I Took a Social Media Sabbatical and This is What I Learned

Monday, May 6, 2019

People on devices on bus

Fourteen months ago I deleted all my facebook friends and took a social media sabbatical. I wanted to take a break from facebook, but I didn’t want to lose messenger, so I unfriended everyone and deactivated the app on my phone. I also stopped updating other social media profiles for most of those 14 months. Here is what that year (and a bit) taught me about myself, life, and God.

1. I don’t have to share everything with the whole frigg’n world.

Each time my kids made me laugh or my husband said something quotable, my gut instinct was to share it on social media. But after a week or two, that compulsion passed. I became able to enjoy the moment between us without inviting the world into our home and lives.

2. I don’t need to take so many pictures.

During my social media sabbatical I took pictures for me and to pass on to my family, not to post on the internet. My expectations changed. I started looking for different things in a photograph. I wanted to capture the moment, this stage of life, instead of projecting a certain image.

3. I have to be intentional about my friendships.

I am in a stage of life where I seek quality over quantity in my relationships. Facebook gave me an illusion of emotional intimacy in my friendships that wasn’t really there. During my facebook break I had to reach out to friends and plan coffee dates where we shared our hurts and hopes, our vulnerabilities and triumphs. I even spoke with friends on the phone a few times. (I think I’d forgotten that my phone can do that.)

4. I am a pretty shitty friend.

It is so easy to get caught up in my own to-do list, my own trials and difficulties, that I forget to reach out and see how a friend is coping with life. Relying on social media to keep me up to date on the state of a friends heart is a counterfeit of real community. I want to be the friend who checks in, who asks how you are doing and wants a real answer. But too often, I’m not.

5. I don’t need to crowd source my life anymore.

Since leaving facebook I’ve become aware of how much I relied on my facebook friends for advice and input.  While there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, there is also something to be said for just figuring out the next right thing and doing it.

6. There is more peace in praying and writing than in complaining.

A wise friend of mine likes to say “Have you prayed about it more than you talk about it?”  Since leaving social media it has become clear to me how often I went straight to the internet to complain about things.  Instead, I’m now forced to take those concerns to God. Or to a journal. If I must complain about the raw deal life is currently handing me (because sometimes there is therapeutic value in a good rant), I do so in the safety and accountability of an appropriate relationship instead of in a newsfeed.

7. How to interact in public. Sort of.

When waiting in a doctor’s office or at a bus stop it was my habit to disappear into the land of facebook.  Without social media I was forced to have awkward conversations with the people around me, or at least to see them and smile before retreating into another level of Candy Crush.

8. Social media was not to blame for my lack of productivity.

There were times during my social media break that I was super productive. There were also times where I frittered away my day. Social media was never the source of my procrastination and unproductivity, without social media I just found new ways to procrastinate and avoid.

Pros and cons

Were there drawbacks to abandoning social media? Yes, a few. I sometimes felt out of the loop in some of my social circles. I was the last one to learn of world events. (But is this really a drawback? How much news is healthy? The jury is still out on that.)

The Benefits were huge. I was way more in-tune with what I’m feeling and why.  I didn’t have a million tiny interactions a day sending my emotions and self-esteem on a roller coaster ride of external validation and empty comparisons. I was more present in my life. My social media sabbatical was the break I needed to learn to live more authentically in the real world.

The real question now is can I remember these things as I re-enter the world of social media? That is yet to be seen.

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