Warning – this post ended up far longer than I intended but I hope you stick with me!
I’ve debated the idea of unplugging from social media many times over the years but have only actually done it once. Presidential elections 2016 ring a bell? I’ve gotten to another point where I’m considering it again. Unlike last time, when I had a very specific purpose for it, this is just a slowly simmering feeling that I’ve gotten since starting this new spiritual journey.
Social media has it’s good, there’s no denying that, so I’m not going to write a blog that bashes the entire institution without acknowledging the many ways it’s been beneficial to me and my life. These are my top 3…
(1) I’ve “met” some amazing people online over the years and we’ve helped each other out in many a time of need. I’ve got an amazing community among them and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
(2) For the longest time, I cut out my cable television and got all of my news from the internet and social media. It kept me informed on a local, national, and world level. I pride myself on being informed on matters and this was, for the longest time, how I was able to stay current.
(3) It’s allowed me to keep in touch with friends and family who live in other states. When I go to visit them, I feel like we’ve only been apart a short time because I’ve been able to keep up with the happenings in their lives through their feeds.
With anything else in the man-made realm, there are some bad things to social media and there’s no looking the other way. The shortcomings of social media are obvious and they’re damaging.
(1) Though I have online friends, and our connections seem strong, they aren’t as strong as a face-to-face friendship would be. For some people, online friendships are a replacement to having a more personal relationship with someone they could form bonds with in person. In some cases, I understand this because some have a hard time forming face-to-face relationships with people. For them, having an online relationship is certainly better than having no relationship at all. I’m referring to those who are perfectly capable of forming and sustaining a face-to-face friendship though and who don’t seek those relationships because they have supplemented them with online ones. Of course, you also have the inevitable issues of miscommunication which leads to an even weaker bond between people because emotions are hard to portray in written format.
I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
2 John 1:12
(2) Social media allows people to show only small portions of their lives. We’re not always seeing the whole picture yet we’re comparing ourselves (our whole picture) to their highlight reels. This also leads me back to why our online relationships aren’t as strong as face-to-face relationships; we’re not seeing the people for who they are 100% of the time because they don’t share 100%. There’s nothing wrong with sharing highlight reels, I’m guilty of it as well, so please don’t take this as a personal attack on the topic. I’m just cautioning that those of us who are digesting the lives of others via social media need to have some perspective on what we’re taking in and how we react to it.
Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.
(3) It’s created a culture of people who can’t sustain much of anything because of a lack of focus and a weakened attention span. We’ve shortened our lives, opinions, interests, friendships etc into tiny little boxes. In some cases, those tiny little boxes have a character cap of 140 or less. Nothing worth saying can be said in so few words but we’ve read things in so few words that we have trouble paying attention to things that take up more space. I remember the days when I claimed that my attention span and focus were some of my better qualities. Those days are long gone, my attention span has nearly disappeared. I skim headlines without reading the stories, I read a post and quickly hit the like or share button as a way to acknowledge that I saw it without actually engaging in any sort of conversation with the poster about it. I pause the television, because technology has now advanced to a level that allows me to do this, to get up and move because I can’t sit still long enough to watch a show without interruption. And then there’s my ability to write. I used to pride myself on being this amazing writer but I’m now stunted by IMs, text messages, and social media posts that held very little value in the grand scheme of things. It took me far longer to write this blog post than it would have taken me had I tried to write an equally lengthy post only a few short years ago.
When I mentioned the “downright sinful”, I wasn’t being dramatic. Social media has brought out some truly sinful things in people and this is where I’ve finally drawn the line and decided it’s time for me to step back for awhile. How I feel now about social media is not how I once felt about it. This spiritual journey, and the fact that I’m now over 30, have everything to do with how I see things.
(1) Social media allows an anonymity that has brought out the awful side in a lot of people. I have no doubt that what people say online, in these cases, are things that they would NEVER speak aloud in person. For whatever reason, people feel they can say and do as they like and they won’t face consequences for their actions. They have no remorse for the libel, hatred, or various other Godless remarks they make to friends, family, and complete strangers online. These people then lead others into a conversation involving even more sinful comments and reactions. I generally know when a person seems capable of a civilized conversation, whether we agree or disagree, and I usually choose my conversations carefully but I’m certainly guilty of being pulled into numerous conversations with these types of people when I knew that I should have simply kept scrolling.
Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger. If a wise person goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace.
(2) It’s hard to keep your emotions in check when you’re being bombarded with all of the different things people post online. In one single sitting on social media, I can range from being happy for someone to being angry at or jealous of someone. This is especially true if, like myself, you’re an empath. As it is a defined, “Being an empath is when you are affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others. Your life is unconsciously influenced by others’ desires, wishes, thoughts, and moods. Being an empath is much more than being highly sensitive and it’s not just limited to emotions. Empaths can perceive physical sensitivities and spiritual urges, as well as just knowing the motivations and intentions of other people.”
For this reason, I tend to lean more towards being an introvert. People, and their overwhelming amount of emotions, can be exhausting because it influences me so greatly. It’s not uncommon for me to take breaks from people in real life. It’s strange for me to realize that I have never really done this for my online life when it’s actually the source of much more of my issues than my real world interactions.
(3) It’s not always about what other people post but about what I post as well. I’m certainly guilty of posting things that had no place online. I’ve posted things that were shared in the heat of an emotion that was fleeting even though I know that I should think before I react, calm down before speaking my mind. I’m more aware of this now than I was before. It’s not uncommon for me to start a post and then question what my intentions are. If my intentions aren’t good, I stop typing. In the event that I don’t catch myself before I hit send, I read it after I’ve calmed down and then delete it if my intentions weren’t pure.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
I’m not alone in this. I’ve had this conversation with multiple people and we’ve all come to the same conclusion – writing it down is cathartic. The problems arise in where you write it, who sees it, and how it’s interacted with afterwards. For this, I have a solution! A private journal – a good ole-fashioned PHYSICAL journal, not online, where you can write out the things you need to write out. No need for an audience bigger than yourself and God. Write it down, during the emotion or after, and let it out. If you don’t like what you’ve written, if you feel guilty for having the thoughts that you had, pray over it. Add notes at a later time regarding your feelings after, any change of heart you’ve had on the matter since, any prayer that was inspired by it. etc.
Here’s the kicker, I urge you not to trash the journal. I urge you to add notes to but not actually edit the journal. I’ve used multiple journals over the years and you’d be surprised by what happens when you look back on old writing. The changes you make over the years take time and are sometimes so slow that you don’t recognize that they’re happening. Journals allow us to see the change clearly, to appreciate where we started, and to see how far we’ve come.
On that note, I think I’ll put more effort into my journaling and removing myself, temporarily at least, from social media. I think it’ll be good for me to start with a a new perspective and a clean slate. I’ll still be keeping up with the Reigniting Faith aspects of things (blog and email) but everything else will be put aside for at least a week so that I can catch my breath, recharge, and come back more inspired than ever!
If my post resonated with you in any way, I urge you to consider a social media time out as well. Anyone who has done so, or chooses to participate in a time out after reading this, please leave me a comment about your experience once you’ve returned to social media. I’d love to hear your reasons behind taking a time out and whether the results were as you’d hoped they’d be.