with my phone in particular: To be present where I am.
#5 I need to curate the voices I allow to dominate my thoughts. It was helpful to be alone with my own thoughts. I had fewer mental arguments with people, and much more time to think and process real things in my daily life. And when I wanted to think about politics or world events, I was able to choose when and how to read the news. I could choose calm and measured voices rather than being assaulted by the click-bait that tends to dominate Facebook.
#6 Social Media changes the way I view people. This 6 weeks away from all the articles and posts and voices on social media was SO good for me. It freed me up to see people as individuals, souls, children of our heavenly Father. I had fallen into a trap of filtering people based on what they share or support on Facebook, into “People I agree with” and “Holders of obnoxious or offensive views”. I haven’t changed my mind about what is obnoxious and offensive, but that’s not the ground from which I want to approach any human being. I want to build bridges, not walls. I am convinced the only way we will find unity in this divisive world is by seeing people as people, not labels. Being off social media helped me to tear down some walls and tear off some labels.
Easter is over and I’m tempted to dive back into my old habits. Before that happens, I want to take a moment to consider my regular “practices” as far as social media is concerned.
Pre-Lent, my regular practice was to check many social media accounts regularly and often. I had no plan and no boundary, and it led me to unhealthy places.
The questions I’m asking as I move back into internet-land are:
Social media wise, what is life giving?
What is healthy for me to cast out onto the internet, and what do I need to keep for those in my flesh and blood life?
Social media helps me to feel connected to people in my life, especially those whom I don’t see regularly. But what actually helps me to be connected to people in my life?
What regular habits or limits would allow me to use social media as a tool, rather than consume it as entertainment?
If you have regular habits or limits with social media, I’d love to hear what has been life giving for you? If you gave something up for Lent, what did you learn?