In our modern world of progression and electronic communication, social media has become the primary way information is distributed and people connect. From personal to professional relationships, it is not common to find someone without social media, yet here I am.
At some point during a five-year period, I was present on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Pinterest, but enough rounds in various vicious cycles led me to delete each of my accounts. Why?
#6 — To care for those around me
My objection to social media goes back to my relationship with the smartphone, a device I acquired significantly later than the average runs today. My lack of electronic distractions led me to spend my time nurturing other hobbies: needlepoint, coloring, writing, making cards and envelopes, etc.
When the eight other girls I was sitting with during a ninth-grade lunch period were all on their phones, I pulled out my sketchbook. Instances like this only became more common as time progressed.
By my junior year of high school, I was convinced I did not want to be a part of the dominant culture. I felt ignored and devalued by the excessive smartphone presence around me and did not want that to be others’ experience when they interacted with me.
There are image-bearers whose day would improve by merely receiving a smile and hurting souls that would greatly benefit from outside input, yet we miss such opportunities because we are on our phones.
In complete contrast to God’s call for us to love our neighbors, a public appearance of our phones gives off a dismissive air, an impression author Tony Reinke illustrates well:
- In a meeting or a classroom, if my phone is put away, I am more likely to be perceived as engaged.
- If my phone is not in use, but is faceup on the table, I present myself as engaged for the moment, but possibly disengaged if someone more important outside the room needs me.
- If my phone is in hand, and I am responding to texts and scrolling social media, I project open dismissiveness.
Public phone use, whether your intention or not, tells those around you that the electronic world you’ve crafted for yourself is more important than their flesh and blood reality.
A simple solution would be to refrain from pulling the device out when others are around, but notifications and human temptation is a toxic pair. As phones are necessary tools in today’s digital age, it is better to eliminate unessential reasons to be on it.
#5 — To connect with those around me
At 16-years-old, the last thing I wanted was a phone. I did not want to fall prey to what everyone else was hooked on. Yet, as my driver’s license extended my borders, my parents’ desire for communication gifted me with a phone.
The device I dreaded had become an essential tool.
Connection with the larger world confronted me with many forms of media: social media, games, news, and so on. I dabbled in each, feeling around as I gleaned from their content. However, as familiarity set in, so did my initial impressions:
I want to connect with the world and fellow image-bearers around me, not algorithm-picked posts and thrown-together captions.
There are infinitely complex people around you who each bear a snippet of what our Father in heaven is like. To experience this reality, we merely need to disconnect from the media and its channels and conquer our fear by reaching out.
It has become far too common for important conversations to happen over text, breakups over the phone, and life updates on social media. “What’s going on with you?” “Read my blog.” Too much of our lives have become isolated in the online realm.
“Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”-2 John 1:12
We as human beings are innately relational and therefore thrive best from face-to-face interaction. When FaceTime, phone calls, and messaging each remove another aspect of that 4D experience, we lose facets of communication that emojis cannot make up for.
Technology has connected the world and disconnected humans.
My challenge is, wherever possible, to reserve electronic communication for instances when a topic must be addressed before seeing the person face-to-face. Use virtual means functionally and save “getting to know you” conversations until you can experience the full richness of dialoguing with another soul.
In the context of a dating relationship, I sense an objection to the above, but understand that there are vast benefits to pauses between communication with a significant other. Not being in constant communication gives you both quiet time to think and reflect, a process that can bring red flags to light and strengthen your affection for the other.
Elsewhere, you may want to keep up with extended family and friends that have moved away, but why not instead put effort into having regular or semi-regular reunions where you can joyously share everything that happened in between? Maybe then we can go back to pleasant surprises of how much one has grown rather than contentment-breeding familiarity that makes it easy for us to take for granted the revelations of time passing.
#4 — To listen to the soundtrack of the world
Shortly into my junior year of college, I deleted Spotify. I was so overwhelmed with my thoughts and processing input from others that the last thing I needed was more noise from music.
My action overlapped with the first days of fall weather: partly cloudy, 80 degrees, soft breeze. It felt nice, so I drove with the windows down and noticed an interesting shift of perspective within myself.
Instead of being wrapped up in my thoughts or music that fed dominanting emotions, I suddenly had a holistic sense of the larger world I am living in. Wind, passing cars, other people’s music bleeding through their car doors: a soundtrack hardly anyone listens to.
I felt outside of something everyone blindly and consistently buys into, like a stage director aware of the production going on backstage while the audience merely sees a carefully crafted story.
Chronic scrolling, like putting music on, fills our minds with digital distractions that keep thoughts of eternity away. Instead of having quiet to reflect, create, or explore rabbit trails, we lay around to take in whatever our thumb finds next.
We, like water, tend to take the path of least resistance. We do what is easy in avoidance of any thoughts or contexts that could cause tension or conflict.
In crafting this perfectly comfortable world, we miss out on potential self-awareness and bonds that come from making it through a hard conversation with someone else or ourselves.
#3 — To use more of my time productively
In taking the path of least resistance, we (as Neil Postman tragically put it) are amusing ourselves to death. Endless scrolling, clicking, and watching is shortening our attention spans, hindering our literacy, and stirring up restlessness.
