In November, I deactivated my Facebook and forgot my Instagram password. I knew these websites were changing me, but I really had no idea how much. Here are some ways I was surprised by what I've learned!
1) Eight months later, I'm quite literally still recovering from my Facebook addiction.
I have a fake Facebook account with zero friends---and an empty newsfeed---so that I can post on my blog page, and for some reason I still check it frequently. Even eight months after quitting, it's such a reflex to go on Safari, type in "fa", and click on the first suggested link. Sometimes I'll sneak onto my husband's Facebook and do as much clicking and scrolling as I can. It's terrifying, really, how lingering the effects of unbridled social media addiction can be.
2) Real healing for my mental health issues didn't start until I quit social media.
I hope to go more into detail later about my journey, but know this: it was really really bad, and over the last eight months it has gotten significantly better. I've gotten off the rollercoaster of emotions and found stability. I'm not going to say quitting social media was a savior for me. It was God who got me out of the pit. But there have been a LOT of factors contributing to my vastly-improved mental health since November: getting counseling from one of my pastors, deepening some friendships, simplifying my life, exercise, prayer, opening up to a close friend and confessing my sin to her...but I honestly don't know how many of those things I would've pursued if I was still distracted by Facebook. Instead of escaping from my issues by scrolling, comparing myself to others, or trying to display a certain identity, I just had to be brave and focus. I can't believe how much emotional healing has happened this year.
3) I can see the sadness and emptiness of the scrolling in others.
One of the reasons I quit was because I was at the car wash and overheard a news report that Americans are spending more time on social media than ever, but it's also become less enjoyable than ever. Sure 'nuff, every time I see three people on a bench all scrolling on their phones, they're not smiling. Their posture is slumped, they look bored, they look dissatisfied, they look like they've lost themselves. I hope our culture gets out of this mess soon.
4) I'm learning to be a friend, not a spectator.
Having no idea what's going on with my friends and acquaintances makes for better and deeper conversation. If I'm waiting to hear news from a friend, I'm going to have to ask her personally instead of waiting to see her public post about it. Chances are hefty that asking personally will provide more depth and relationship. I'm a participant, not an audience. It's really awkward to say, "I saw on Facebook you went on vacation last week!" "Yeah, it was fun!" "The pictures looked cool. I've always wanted to visit Colorado." And then the crickets chirp. But asking, "Hey, how've you been?" is probably going to cut the small talk and get into richer and more meaningful conversation.
5) Being disconnected from political tension is so incredibly amazing.
I quit social media in November 2016, which is the very best month I could've possibly quit, because obviously the political divisiveness of our country increased by at least a billion percent when President Trump was elected. But get off the internet, and you know what? You don't feel like you're in the Civil War anymore. In real life, people are still living their lives. I subscribe to The Atlantic and I'll read political blogs from The Gospel Coalition or the ERLC, so I'm still an informed citizen from multiple different perspectives, but my eyes are not inundated with hateful memes or whiny videos. I hate most things our president says and does, and I'm not a fan of what the right or the left are up to either. It's yucky time for America. But I'm convinced that loving my neighbor is a far better solution than stirring pots of controversy online and burning bridges.
6) It's easier to love people when I'm not so jealous of their lives...or when I'm not trying to make them jealous of mine.
Comparison is a trap, we all know this. I struggle with both sides of the spectrum: comparison feeds my insecurity and it feeds my pride. If I'm feeling discouraged about myself, I'll snack on thoughts such as "At least I'm a better mom than her..." or "The only reason she is so skinny is because she abandoned her more important priorities." And the reason I get so insecure in the first place is because I'm having thoughts like "She has more responsibilities than you and actually gets it all done. Your best isn't good enough, yo." Or "Her husband made a scavenger hunt for their anniversary...let's spend some time meditating on all the ways Peter is the least thoughtful man in the universe." None of those thoughts are helpful. Spending actual time with other women doesn't feed comparison nearly as much.
7) I've had to own up to my desire for attention.
I quickly realized I don't take as many pictures anymore. That's a bummer for posterity's sake, but it's also exposed a lot about my heart. If the world isn't going to see something, what's the point of even taking a picture or experiencing it? Tony Reinke wrote a fascinating article about how Instagram is shaping our vacations and our budgets: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/instagram-generation. Evaluating these things has made me really face the facts: I crave attention from others. Stepping out of the spotlight has helped me genuinely find contentment in being known by God. I'm no longer crafting a cute post in my mind; I'm just enjoying experiences as they come. It's incredible, folks.
8) I can quit something, but unless I fill it with something better, I'll just find a new addiction.
I learned this in seventh grade when I spent many hours each day on Neopets. I eventually realized this was controlling me, so I broke some proselytization rules on the message boards (it's okay, you can laugh at me) and I got my accounts frozen on purpose. But you know what? In no time at all I found alternatives to Neopets and just spent hours each day on those games.
Forsaking something isn't enough. You've got to fill those gaps in your heart with something better. Leaving Facebook and instagram still left me with this desire to be entertained when I start to feel bored, and YouTube greatly meets that need. I still need a huge heart change, but thankfully Jesus is an endless and welcoming source of joy.
So those are some observations. I would love to hear your feedback!
Here's the article I wrote as I quit social media: http://www.recoveringwomanhood.com/blog/9-ways-social-media-is-hurting-me
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My name is Hope.
I'm 26, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 6, 4, 3, and squishy-baby. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today