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21 Days Without Social Media: What I Learned and How It Changed Me

I have an addiction to scrolling. I think scrolling does different things for us. It masks itself in whatever fix we may need. For me, it is often my false sense of peace, a false sense of control, a false sense of connection. This blog is not about to be an “anti social media” post, I truly believe in the redemptive power of social media and the plethora of opportunities it gives us to keep inspiring hope and goodness in our communities. However, I will never stop sharing about my honest experiences and what it’s like to unplug for a period of time. What I learned is simple, social media is not good for me, but I want to be good for social media.

Allow me to explain, I think 21 days was the longest I had been off Instagram in a while (I deleted Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. I don't use snapchat or tiktok anymore but I spend most of my time on IG. I still had pinterest but hardly used it for more than 10-15 minutes a day if at all). But everytime I get off Instagram I find it difficult to want to go back. My head is clear, I have full peace, and I am also the most productive; which brings me to my first point. 

1. We have a lot more time than we think

I came into this quarter with a lot of commitments on my plate, and frankly a little overwhelmed about how I would manage it all, but I quickly realized without a platform to mindlessly scroll though, I had more time than I knew what to do with. When I rested, I rested well and when I worked I was fully present. I texted so many more people than I normally do, I had meaningful conversations over the phone and on FaceTime. To be honest, if someone came to me and said they feel like they don’t have enough time to do things, I would highly recommend that they delete a social app or two. Even with meals, I could be more mindful with conversing with my roommates or calling friends and family back home. The face to face connection is just so much more meaningful than messages through DM’s. This came as a surprise because I thought I would be missing out on valuable connections with my social network but it turned out to be the complete opposite. In fact, it realigned my intentions for communicating with others and how I do it.

2. I care too much about people’s perception of me. 

I loveeeee being able to share these blog posts and to post on my stories of all the ways the Lord is moving in my life and has blessed me, but I’m continually rewiring my brain to not look at the story views, the likes, the comments, and all the new follows and unfollows. I think a part of it is natural since I’ve worked in social media management but I never want my personal IG to feel like an algorithm I’m trying to beat. When it comes to this, my only mission is to present myself faithfully (consistency), truthfully (in vulnerability and truth) and lovingly (with others in mind). The rest is up to the Lord and I want to place it all fully in His hands. I quickly find myself comparing what I post with other people or what kind of message I’m sending but it was a relief knowing that if people wanted access to my life, they could reach out and ask! And most of my friends did! It made for more honest updates with deeper connection that wasn’t substituted for a weekly stories dump. While I’ll still be using social media for life updates I would hope that people would still remain curious and take the step to ask questions, as I am trying to do the same with everyone I follow.

3. What we gaze upon we worship.

This one gets a little theological, but it is the most important. Our attention has measurable value and profit. What takes our attention is constantly being sold and traded. If we aren’t careful, we can let our minds be fully consumed and occupied by whatever or whoever pays the highest price. This principle goes beyond scrolling.

When I was in relationships that didn’t have God in the center, that is what I worshiped. When my focus was about making more money and getting more jobs with higher pay, that is what I worshiped. When I only cared about how the things I did made me feel and made me happy and was convenient or desirable for me, that is what I worshiped. 

While you are reading this, I don’t want you to think of worship as simply singing songs or the “act” of worship. I want you to think about your heart, your mind, your soul. John 4 says

“You worship what you do not know… But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."

We can pretend to devote ourselves to whatever we decide. But to worship in spirit and in truth is to have your heart and mind consumed with what it is we worship. 

Imagine you’re outside, you are overlooking a beautiful sunset and cannot help but stare as the sun kisses the ocean and the whole sky changes colors, our heart and mind is consumed with thoughts of peace, or perhaps sadness, or maybe hope. At that moment our spirit is being invited to worship, we are overwhelmed by this beautiful sky and we cannot help but to thank someone for painting the sky again, to mourn over something we’ve lost, or to pray for something to change. At the same time, we are invited to worship in Truth, based on the Word of God, what we know to be true in our mind and in our spirit. Now I look at the sunset and I remember “from the rising of the sun to its setting, let the name of the Lord be praised” (Psalm 113:3) and so I thank God for painting the sky. If the sunset makes me feel sad I remember “My soul melts away from sorrow; strengthen me according to your word” (Psalm 119:28) and so I mourn with God, bringing my broken heart to him. If the sunset brings me hope I remember “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13) and so I pray to God to renew my joy and peace as I place my hope in Him.

When I compare this with social media, it’s easy to gaze upon this portal into a pretend world and be consumed by it. We let what other people say drive us into action or paralyze us into disappointment or numb us into complacency. I found myself in a place of worship but not towards God, it became a worship towards my own ambitions, my own fears, and my own disappointments. My spirit was misled and my mind was faltering from the truth. Even if I entered Instagram with a joyful heart, it didn’t take long for my heart to turn sour and for my mind to make room for comparison. By putting limits and setting boundaries, it makes way for us to find true connection with each other, with ourselves and with the Lord. 

As you may realize, I am back on Instagram. I have a time limit for 30 minutes a day so I can respond to messages, post updates and get some time checking in with people but I am tempted to only keep it on my ipad. It’s an evolving relationship. I ask myself how different would my life be and I’m tempted almost everyday to delete it, but for now I will be faithful to showing up and presenting the fullness of God’s love for everyone who follows. 

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