July 20th isn’t just the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing (although that is a very momentous occasion!). For me, it also marks the end of a self-imposed, month-long break from social media.
Now, I say this with a caveat: I did get on Twitter a week or so ago when Tropical Storm/Hurricane Barry advanced on my state. Why? Because I needed some very helpful and important information from our local meteorologists. I also hopped onto Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share the links for my latest blog posts. But once I’d done that, I always hopped back off immediately. I didn’t want to wobble away from my resolve to avoid all the shiny, distracting posts and threads.
When I decided to set this challenge for myself back in June, I was exhausted. Between getting rid of both my Pinterest and Tumblr accounts for both personal and moral reasons, and then realizing that I had almost been taken in by an insidious, politically-driven agenda currently attacking the Church, I was done. I needed mental space. I needed to pray and read and think, and I needed the freedom to stick my phone somewhere and then (oh, blessed possibility!) forget where I’d put it.
A month later, I’ve learned a lot about myself and accomplished a great deal! I feel lighter, my brain isn’t frayed or scrambled– and yes, more than once I forgot where my phone was.
Here are a few of the things I’ve discovered about myself and my social media habits:
- I missed Instagram the most, which surprised me at first because I never spent too much time there in the first place. But Instagram is where most of my real-life family and friends share their latest adventures and family photos. Whenever my mom or sisters would ask me something along the lines of, “Oh my goodness, did you see that adorable picture of So-and-So,” I felt like I was missing out on a very real part of our community’s life. Instagram, therefore, has greater value for me than I ever realized.
- I did not miss Facebook at all.
- Much to my surprise, I didn’t miss Twitter much, either–probably because much of my frustration actually stemmed from Twitter. I DID miss my writer friends (Nichole, Shay, Schuyler, and Evie, I’ve missed talking to you!!), and thankfully I was able to chat with a few of them through texting/blogging. But it was so nice being able to avoid the vicious snark between opposing political/theological camps, or the melodramatics of this or that fan faction/denomination/writing preference/etc.
- I DID miss Twitter when I needed emergency information, which reinforced my growing suspicion that when I got back to Twitter, I’d start thinking of it more as a tool than a fun website.
- I accomplished great things without my phone to distract me! I only have nine chapters left of Lionhearted, I successfully outlined the entirety of my next novel and started the first chapter, I finished reading three books, and started G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man.
So, where do I go from here? Now that my month of fasting is over, how do I prevent the burn-out I experienced back in June?
- I’m still limiting my time on social media. Now that I’ve learned to live well and happily without it, hopefully it’ll be easy to stick to my new time restrictions.
- I’m not putting the Twitter app back on my phone; that would be too tempting (in a way that Instagram, surprisingly, is not)! If I need to get emergency information, I’ll just pull up my local news station’s account on Safari.
- I’ve unfollowed and unliked a boatload of stuff. If an account sets my teeth on edge, it goes out the window. I don’t care if it’s political, Christianese, fan-based, or writing-themed. If it’s making me angry or anxious, I’m sayin’ “hasta la vista, baby.”
- NOTE: this doesn’t mean I’m opposed to challenging viewpoints! However, most of the controversies and confrontations on the internet aren’t healthy, let alone respectfully handled, and therefore they are detrimental to my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Also: if I’ve thoroughly researched and decided on a course of action (such as a publishing method or my personal writing style) and I’m following one account that belittles that course of action, I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.
- When I do post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, I’m going to try to be very deliberate about what I post. I noticed the first couple of weeks without Twitter, I’d often have something pop into my head that I found rather clever, and then think, “I should post that on Twitter!” Basically, I was so enamored of my own perceived cleverness, I wanted to share it with the world. Don’t worry, I’m quite aware of how disgusting that sounds! Wouldn’t it be so much better for everyone if I only shared things that would edify and encourage my audience? That doesn’t mean I post only serious things, of course–but it does mean I think before I click “send tweet,” and that I share things that’ll help others prosper…even if that just means they get a good, healthy laugh.
In conclusion, I strongly encourage my readers to take a break from social media at some point. I’ve been able to step back and evaluate so many things in my own life–my attitudes, beliefs, and habits–without the constant chattering of the internet in the back of my mind. Even if you only take a week’s hiatus, I have no doubt it would make a difference.
And who knows? You might find your creativity goes through the roof!