I remember writing and vlogging to you about how I was going to take that giant step away from social media, specifically Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This is the blog I've been wanting to write to you all this time to let you know what it's like on the other side. There have been times when I have felt pressured to come back to social media, and other times where I myself have considered good reasons to return. So here it is, finally, this blog. We need to talk.
Why I Left
Although this decision may have appeared as an impulsive one, it was actually a long time in the making. I first started posting on Facebook during my college years, around 11 years ago! Walking away from Facebook was practically like ending a long term relationship. Facebook became part of my life. It was around even before I was married and had my two children. Every day I checked it, and shared on it. I felt a connection to a community even if it was online. It was so easy and fun to be able to see how the people in my past are doing at present. It was exciting to see what others were saying or the pictures and videos they showed of their life. It was a fun hobby, that with time and little thought had the potential of turning into a distraction in more than one way.
A decade later, my life looked a lot differently and my casual social media usage seemed to increase in time and frequency. During moments when I was watching tv or doing something else, my fingers automatically knew where to press and do a quick check of all of my social media accounts, and I didn't like the direction it was heading. It was so easy to resort to social media in moments of boredom or stress, since it was right at the tips of my fingers at any moment. I tried setting a rule to only look at social media on a computer at designated times, but because I shared my content on my Instagram, it was necessary to have it on my phone. I realized that it's possible to reach a point where sheer will is not enough to break strong habits produced over many years. This is why I decided the best thing for me would be to forget about social media altogether. I would have to not have active accounts in order to break this constant habit that wasn't adding value to my life, but was now taking away much needed time from this stay at home, homeschooling mom.
Social Media Withdrawal
With no Facebook, Instagram or Twitter apps on my phone, my phone became pretty boring. My hands would reach for my phone and now I found myself checking other apps that took less time and weren't as exciting. I decided to start reading in place of the time I would have been on social media. After a while though, I began to spend more time on an app I had decided I would not walk away from as a YouTube content creator. You guessed it, my YouTube app. I began to explore YouTube more. It seemed to somewhat replace the other apps, or at least the feeling of seeing the next new thing that would pop up on my feed. I tried adding limits on my phone, but do you know how easy it is to press the "ignore limit for today" button?
Something else that made it difficult to forget about social media is how the people in my life asked me if I saw the latest post of someone. Some people I gather did not quite understand or approve of my decision, but what kept me from remaining firm in my decision were two things: I knew there was a problem that needed to be resolved and I was curious to experience life without social media. I felt like a fish swimming against the current as I considered how many people were on their social media while I was simply enjoying living in the moment in my own life. I liked the idea that social media was getting nothing from me: no time records of how long I watched a post, no advertisement purchases, and no feeling of a powerful company having something over me. Life without social media eventually reached the point where it was an easier discipline and I was finally free from that habit of checking those particular apps on a continuous basis. Of course there is still the YouTube app to figure out, but I've noticed it's not exactly the same situation, although it does have similarities.
Benefits From My Time Off Social Media
The first thing I'm personally proud about is the way it has impacted my children. There was a time when my kids themselves would tell me to take a picture and post it on social media, or when my kids would ask how many likes I had on a video. I knew they were learning these things from what they were watching the grown ups around them do, as well as how YouTube Kids pushes these ideas on kids as well to promote their own videos and channels. Although I like the educational videos that are available for kids online, they do impact the way a child understands the world they live in. I began to feel concerned that my kids were wrongly believing that the best thing in this life is to have many people watch you on social media and give you their accolades. The world seems like a popularity contest under this lens and I want my children to understand that there is more to this life than social media. After this time off of social media, we enjoy life together and take less pictures, which I either share with my family through text or I keep them in my phone for a later time to revisit. This took a little getting use to for me, in all honesty. I would remind myself that I didn't need to share this moment on social media. I could just enjoy it.
As already mentioned, the most effective change has been the ability to live throughout my day without my mind telling my fingers constantly to check those specific social media apps. With this absence, so to speak, I have been able to learn what other apps are a problem, like YouTube, and I have been proactively taking steps to improve in my discipline living with them. Let me just pause here for a quick second and say, I'm sure there are many people that can see they have similar tendencies and habits, and yet they are totally fine with them. I suppose I simply don't like leaving things the way they are when I discover there's a problem and a solution waiting to be discovered.
Lastly, I've learned a few things about social media and me specifically. If I am not careful, intentional, and disciplined, I can easily go back to the way things were. It doesn't help that each day these app companies are thinking of ways to keep you on them longer, and make them, well, let's face it, addicting. However understanding this about myself and these companies, motivates me to be actively thinking about this reality. What kept me from returning in these last months has been the awareness that there is a problem with social media that I don't want to return to. I have enjoyed the extra time to focus more on my family and the things I always wished I had more time to do, as well as face the stress in my life instead of avoiding it through distraction. This said, I have also come to understand that although I left social media because I didn't want to be a tool social media uses, I can instead find ways to make social media a tool for me. There are benefits in having an online community when used appropriately.
Steps Towards Reintroducing Social Media With Caution
First, realize that there are more important things and people than what's on your social media. The people in your life are more important even than what you get out of being on your social media, like the warm feelings you receive when you see how many people viewed and liked what you shared, etc. Your hobbies should never take away from your responsibilities in your real life. Your relationships with other people and with God need time and effort on your part. They are what truly matters in this life.
Second, remove the emotional aspect from your social media and see it as a tool. What do you want from it? What do you not want from it? Set rules and guidelines for yourself that will reflect your personal preferences regarding those two things. Remember, just because everyone else is doing it has never been a good reason to do something. The people that follow you or that you follow are not really the people you can go to for help or advice. These connections that we may feel we have are not real. Actually, you can do a lot of harm to your personal life if you bring your emotional baggage onto your social media. Keep them separate.
Third, understand that social media is a gray area in life that we need to think biblically about and not just do as the rest of the world does on them. Jesus told us to get rid of anything that would cause us to sin. If social media is a source that is causing us to sin, then be prepared to leave it for some time or altogether for good. We are not robots after all. We are vulnerable human beings that can be enticed by many things, and social media can be a platform that might present sinful temptations. Begin to pray to God for wisdom as you navigate through social media. He is faithful and will give us the wisdom and guidance we need.