At the stroke of midnight on the 31st of December last year, with a hard press on the instagram icon on my phone, I pressed the ‘x’ that would delete it and all the accounts associated with it and thus began my self- imposed hiatus off the platform. ‘Whew!’, I sighed. ‘Let’s do this Karen!’, saying to my slightly nervous self.
The motivation while varying, was pretty simple. It was time! At the start of every year, since fully plunging into God, I set some time apart to focus as fully on Him as possible.
I find this particularly important, having realized that in the course of the year, willingly or unwilling, consciously and unconsciously, I come into contact with situations and people whose thought patterns and attitudes I get greatly influenced by and sometimes pick up as well. These are not necessarily bad because exposure is indeed a great way to learn and move forward. However in the middle of all that, it is easy to be so caught up in all that bustle and forget where you as a person are headed. If every sense of where I am going is only that gained from where others are then I am sure to lose my way. Thus I find that, returning to the centre, the core, and getting rightly alligned, sets the right pace for the impending journey.
For me, social media, that mighty opinion pool, is one place where picking up ideologies and attitudes is quite easy. It grows on you and sooner that later, fully engrosses you in it such that for some, it starts to be even more important than ‘real life’. Real human relationships are shoved back while online ‘characters’ are named friends and sometimes the difficulty in closing our screens and minding other things around us is all we have to see, to realize that, it is some sort of addictive drug.
Don’t get me wrong, like I mentioned in my previous post, I really like social media and I appreciate how it, being in the right hands, is used for a good purpose. So this is definitely not a post about, how much I hate social media, lol, because that would be a lie. But, seeing as even good intent alone is not enough to maneuver this platform sanely, I give myself regular (or rather, irregular) breaks off the platform. This is usually a once every week thing or no social media before 2pm or something along those lines. While this helps, there is always the tendency to want to ‘just swing by’ and ‘drop a gem’ of wisdom that just occurred to me, *wink* and so when I decided to go off for a much longer period, I knew getting rid of the pull factor ‘the presence of the icon’ would be the best way to approach it, and I did exactly that.
Right away, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it through the entire month without trying to check at least once what was happening there but I calmed down when I remembered one of my keys for the year, ‘I have no idea how the entire year looks or if I even have the entire year, but I have right now and I am going to be fully present in this NOW’. Basically, I didn’t know if I was going to last the entire month of the platforms I had logged off of, but I was going to take a day at a time, and that’s exactly what I did. I realized a few things while off the platforms, and I share a few of these below.
1. Focus is active
Everyday, a thousand things all around us are calling for our attention, we can give all these things pieces of our mind and not fully grasp or immerse in any particular one or worse yet, the one thing that actually requires our attention goes completely unattended or gets scraps. I pick up my phone at least 20 times on average a day. This is an understatement when compared to the number of hours I spend on certain applications on my phone. I wondered how it was possible that so many hours of my day could be attributed to this social media platform alone and remembered the many times I had clear plans of reading on the ride to work or elsewhere but had taken out my phone first and the rest had become history. Distractions. They are everywhere and don’t even require much effort to catch and hook their victims. Staying focused however requires work. An active effort to stay fixed on the main thing. Sometimes being able to do this requires making a ‘sacrifice’ which completely removes the distraction, in my case deleting the app, and allows you to fully focus on that important thing.
2. The world still spins
From the second I stepped out of the busy Instagram and Facebook spaces, I was literally blind to what was happening there. I had no idea what anyone was posting or not posting and yet somehow my life progressed well and meaningfully. Granted, I had a few concerns about the spaces for my podcast and other business venture but thankfully, both of these are run with friends who gracefully gave me the time to step out for the stated time. I found the thought that thousands of people were posting at any particular time and I wasn’t frantically swiping trying to catch up with it all so interesting. And while that world frantically spun, mine, slowed to it’s own pace, also spun. And nothing was missing. My friends were still my friends, my acquaintances still acquaintances and my watchers, well, they at that moment had nothing to watch. And in it all, the world still spun. You might be fixated on that app on your phone wondering how tough it would be for you to literally function without it, and my encouragement for your today is that you CAN and you WILL! Don’t let the fear of missing out on something keep you so hooked that it is impossible to do without it. So if you ever for some reason, feel like you want to step away from the app for a while, to make room for something more important, do it and trust that everything on there will continue to spin just fine, as you will as well. And still on this side, I was able to connect truly with others not based on what they posted but based on what truly is and find out first hand from them, what it means to them or makes them feel.
3. Nothing that fights for space with God deserves it or is worth it.
I already have a practice of not checking my phone till I have spent some time with God, however this is not the end of it. What He tells me in the morning, has several implications for my entire day and sometimes for days after that. What is interesting is how like the parable of the sower, things come and sweep away the seeds shortly after they’ve been scattered and they don’t ever get the chance to take root and grow and bear fruit. With one hundred updates at any time in particular and endless scrolling, swinging my mind back to that word I wanted to meditate on can be very dodgy. And truly those pages are nice and juicy and informative and so easy to spend an hour in one sitting just doing that. Somehow at the end of the day, I feel I left important things undone and wonder where my time went. There are times when I have set aside time to read or pray or study and inadvertently found myself one hour down the line starring yet again at my fon screen. The excuse that I read encouragement and bible verses on these platforms are just that, excuses. And once the excuses start coming up, I realize I am giving something a space in my life that doesn’t belong to it. Did I have to get off social media to realize this? NO! However, getting off helped me to reorient my heart to what was important and away from what wasnt.
4. In quietness and trust is my strength
In Isaiah 30:15, God, through His prophet, is telling the people of Israel these words, ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, inquietness and trust is your strength’, but he goes on to say that they have refused to have any of it, and so they remained bound and burdened. In taking time away from all the hustle and bustle of opinions and ideas, I found once again, strength. Strength, gained not only from having enough time to rest but also in not trying to keep up with every post and who is thinking what or doing what at any point in time. In this quietness, I leaned in to listen and to hear what Holy Spirit wants to say and gain strength for the rest of the journey ahead, including even maneuvering social media once it has become a part of my life again. In this quietness, I rediscovered that not every ‘gem’ I had needed to be available right away to the world and that was okay. Sometimes, that word I had received, was more for me than it was for anyone else, and rather than post it to my instastories or facebook right away, I needed to let it sink in, and come into action first in my life. In this quietness, misconceptions about activities in a virtual world played little to no part and lost ground every minute. In this quietness, prayer brought renewed peace and strengthened perspectives.
5. Time is a gift
… and it flies! and demands to be used, albeit wisely. Making and having time can often be such strenuous activities. The time away however released time to dedicate to other important things. We can always make time, it depends on what we are willing to let go off.
And here, on the first day of the second month of the year already, I can say that, time HAS flown. What started with me setting my mind and heart apart to fully focus on God has also strengthened me and given me a new perspective. Will I get back on these platforms? YES! I actually already visited Facebook briefly today. However, regualr breaks will continue to be integral to my usage and at no point, should this servant rule over me.
What changes are you making to your social media usage this year? Share with me in the comments below. I hope this has been helpful.