One Month Off of Social Media

Well, we are officially one month into 2020 and it is already shaping up to be a wild ride. If you read my post at the beginning of January, you may remember that one of my biggest challenges I have given myself for this year, is to stay off of all social media, including: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I’ve had several people ask me how this is going and if I really intend to stick it out the entire year. Before I get into my update with how I am doing with this challenge, I want to give a little context as to how and why this goal came to be.

Ever since I first got my facebook account back in 2009 at the age of 14, facebook has been an escape for me. When I was feeling sad, I’d scroll on facebook. When I was bored, I’d scroll on facebook. When I was tired, facebook. You get the picture. As I got older and more social media platforms came to be, that sense of escape only grew. I now had even more places online that could take up my time and help me to escape what was happening in my own world and within my mind.

I’ve been aware of how dangerous these apps can be for me since high school when I bought myself my very own laptop. Before this purchase, the only way I was able to waste my time on these sites was via the family desktop computer (what a time to be alive). Now that I had my own device, I could get on them basically as much as I desired. And so I did…

As I was growing in my faith in high school, I began to become aware of how toxic social media can be and how much time I was wasting on it. But, my world was also crashing in around me, repeatedly during that season. So even though I knew it was not a great place to turn, I continued to turn to it as my escape. Social media didn’t become my only form of escape that would grip hold of me, but it definitely has made rank as one of the strongest.

As people my age began to have smart phones, in which these social media sites could now be easily viewed anywhere, I knew in my heart that I shouldn’t have one. So I refrained and stuck with my old slide out keyboard cell phone all the way until I was a freshman in college. My reasoning for giving in was that I needed the navigation feature as I was going to school away from home.

Social media already had a hold on me, but once I introduced the smart phone into the mix, it only held on tighter. Life didn’t seem to slow down or ever get any easier and so I continued to use social media to escape. I continued to feel convicted time and time again about the foothold this had in my life, but I also continued to ignore it. It was, after-all, my security blanket.

It wasn’t until I took an addictions class for my degree, that I began to realize that this grip that social media had on me was actually an addiction. I still hesitate to use that word, but when I actually analyze the vice that it had (and still has), I can’t classify it any other way. According to Webster dictionary, an addiction is “a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence the state of being addicted.”

In this class we were required to give something up that we use on a daily basis for a week’s time. We had to note anytime we felt the urge to engage in the thing we gave up, and then write a paper about how it went. This project was for us to get a tiny glimpse of what addiction is like for those who are addicted to substances, and it was so powerful. But as powerful as it was, I continued on with my social media use once the project was over.

As God continued to lay it on my heart over the next few years, I would make small changes to help ease that tension I felt. I’d go through periods of not allowing myself to have any of the apps on my phone, or I’d even take some time off here and there. But none of that did anything for me. Sure, I read more books and had less screen time, but I never allowed it to draw me closer to the one calling me to give it up in the first place. And in all reality, it wasn’t much of a challenge or sacrifice when I knew that I’d be able to get on in a week or month, whatever I had chosen to do.

Which leads me to my decision to take the entire year of 2020 off of all social media. This was purely by the work of God. As I mentioned, this is an issue that God has been trying to reveal to me for years now. It wasn’t until I began to fervently seek after Him towards the end of 2019, that I knew the reason He was calling me to give it up. Because the reality is that God doesn’t want just the leftover moments at the end of our day. He wants ALL of the moments of our day. He doesn’t want us to use other things as an escape from this troubling life because as is stated in Isaiah, He wants to help us in the midst of those troubles. Isaiah 41:10 states, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” God didn’t and doesn’t want me to have or use a “security blanket”. He wants to BE my “security blanket”.

So as I began to process the year of 2019 and started to look forward to what I wanted 2020 to look like, I knew I wanted this new year to be full of Jesus in my life. I knew that if I wanted my life to be full of Jesus, I’d have to make some sacrifices. The Holy Spirit kept prompting me to take the year off of social media. It typically came in the form of the thought running across my mind every now and again. The more I tried to brush it off the more it would appear. So I had some conversations with God that typically went like this: “I hear you, but do I really have to take the WHOLE year off?”

I didn’t want to. My best friends just had their first child, friends are getting married or engaged, and let’s be honest, the best way to stay up to date with people we care about is by social media. I didn’t want to risk missing out on those things, and ultimately becoming a forgotten friend whose relationships vanished because I wasn’t kept in the loop of their lives. But the more I pushed back, the more He persisted.

So here I am, one month in to this year long social media fast. I’ll be honest, it has been way more challenging than I ever anticipated. I knew that going off of social media for the entire year would be hard, but I thought “I’ve gone a month off here and there and it wasn’t that bad, so I’ll be fine.” I was so wrong. You know how I gave the definition of addiction previously? Yeah, I never truly knew just how much power social media has had over my life until this past month. I truly am addicted to social media.

You might be wondering, “So, if you’re addicted, then you’re telling me you went through withdrawals?” And to that I would say, “Yes!” The first week was relatively okay. I took it day by day and that helped tremendously. But as the second week began, I started to become more negative, irritable, on edge, anxious, and even started to feel the negative lies of depression flooding my mind. You see, I had given up social media, but had done it reluctantly and the enemy had started planting bitterness, doubt and fear into my heart.

So I knew that I had to make a conscious effort to pursue God and to let this fast be used for His glory. I let my accountability partners know that I was struggling with these thoughts and attitudes and asked for prayer. And I began to ask God to move in me again. Things “clicked” at the second week mark, and I found my joy for life outside of social media.

I’m not saying I don’t struggle. I’ve definitely caved and given in to temptation more times than I care to admit. I’ve logged into facebook, scrolled a bit on my newsfeed and then quickly felt the guilt of not trusting God to meet my needs for connection. But that goes to show that this fast is doing it’s job so far in that it is drawing me closer to God and teaching me more about myself.

Through my journey so far, I have learned that I have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I hate not being in the loop of peoples lives that I care about so deeply. I fear that I will be forgotten or that my relationships will fade. It’s teaching me to be even more intentional about community and investing in the people I love so deeply. It’s also teaching me that I have a deep seated desire for attention and love from others that I tried to fill via likes, comments and follows (that one was a punch to the gut).

Most importantly, I’m learning, that even if those very fears do become reality amongst this process and season of fasting, it is in God’s perfect plan for my life. It would just mean that He would use it as a way to weed through the relationships that are hindering my growth rather than encouraging it. And even though that would be very painful, it would be worth it. So far this fast is teaching me to lean more on my savior, and THAT is the reason I’m going through with this challenge for the entire year of 2020.

I will update you all again on this topic when we hit the 3 month, 6 month and 12 month marks. Thank you for reading my rambles.