Breaking up is hard to do. I’m not talking about relationships with people. I’m talking about the relationship we develop with our electronics, specifically what is on our electronics—social media.
Now before you roll your eyes and move on to the next article because you don’t really want to consider a break from social media since it has become a part of your normal lifestyle, let’s consider together what is beneficial and what isn’t in our social media daily consumption.
For me a typical day begins when my sleepy eyes open and I drag myself out of bed. As I try to figure out what day it is and what responsibilities await me, I get up and pick up my phone to check to see if there are any messages while I go to the bathroom. I reason in my mind that it is ok to check for messages while going to the bathroom because I don’t want to waste time.
Busted. It seems that social media and the availability to others through this device has turned me into a human doing rather than a human being. I felt like I had to be productive even in the bathroom.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Rodion Kutsaev
1. Too Productive
“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” (Ephesians 5:15-16, NLT).
I have been given many kudos for multi-tasking and being a person who “gets things done”. But in all honesty, doing too much at once—paying attention to the throng of people messaging me on devices and paying attention to those personally with me—truly wasn’t possible.
If we don’t take a break from social media when we go to the bathroom, or when we share a meal, or when we go for a walk with loved ones or friends, we need to stop being productive and put the phone or other devices away. Perhaps phone time is not effective, too. It might be a distraction pulling us away from being present with those around us.
2. Too Distracted
“I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:35, ESV).
When you can’t resist checking your phone automatically, it is a distraction. Ever had those conversations with people—you know the kind—they are nodding their head like they are paying attention, but not at all engaging with you? I fear this is where our society is now. My husband and I notice when we go out on a date people are just staring at their phones, not one another.
Sometimes my children were resistant when I placed boundaries around their social media time. But it was not intended to be punitive—it was intended to help their walk with God and relationships with others, which were being affected by their devotion to social media. This was an indicator to me that social media had reached further than being a mere distraction.
3. Too Addicted
“You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is beneficial.” —1 Corinthians 10:23 (NLT)
Without realizing it, we form habits that shape our days. It might seem like a simple habit at first. We pick up our phones and scroll to see if anyone messaged us while we slept. We check all the various outlets and get sucked into other conversations on social media easily enough. But like Pavlov’s dog, the chimes and various alarms on our cell phones can trigger a programmed response from us. We unwittingly become slaves to our phones, scrolling endlessly and responding instantaneously as we become on-demand to everyone who wants to contact us at any minute.
Addiction is not something we want to readily admit, but we are programmed for this addiction. I did not recognize this in me because I rationalized it. I was not like others, I told myself. I even kept my phone away from me during the day. But notifications keep us engaged. If not on our phone, it might be on our computer or our watch. Silencing notifications helped me to put social media back in its place.
4. Too Dependent
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34, ESV).
When we need to have affirmation on social media through likes, comments, or shares, we are not really living an authentic life. Honestly, the algorithm might not be doing us any favors, either, but we can take a perceived lack of response to us as rejection. Being dependent on people to recognize us in the midst of thousands of other posts they may never see is placing our hearts at the dangerous whim of social media.
We don’t have to need others’ affirmation if we are dependent on God for it. Then, whenever we post, we aren’t doing it to get attention but to be a witness to others. If you feel hurt in your spirit because no one noticed you, process that feeling with the truth. Your value is not dependent on the number of likes you get.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Kon Karampelas
5. Too Connected
“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before” (1 Thessalonians 4:11, ESV).
It would be one thing if there was only one way for people to contact us, but no, there are too many ways for people to track us down. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. LinkedIn. Twitter. TikTok. And the list goes on and on. Added to this is the guilt factor that if we do not respond right away (cue dramatic music), it can be considered a slight on the other person. Sometimes we can rationalize that we have to be on all these platforms for business or ministry. But social media schedulers can tame social media for these instances and have helped me not be so connected.
It might be hard at first, but there is a way out of this social media dependency. Take inventory to see how many avenues lead others to you. Do you really need all of those means of connection? It is often too much to keep up with. Determine which social media you deem as being the most important, then ask yourself why.
Breaking Up isn’t as Hard to Do as Not Breaking Up Is
Given the world we live in, having a phone is a necessity. But having all the social media on it isn’t. My oldest son, Daniel Dovel, did an experiment with his cell phone: Why I Made My iPhone a Dumb Phone. He did this to help him recognize his patterns and usage of his phone. He took social media off his phone which he felt was a distraction to him and took a fast for a week.
We don’t have to eradicate every bit of social media, but perhaps there are boundaries we need to put into place to help be balanced in our usage of social media. Maybe it is a certain time of the day that we allow time to check-in. Or maybe it is fewer outlets. Don’t fear “missing out” on social media. Social media might be the thing that keeps you from “missing out” on life.
Below are some podcasts my son and I recorded on social media that can help to guide you on changes you might need to make. The feeling that we can’t make changes is likely an indication that we need to. Change does not always happen overnight. It might be baby steps that lead you to a better approach toward social media and a better life.
Examining the Fruit of Social Media, part 1
Taming Social Media—Do’s and Don’ts, part 2
Taming Social Media—Bringing Balance, part 3
Originally published Wednesday, 18 May 2022.