I’ve been off social media for the last twelve weeks. Give or take. I don’t know exactly how long it’s been because I’m no longer paying that much attention to it. But in those early weeks, I could have told you down to the day. This was not because I was coming off a social media addiction; it’s just that it was so extremely weird to not have it. The apps were off my phone, and I’d find myself stuck in a doctor’s office, or waiting in a long line, or experiencing some other unscheduled moment of boredom, and my hand would immediately go to my phone to start to scroll. And then I’d remember that there was nothing to see. My phone had reverted to that early state when it just existed so I could give someone a call or send a text.
I had thought about deleting my social media accounts, and then something kicked me over the edge. The things that had held me back from doing it before became the lies that tempted me to figure out the best way to get back on. But with time, I have found that the lies don’t sound so true, and that there is quite a lot of freedom with its absence.
But I’m not here to make you feel guilty over time being wasted on social media. Why? Because you already know it’s a time suck. Nor am I going to tell you that it’s bad for your mental health, because you already know that when you get on it, you compare yourself to others, and 9 times out of 10, end up feeling lousy. (In fact, do we ever feel better? Have you ever gotten on and thought, “Man, I am just so much smarter, thinner, successful, or creative than all these other sad people”? No. We get on and compare someone’s highlight reel with our worst moments.) I don’t need to tell you any of that because you are smart, and you already got that memo.
So why write about it? Because it’s worth debunking some lies so you can make an informed decision about how much (if any) is too much social media for you. You are in charge of the real estate in your mind, and maybe you are sick of some of the squatters there who make you feel less than.
Lie #1: You’ll become irrelevant and out of touch.
This was a big one for me because social media has been one of the ways I see what is hot and happening in the ministry world, which cute clothes are catching my eye, and what other speakers and writers are saying. Often, what I found was helpful and got my creative juices going. But more often, what I saw made me feel inadequate. And do we actually need more cool graphics, another pretty reel set to nice music, curated pictures with pithy quotes? Or do we need to get our faces out of our phones and into actual interactions with real people who need to see our whole bodies? By that I mean that we are all Zoom weary. Our brains are searching for the rest of people’s selves after just watching their heads on a Brady Bunch-like screen all day. We need embodiment. We need face-to-face relationships more than we need slick and filtered.
As far as staying up to date on what thought leaders are saying, I have chosen certain ones who I greatly esteem, and I am going deeper into what they are writing and speaking about. One of those thought leaders that I love is Tsh Oxenreider. Something she wrote recently has really stayed with me. It’s how she describes her mission: to help people live true, good, and beautiful lives offline. She points out that the question is how to fulfill this mission online, because that is where much of her work is done. I like how she wrestles and I am learning more from her longform writing than I have from anyone’s tweets and captions.
Lie #2: It’ll limit your ability to evangelize.
Saint John Paul II encouraged us to “Look to the future with commitment to a New Evangelization, one that is new in its ardor, new in its methods, and new in its expression.” So how could we possibly ignore such a powerful way of communicating? And I must admit, I have had some amazing DM conversations with women from all over the world. And I have treasured those connections deeply. I miss them.
But when I stop and think about it, it’s most often in the context of close personal relationships that I’ve been able to have the kinds of conversations that open spiritual doors. And those conversations only ever happen after hours upon hours have been invested in a friendship that goes below the surface. They occur after I’ve been able to rejoice and mourn with the friend, loving him or her just because they are precious humans, full of dignity. When the conversation about deeper things unfolds in that context, it’s natural. It’s also messy—I can’t end the conversation by popping in an emoji and saying, “Got to go make dinner.” But it’s real. And I am hungry for that kind of relationship. The truth is it doesn’t feel like evangelization. It just feels like loving someone well.
Lie #3: Everyone will forget you.
This is kind of a funny one, because even having that thought—even entertaining that lie—means I am elevating my importance in other people’s lives (in acquaintance’s lives) rather too much. Because of course they are going to forget about me a bit when I am not a part of their day-to-day lives, and if they were thinking about me all the time, that would be weird.
Related to this lie was the worry that I would lose touch with my friends. But then Proverbs 18:24 has come to mind, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Having too many companions can be a lot to manage. But a smaller group of people that I actually engage with in a deeper way—now that is satisfying.
I started texting friends more when I was thinking of them, instead of settling for a false sense of connection because they saw a photo of my family on vacation and gave it a like. This has led to some of those friends seeing if we could organize a small high school reunion in order to get together soon.
Without question, there is a lot of fun and good that can happen on social media platforms. For some of us, a little of it is like pumpkin spice in your latte. It’s a little treat during the day. But for others, it sucks the joy out of life. Recognizing how it affects you is a good starting point. And for those of you who decide to kick it to the curb, there’s probably someone across the street in a coffee shop who is up for a face-to-face chat.