Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in Your ways. – Psalm 119:37
I was the final holdout in our family to get a smartphone. “I won’t be one of those people with a phone in front of my face all the time!” I insisted.
But then work demands required I maintain constant contact with clients, and I relented. The inevitable followed.
Texting. Web surfing. Social media.
In some ways, social media has been a very positive thing. I am able to keep in touch easily with long-distance family members and friends. I’m able to see how I can pray for people and can broadcast prayer requests when necessary.
I typically have checked in briefly throughout the day – a couple of minutes here, a few more there. I scroll past all the “Share if you love Jesus” memes, all the requests to copy and paste statuses in support of various causes, all the alarmist statuses about the evil things Facebook is supposedly up to, all the political arguments and all the animal pics, and I find my time slowly being nibbled away. Sometimes I even would do this as I was spending time with the people closest to me.
When our pastor called for a three-week fast, my husband and I decided social media would be chopped. (I’m picturing chef Scott Conant delivering the blow: “Many of your posts were tasteless and unnecessary. For this reason, we had to chop you.”) And then a wonderful thing happened: We didn’t miss it.
We didn’t miss rants. We didn’t miss arguments. We didn’t miss unnecessary drama. We didn’t even miss animal pics.
Admittedly, we did miss some of the people, but another wonderful thing was happening: We were making more face-to-face or voice-to-voice connections. (Did you know you can use your phone as – wait for it! – a phone?) We were hearing directly from those who are closest to us instead of catching wind of important events on the public grapevine.
And my husband noticed another benefit: “I’m not as frustrated as I used to be,” he shared one night. It was true. He used to find himself getting mired in petty political discourse among people he otherwise liked. (No wonder a recent study linked heavy use of social media with depression!) But he was sparing himself all that, and he liked those people more for it.
As the fast ended, we talked about staying off social media altogether but decided on a new approach of moderation. We each check in briefly once a day, share if we have something important to say, take note of what’s important and hightail it back to our regular lives. In other words, we control our intake of social media; we don’t let it control us.
If I see a status that indicates someone needs prayer, I may not comment so I can avoid multiple notifications, but I’ll pray. If I have that person’s contact info, I am likely to reach out privately. As for sharing, I’ll limit that to what I think is what is most edifying or meaningful.
We have gone through this transition in hopes we can maintain more authentic connections and make better use of our time. There is something to be said for blissful ignorance of the negativity and brazenness that often dominate social media. These are worthless things, things that promote discord, covetousness and hurt feelings.
Recently I heard a story about an elderly father who, in his dying breath, told his son, “Be there.” I’m not sure what that father meant, but for me, it means being engaged with those around me – something that’s difficult to do in our smartphone- and social media-obsessed culture. I hope to see you there.