It’s been nearly a full week since I deleted my Facebook account. My thoughts so far? Why didn’t I do this before?!?
I made my decision to exit social media circles carefully. I first joined Facebook when I turned 15, and have slowly become more and more dependent on it and other social media outlets since then. Facebook, Instagram, and in a lesser way, Snapchat have caused too much damage in my mind and heart for me to justify continued use.
Not for me
Let me be clear: I do not believe they are evil creations! It is simply that I am not meant for social arenas.
The Apostle Paul tells us that all things may be lawful, but they may not be helpful; he urges us to do all things in moderation, and herein is where I think the evil in social media might be found: the temptation to addiction. I don’t presume to tell you that social media is good or bad for you. But I do want to challenge you to ask that question for yourself. Are you able to use it in moderation? It is certainly lawful, but is it helpful for you?
Like many others, I am a person with intense convictions, feelings, hopes, dreams, desires, sorrows, and fears. When I see beauty I experience joy, and when I see ugliness I feel sadness, anger, and if not treated carefully, that sadness and anger can begin to cross into the murky waters of depression and hatred. In the early Facebook days there was much more to enjoy on Facebook, and it was much more personal. These days most of my newsfeed isn’t even posts from my friends. Usually it’s posts from my friends of friends, from ads, and from viral strings (which are usually filled with hateful interactions between people who don’t even know each other!)
I have found that being addicted to scrolling social medias is not just a mindless thing. It’s very mindFUL. I see hateful social justice posts regarding racism, sexism, classism, religion, or politics, and my head seethes with frustration at the world I live in. From the ignorance and folly, to the intentional hatred and violence, I find that the personality and heart that God built into me can’t handle such a constant diet of that well. Some people can! And I am grateful for their ability to present goodness in that world. But it’s not me. I’m not called to that. A diet of such negativity has brought more and more worry to my heart, and less and less joy.
How did I get here to this choice? I did not want to make a rash decision to leave social media circles, just to re-enter them a week later, so I have spent months in prayer, bringing my symptoms of depression, frustration, and cynicism to Him and asking Him to show me the true source. I felt sure the root was in social media, but I didn’t want to rule out other possibilities, which is why I took my time. I found my answer one morning when I felt the Spirit calling me to come be with Him. I opened my bible unintentionally to Psalm 37; as I read through it I found each next verse convicting me more deeply that I had to give up this addiction of social media completely in order to restore the joy in life and the control over my daily habits.
“Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in Yahweh, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness” (vs. 1-2).
There are a couple of things in this Psalm that addressed so poignantly the decision I was facing, and the effect that social media was having on my life:
First, I find that whether I’m dealing with stupid drivers on the road, or observing hatred via social media viral strings, I get angry. I see ignorance, stupidity, folly, and evil and I feel worried, anxious, joyless, and sometimes even hatred. The very first verse in Psalm 37 says: “Fret not yourself because of evildoers.”
And second, I find that the complicated busyness of life, feeling spread thin from being aware of hundreds of people’s lives via social media, and having an appalling amount of useless information running around in my head makes me feel worn out emotionally all the time. The second verse in Psalm 37 spoke to me of the beauty of a simple and quiet life, saying: “Trust in Yahweh, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.”
From negative to positive
After reading that Psalm I made the final decision to go cold turkey on the addiction that social media had become, and immediately felt such abounding peace in my heart. Peace and joy like I haven’t felt in a long time. I deleted (not just deactivated) my social media accounts, and discovered more wholesome and thoughtful ways of communicating with friends and family, by way of iCloud Photo Sharing, and Blogging.
So why do I ask “Why didn’t I do this before?”
It’s been a week filled with so much beauty, creativity, and positivity. Something I’ve learned to value highly through the ups and downs of life is to surround yourself with positivity. Or, as my favorite band Switchfoot puts it:
“Is this the world you want? Is this the world you want? You’re making it, every day you’re alive. You start to look like what you believe… What you say is your religion; How you say it’s your religion; Who you love is your religion; How you love is your religion; All your science, your religion; All your hatred, your religion; All your wars are your religion; Every breath is your religion, yea! Is this the world you want? Is this the world you want? You’re making it, every day you’re alive.”
For years I surrounded myself with the voices of negativity and with the feelings of failure and worthlessness that comes with addiction to screens and social media. It marred how I lived, how I loved, how I spoke, how I thought, even how I felt. When I removed myself from the chronic negativity spawned by so many of the voices on social media, I found that I no longer had a confusing veil of shadow keeping me from appreciating the good things in life. Exiting social media tore down that veil; it was as though I saw real sunshine for the first time in years.
Time to spare
Without having my time eaten up by the pointless pursuits of the internet, I’ve found that my days are far longer, with far more potential. Instead of putting off every errand, chore, or project till the last possible moment, it’s been myriads of happy busyness. The week began with some thoughts in my mind of a project of redoing our guest room. Up until now it’s been a workout/study/guest room containing a loft bed for the occasional guest; underneath it, a desk and a dresser of drawers for workspace and storage; and a workout tower for my husband. My goal was to transform it into a real guest room, suitable for putting real guests up in, while keeping some room available for my husband’s workspace. I did some cleaning, organizing, and preparatory errands during this week, utilizing all my coupons and rewards points to obtain what I needed to put together a good-looking, color coordinated guest room and bathroom. It was a week-long project with hard work, but the final result is just beautiful.
My husband saw a new side of me today. I was geeking out over the excitement of being able to decorate beautifully, and take a messy unkempt place where we didn’t like to be, and turn it into a soothing, warm, and comfy room. What I love about the day we had today, was that instead of quite literally wasting a day of our lives by instead living the lives of the characters on TV, was that we created. We worked, we sweated, and we created. We lived today to the fullest, by being and doing exactly what God created us to do: to be like Him! Our work today was a story of His work – taking something unlovely and useless, and redeeming it through His own hard work into something beautiful and worthy! Joy comes in many ways, but in my life, joy comes most in the creation of something beautiful. A little excursion to Bibles for China Thrift Store with a ton of loft bed hardware bungee corded down and sticking halfway out of my trunk turned into a fun and sunny adventure with my husband, enjoying the open windows, the fresh cool air, and the blue skies. (And a new all time low, driving down the road to the dumpster holding an old ratty twin mattress to the top of my car with our arms extended up out of the windows… but we don’t talk about that.)
So a week in and here’s what I’m thankful for: I’m thankful for more time to do fulfilling work and errands; I’m thankful for more time to relate to friends on a deeper level than a “like” on a post; I’m thankful for time to read books, and do constructive crafts; I’m thankful for time to THINK: I’ve had a lot of thoughts and ideas and arguments brewing in my mind, and I’ve enjoyed the quiet luxury of focused thought. I’m thankful for beauty from ashes.
And now I’m excited to go to the house of the Lord in the morning and worship with the beautiful community that Jesus has been so kindly building around us.
Grace Pitman blogs at ThePitmanCorner.com where a version of this article first appeared.