This post is the second in a two part reflection post on a social media fast I did this past summer. Read part one here.
6. To have a successful social media fast, all social media applications must be removed from your phone. This may not be true for everyone, but I had completely trained my mind and fingers to automatically click on Instagram or Facebook whenever there was a lull, whenever there was an emotion I didn’t want to think about, and really anytime I unlocked my phone. Therefore, I knew I would have to delete both applications off my phone to truly have a fast work. Even with this out of sight out of mind tactic, the first couple of days I would catch myself in auto-pilot trying to find them and click on them. However, since they were gone, I didn’t have any accidental finger clicks that could have compromised my progress.
7. My phone no longer has to be with me. Don’t get me wrong – the luxury of cell phones and their life saving presence in emergencies is something I’m so thankful for, but before this fast, I (being very honest here) felt slightly very anxious when I didn’t know where my phone was. Can anyone relate? It wasn’t that I was expecting an important call (I mean; I may actually TALK on my phone maybe once or twice a week?). Having my phone nearby was so I was “connected,” always just a finger swipe away from knowing all there was to know about everyone. It has been so refreshing this week to realize I had no idea where my phone was.
8. I’m more at peace with myself, my husband, my life stage, my family, my friends, and my faith because I’m present in my own life, not consumed with thinking about others’ life. I think most of us have read or heard about the dangers of comparing ourselves to others from what is posted on social media. I know this and would have told you before this fast I was completely content with my life even with my high social media usage. However, after this week, I know that even if it wasn’t conscious, I was subconsciously comparing myself and my life with others. I’m in the midst of some career decisions, and I found myself contemplating this week about what path to take. Instantly, my thoughts turned to some college friends in the same career. I realized I was chastising myself for making the decisions I made right out of school because “if only” I had done what they did things might have worked out another way. This quickly went to the extreme: maybe I chose the wrong career as all of them are obviously better professionals than me.
These thoughts were concerning my career, but it soon became apparent as I thought more about it that as a society we do place rigid expectations on ourselves and each other to obtain certain things. Whether it be a career, marriage, kids, travel abroad privileges, a certain house, clothes, make-up, jewelry, a certain clothing size, or a gym membership, the list goes on and on. With social media, we see all that we can’t have or haven’t obtained yet. Worse, we also build ourselves up by posting select things about our life to get “likes” to feel better about our choices.
But, have you ever met up face to face with a friend you follow on social media? You spend an hour or two over lunch talking, and you find out that his or her real life is nothing like their latest status update or Instagram picture? Social media usually leaves no room for authenticity or vulnerability (unless you’re willing to subject yourself to vicious comments), and because of that, genuine relationships are hard to find online. Peace comes with less opportunity to compare and more time to realize how much you’ve been given and how content you truly are.
9. I spend more time building my real-life relationships instead of filling my mind with the details of a stranger’s life. This week I have made it a point to try to connect individually with others by phone or by text instead of Facebook “like” or Instagram comment. I have realized that since my mind is clearer and more focused, I remember important dates, events, issues, and I am able to send that text – “I’m thinking of you” or “Prayed for you this morning.” True connection does not happen over social media platforms – it happens when you live unpredictable, joyful, messy, everyday life with people.
10. The fear of “missing out” on social media updates could quickly become missing out on my own life. Four days into our fast, I mused to my husband how it all felt so strange. I did wonder if I was missing something, like engagement or pregnancy announcements; but the thought carried no anxiety with it like it did when I had access to all that information. The more I mulled it over, I realized that my close friends would surely notify me in other ways then social media, and those were the people I wanted to have the emotional energy to support. If I heard the information second-hand, life would continue. Centuries have passed with no social media, no internet, limited to no postal service – and news still made it around the country. During this week, my larger fear became the realization I wouldn’t miss out on everyone’s good news, but I would end up missing out on living my own life. The time and energy depletion along with the emotional sabotage social media caused in my life left me with no energy to live abundantly, contentedly, and to the fullest. That was a dire thought that culminated in this time of fasting – I did not want that to be my story.
This may all seem so overdramatic to you – maybe you’re thinking I do need to find a good counselor to work through all of this. By no means do I want you to read this as social media is always a poor choice – the internet and social media can be a wonderful resource. However, I hope that you will see the heart behind this list: we only have so much time on this earth, and I don’t want this generation missing out on the everyday, wonderful, mundane moments that turn into precious memories, because we are focused on catching up on everyone else’s daily updates. I hope, even if you don’t feel the need to do a social media fast, you will evaluate how much time you spend on your phone compared with the people all around you.
I don’t know if I will log back on to Facebook or Instagram in a few more days or if I will fast for an indefinite period. Like I said at the beginning, as a health care professional, I may not recognize the signs of addiction in myself, but I do know for a fact that life can change, or even cease, in a heartbeat, a moment, a bad decision, a fleeting breath, or a glance at your iPhone screen. Don’t miss your life trying to keep up with everyone else’s – there’s precious moments to be had, deep thoughts to ponder, relationships to rekindle, the whole wide world to discover, emotional joys and heartache to feel, and adventure awaiting you beyond a digital screen. Here’s to living a full life that’s not just online.
Since I wrote this post, I have logged back into social media, but I do hope the lessons I learned during my fast will last me a lifetime. If you haven’t ever done a social media fast, I do encourage it sometime…it’s quite refreshing 🙂
How large of a role does social media play in your life? Any good advice for creating boundaries?