Some of you might be wondering “where have you been?!” Or thinking something along the lines of “how can you launch a new blog and then just leave us out to dry, sis?” There is a story behind that…
In a post from January, I talked about the dangers of human approval and how anything in our lives can become an idol if we are not careful. After writing that post, I began to reflect on how idol worship shows up in my life. Can you take a guess as to what that is? Hint: it’s the topic of this post. The idol in my life was social media. So, I fasted from all platforms for 14 days. I didn’t check for any notifications, look or respond to messages, and only did the occasional retweet on Twitter once every few days. I also took a break from blogging.
Ah….there is a serious love-hate relationship between myself and platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and especially Instagram. I often think of Instagram as being its own little cyber world. Have you ever logged out of Instagram and instantly felt disconnected? Once you log back on though, it literally sucks you in as you scroll through endless feeds, double-tap on posts, pause to take a closer look at the content, scroll again, and then repeat. The need to keep up becomes so addicting. And Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) kicks in.
It is even worse when you start comparing yourself to people you may know or strangers that you have never met. Instagram has changed a lot over the years algorithmically and also in how we share content. I can only speak for myself, but it became exhausting to feel as though my content didn’t seem to measure up to someone else’s.
Will my post be well-received? Is this photo good enough? How many likes or comments will this post get? What is her engagement compared to mine? These were actual thoughts that crossed my mind before and after I posted anything on my feed or in my stories. It was the source of my anxiety, so much that I realized I was using these platforms (Instagram, specifically) to validate my self-worth. Honestly, I was obsessed. Often, I could hear God’s still voice telling me to take a major step back every time I spent too much time scrolling through feeds or questioning my value. So, I finally decided to heed to that voice and start the month of February social-media free. It wasn’t easy, but I got through it by having quiet time with God, working on personal projects, or catching up with friends. Here is what I learned during those two weeks:
I need to be more present in my own life.
During my fast, I did not share anything via stories. I just wanted to live in the moment and be okay with that. We might enjoy connecting with people through photos and videos, but the real, the authentic connections happen in person. Those shallow likes or comments do not mean anything. Anyone can pretend to be whoever they want on platforms like Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, so we don’t always know who we are actually connecting with. While I was away for two weeks, I enjoyed spending intimate time with those closest to me. I wasn’t thinking about how they will receive me or how they could connect with me. Our interactions were always genuine and I felt at ease. I could be 100% my true myself. Speaking of which…..
If I am going to be on social media, I need to be more authentic.
Why? Because the online world is not real. Many people have said that, but I don’t think you can really believe this to be true until you willingly choose to step away and live your life off-line. I realized that not many of us are not willing to share the difficult moments that make us vulnerable. Instead, only the “highlights” are shown for our audience to see. But it paints an incomplete picture.
That photo you see of that perfect-looking marriage or courtship has its troubles. Those videos of that beautiful trip or new home might have come with financial challenges that we are unaware of. I do not want to be a stumbling block for others because I skew reality. My fast showed me that I have to be more real. This faith walk is not easy, and I need to share both the ups and downs of this journey.
I realized that people are self-centered.
This sounds harsh, but hear me out. Our attention spans are short. The minute you step away from social media, people are not thinking about you. People are not thinking about me. It’s not that human beings do not care, but we simply have many competing thoughts to consider. Sure there might be some folks who are genuinely concerned for my wellbeing when they notice my lack of online presence, but the vast majority will pay no mind. And that’s okay.
I could hear God’s voice a little louder since I wasn’t distracted.
Distractions make it very hard to hear God’s voice because so many things are competing for our attention. Since I wasn’t spending all this time scrolling through feeds, I dedicated my personal time to more devotionals and prayer. Every time, I caught myself slipping by tempting to log on, I prayed. He would encourage me during those times where I felt like I was allowing my fears, anxieties, and insecurities about building an online presence to get the best of me. He would remind me of my purpose and what is ultimately important. While studying the devotional called #BeWorthFollowing on the Bible app, I found reassurance in the verse from 1 Peter 5:6 that says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” It was a solid reminder to fix my eyes on bringing glory to the Lord through my gifts and talents, rather than wanting to reach as many as possible.
I realized that it was perfectly okay to name my weaknesses.
I met up for a coffee and work date with my friend Imani during my fast when she shared some great news with me. Though I was happy for her, I started feeling inadequate and insecure about myself. I immediately addressed this with her and we worked through those feelings. It was amazing that I could share them with her and feel okay about it. Now, imagine what that would be like in the social media world. What would happen if we chose to deal with those real feelings of doubt, insecurity, uncertainty, or even envy? Instead of becoming defensive, trying to compete with one another, or creating picture “perfect” worlds by hiding our flaws? We would probably find comfort in normalizing our feelings and breaking those chains that grip us on social media. There is so much personal strength gained by acknowledging our flaws and weaknesses.
…And I also realized that I needed to name my strengths more often.
I admit, at times I don’t realize how amazing I am. I can spend so much time thinking of ways to improve and take very little opportunity to celebrate my wins. It is okay to go a little easier on me. Taking my social media fast showed me that I have so much to offer as a discipline of Christ through the gifts He has blessed me with. It’s easy to believe that you are inadequate when it looks as though someone is doing better than you. But guess what? I challenge you to take a break from social media when you start feeling insecure or disconnected from your true identity and purpose. You’ll begin to see just how smart, beautiful, worthy, and gifted you are.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.” – Psalms 139:14