I am probably all too aware of life’s brevity, how we are not promised another day, so I am self-driven to make the most of the time I have. Therefore, in falling prey to common social media habits, I quickly grew sick and tired of how much time I was wasting.
My engagement with social media did not mark anything off my to-do list and thus caused unnecessary guilt and a worsened mental state.
Running social media platforms is also not in line with my skill set or passions. While I can post consistently, creating an Instagram profile aesthetic or converting analytics into a plan of action simply does not click in my mind.
To effectively use social media in a way that would reap desired results would require me to devote significant time to working out campaigns, an investment I do not find worth it (see point #1).
Mindless social media activity also infects the time we are not online with hurry sickness. Like Disney’s Cars poignantly illustrates, we are constantly rushing from one point to the next to make good time instead of having a good time.
There is so much beauty—in thought, in our surroundings, in those around us—that we miss out on because our head is down in our phones, up in our music, or tied in a straight line to our next destination.
#2 — To fill my mind with good things
My biggest objection to social media has to be its hindrance to organic thinking. Instead of creating thoughts, our minds center themselves around whatever we find in our feed, which a lot of times can lead to negative thought lines.
Whether you end up comparing yourself to others or feeling rejected because of all the things you realize you weren’t invited to join, social media more often than not wraps our thoughts up in inaccurate pictures of how the world really is.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”-Philippians 4:8
As much as I want to keep up with those I know, my time on social media led me to discover that being present on platforms is not the most effective means. I want to grow in the knowledge of how God sees me and how I should in turn think of others, not how many ways those carefully posed for the camera seem better than me.
But not even just what your friends are doing. While you used to have to search out objectionable content, now it comes and finds you even if you’ve set up safeguards and filters. One little blip of an image is all it takes for a cascade of thoughts to follow.
Then there’s the point that all this filling our minds with people and places is keeping our thoughts from God. Should we at least fast in order to be able to better hear God’s voice? That is the real beauty of silence, anyway: quiet enough to be able to discern the Holy Spirit and focus on what’s essential.
#1 — To connect, I have to downsize
In learning about myself, I have come to find that I thrive by picking one point and going deep rather than spreading myself wide and thin. This correlated with my realization that social media management is not one of my strong suits and led me to ask big picture questions:
What do I ultimately want out of social media? Why am I on this platform? What is the point/goal/endgame? When would I be satisfied?
My answer was to acquire a large following but proceeding to think that through led me to realize that I didn’t actually want that. Fame and popularity are not all they’re made out to be.
I do not want the pressure of 1.2 million people expecting the same quality of content every time I post. I want to be able to actually live my life and go with the ebb and flow as seasons change.
If the goal is to revolutionize the world with our perspective, we must realize that that coming about by one person is a rarity. If anything, it’s often the death of an individual that inspires the masses.
You will change the world through the ripple effect of being a good friend to those closest to you.
All this led me to realize that, for me, social media is an endless game with no direction that I have no desire to devote the time to figure out. Sure, my blog and YouTube channel may not get as much traffic but, again, let’s think that through: my pinnacle of aspiration is not to be a major influencer but a stay-at-home mom who can devote the entirety of her being to benefit of her children.
Maybe how you are made up allows you to balance more than me. Regardless, I challenge you to consider who you are as an individual, what you want out of life, and how social media is helping or hindering you from getting there. Whatever you find, adjust accordingly.
The more time passed, the stronger the desires I have expressed in these six points grew until actions finally began to follow: I deleted Facebook, Snapchat, all of my games, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. The synopsis of my phone is one screen of apps with no folders.
I have an idealistic dream to remove the internet from my life altogether, but that is not realistic at all. As much as I would love to live the way they did in Jane Austen’s time or 1953, the truth is that society needs electronics to run at the height we do.
To those still on social media
While unplugging is the route that has proven best for me, many others do not feel led the same way, and that is wonderful. We are all different (praise the Lord!) so what is an area of struggle for me might be another’s strength.
Social media is an excellent tool and it is here to stay, so—to those empowered with the desire and skillset—why not use it?
Our purpose is to be rooted in reflecting the glory of God to the world, a role that pours into our creation and consumption. The Christian is called to be versed and skilled in the ways of this planet we are ambassadors of heaven in for the purpose of furthering that kingdom.
Our time on earth is short, so let’s use every means available to us to point this world back to our Creator.
Still, social media platforms—just like anything else—can be used for good or evil, so a few recommendations…
- Set boundaries: use social media as a tool, not mindless amusement that feeds your insecurities. “Put up boundaries on your time, your integrity, and your responsibility,” Erika Rachelle Anderson suggests. “We could all benefit from more time being present in our neighborhood, our families, and around the dinner table.”
- Have a clear mission: cultivate the goodness, the silver linings, the hard but good truth predominantly lost in the chaos of our world today. Don’t lose yourself in the myriads of voices but maintain a clear focus on your purpose.
Be open, honest, real. Make thoughtful posts that edify other believers, point the lost to Christ, and glorify our Father in heaven. There is someone who will only hear the truth if it comes from you.
When done right, social media can be a powerful tool to influence those around the world. May Christ be magnified from the alters of our lives.
For further reading…
- 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke
- Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
- The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer
- The Cyber Effect by Mary Aiken