For about a month, I stopped using Facebook and Instagram. You can read about why I did this here, but I wanted to share some on what I learned and how I plan to use these two social media sites more healthily from now on.
First, though I figured it would be this way, it is humbling to admit that staying off social media was actually really hard. I was so used to it being a part of my day. Whenever I was bored or needed a little escape from the semi-chaos life can sometimes become, I'd do some quick scrolling (sometimes stealthy scrolling, depending on where my two-year-old was) through my feeds and that would make me feel better. Or I thought it did. But, as it turns out, social media is a pretty inadequate source for validation and joy.
But as time went on, and I realized I had more time to spare, life became more peaceful and my mind wasn't so abuzz. I had time to do things that have been on my to-do list for quite some time. Things I thought I didn't ever have time for. My brain had room to breathe without the loads of information and opinions and products that constantly call to you through these sites. I had been struggling with feeling close to God, but with this new quietness I realized that God was there all along. His voice was there all along whispering to me. I was just too distracted to hear it.
I also learned that life is at lot harder when you are actively dealing with your junk than trying to hide from it by losing yourself in pretty photos and likes and comments and followers and status updates. So I had several discouraging days through this time where I really had to fight to trust where my hope and worth truly comes from. But on the plus side, when you have significantly less to compare yourself to, this becomes a little bit easier.
I don't believe being active on social media is wrong. I think there are many ways these sites can be used for good things- building community, finding support and camaraderie with others in a similar life stage, appreciating the beauty others are finding in their own lives and sharing your own. But with many good things comes the temptation to make them the number one things in life. When these good things become all you think about, and when they become the standard through which everything else in your life filters, then there is a problem. For me, acceptance through social media became a false god in my life. For you, it may be something else. But I truly believe that whenever we are looking to be filled by something other than the grace and love that God offers us through Jesus, we will never be truly satisfied.
When we put Him first, it becomes not an end-of-the-world thing if something we strive for fails or if we don't get the acceptance or recognition we are seeking from someone or someplace else. Instagram can be what it was always meant to be and nothing more- just a good thing to use to share and express ourselves and to keep a record of this life we live. When God is the only one we worship, everything else falls into it's proper place.
And so some questions to ask ourselves are these: Where are we putting our hope? What is constantly occupying our thoughts? Is there anything in our lives we cling to so much that if we lost it we believe life would be ruined?
I was offering a little bit too much of myself to social media; to go a little deeper, I was offering a bit too much of myself to gain acceptance and value through social media. If you feel like you struggle with this, too, I have a few thoughts/resources that might be helpful in using it in a healthier way:
- Keep your heart in check- I know I need to be constantly evaluating my motives and desires when I use social media, especially Instagram. And I'll be honest, I really love Instagram. If I find that I'm constantly checking my likes and followers, then that's usually a sign that I need to refocus on what's important. Also, I know that I need to feel the freedom to be myself, regardless of whether that self will get more followers. More follows would be great, but I don't want that to be my sole reason for posting something. I want to be myself, trust God and if the followers come, they come. If not, that's ok, too.
- I decided to remove all notifications for Facebook and Instagram on my phone. My plan is to get to the point where I only check these sites at a certain time in the day and leave them alone the rest of the time. I'll admit, I haven't been perfect at this, but I'm working on it. And not getting notifications about everything all the time definitely helps.
- I also think it would be helpful to not spend so much time scrolling, but I'm still working on how much time is ok.
- Post about the life you are living, don't live to post.
- Come up with a vision for why you use social media. I think when we have a purpose, our actions will be more intentional. For me, I want to be able to record what's important and lovely and true in this season of life as a mom with little ones. I want to take beautiful photos, and I want to write engaging posts, but I also want to be authentic. I want people to see that I'm a real human being, too. So every time I post, I keep this in mind. I want to mix the beauty in with the chaos.
- These two blog posts were helpful as well, 15 Questions to Help Christians Follow Jesus on Social Media and Instagram Heart Check.
- A lot of what I wrote about false gods and putting good things in the best thing spot in your life came from the book Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller. I know I've mentioned this book before, but I really learned so much and gained much needed perspective. I highly recommend it for anyone.
I hope you find this post encouraging. If you have any other insights, questions or thoughts, please share in the comment section! I would love to hear from you!
**P.s.- The lock screen on my phone is from the She Reads Truth app, which actually has a pretty uplifting Instagram account.