When Jenn and I got married 11 years ago, we didn’t even own cell phones. Over the last decade we’ve plunged headlong into technology and social media. Although there are many positive things about them, they can also easily exploit some of my existing weaknesses, such as comparison.
If we’re all being honest, comparison is a constant struggle for most (if not all) of us on some level. We’re naturally competitive, and now that social media allows us to peer into the lives of people around the globe, the channel and temptation for comparison is unending and ever-growing.
I’ve known for a while that this is a problem in my life, but it wasn’t until about a month ago that I decided to actively do something about it. When I envy others, I’m effectively telling God that what He’s given me isn’t good enough. So, I decided to take some drastic steps (at least they were drastic to me) and cut out all social media for an entire month. And what a month I chose! In October 2014, I turned 31, my daughter turned 5, our church bought a shopping center, and my family bought a house, among other things. There were so many things happening in my life this month that I would have normally updated everyone on and/or bragged about (I’m being honest here).
Before, I would update all social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) almost every day – sometimes multiple times per day, and I would always check it many times throughout the day. Over the past few years, I’ve taken a day off here and there, and even a week off, but a month felt like a stretch.
It was an eye-opening month for me! I learned far more than I realized I would. Here are some negative and positive things about being off of social media…
POSITIVE: I’ve done a lot more Bible reading. I’m about two weeks ahead in my Bible reading schedule. I made it a point while I was off of social media to use my phone for Bible reading when I had the urge to check social media.
POSITIVE: I’m learning to be present in the moment, not just trying to document the moment. During my daughter’s birthday, I began filming a scavenger hunt we had set up for her, but then I abruptly ended the video. I felt like I was killing the moment by trying to document it instead of just being present in it.
POSITIVE: I’ve become less dependent on my phone. A few times, I completely misplaced my phone because I hadn’t used it all day. That had almost never happened to me before because I used to always have it at an arm’s length from me.
POSITIVE: I’m enjoying being me, and not trying to be someone else. Without the constant stream of social media, my temptation to compare myself to others has greatly diminished. I’m enjoying focusing on being the best version of Kevin Miller that I can possibly be. After all, no matter how hard I try, I make a lousy version of anyone else.
NEGATIVE: I missed out on some good interactions. Jenn read some of the things people posted on my Facebook page in honor of my birthday and Pastor Appreciation Month. I was really encouraged by much of that, but would have completely missed out had Jenn not read them to me.
POSITIVE: I have less drama to think about. Facebook is often a whine-fest, and it was so refreshing to be out of everybody’s negativity. Sorry if you had a rough day, but I am thankful I didn’t have to read your rant about it.
POSITIVE: I’m remembering where my value comes from. It’s not from “likes,” @mentions or retweets!
POSITIVE: My phone battery lasts a lot longer.
NEGATIVE: I didn’t read as many blogs. Twitter provides me with a constant flowing stream of great blog content to stay up with. I realized a few weeks in that I hadn’t read a blog in weeks. I know there are other ways to follow blogs apart from social media, but without it, it does take more work.
POSITIVE: There’s not a void in my life like I thought there might be. Because of how often I accessed social media, I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Wrong! I quickly filled the social media time slot with many more productive things.
POSITIVE: I am able to stay focused better. When my mind starts to wander, the easy thing to do was to let it wander onto social media. Now when it begins to wander, it’s much easier to stay focused on the task at hand.
Over all, the experience was very positive. Social media is definitely not evil, but it can encourage and enable some very negative tendencies and sins in our lives if we allow it to. Ultimately though, social media abuse is just a symptom of a deeper heart problem. Stepping back from it allowed me to see that more clearly.
I’ve been back on social media for a week now, and only logged in twice. I don’t even think about it like I used to. A month off allowed me to refocus, direct attention elsewhere, and it broke me of a habit that I didn’t realize I had.