(New Year’s resolutions were never something I was committed to in the past. However, I’m approaching 2018 differently. Over the last few weeks I’ve been sharing my goals and focus for the new year, along with thoughts and tidbits about how you might join me. You can read the introduction here, “Bible Reading in the New Year” here, “Rethinking Busy” here, and “Tools and Strategies for Using Time Well” here. Today’s piece is the first of a two-part series on using social media.)
I love social media. Love it. I enjoy looking at the pictures of my friends’ kids and all the beach trips every summer. I can celebrate when I see a friend who does something I can’t do well—like take the perfect picture of a sunset in a foggy Smoky Mountain sky.
I’m not usually tempted the way others may be when it comes to social media. I don’t compare or get jealous. I don’t feel like I need to represent my family as picture perfect. Although most of my pictures are of us smiling or enjoying life, I’d say it’s because we do enjoy life. But even though I don’t struggle with some of the typical pitfalls that many confess (comparison, falsehood, etc.), I do have to admit that I’m addicted, and that’s a problem.
As I’ve evaluated 2017 in hopes of making some changes for 2018, I’ve decided to focus on one annual goal in each of the following areas: spiritual, professional, technological, marriage, and family. And as I’ve moved into doing this, I’ve realized that making changes in the area of technology will affect every aspect of my life in a good way. As I previously wrote, I tend to fritter away a lot of my time with social media check-ins. I check to see what’s going on in Twitter, and the next thing I know I’m sucked in. I check in to see what’s happening on Facebook, and the next thing I know I’m watching silly videos. None of these things are bad or even sinful, but they quickly turn into wasted time, which turns into idleness, which sucks productivity and good work out of my day.
And that’s not all.
“Mom, I really feel uncomfortable when you look at the phone while driving.”
“Mom, Mom, Mom…never mind.”
Without knowing it, I’ve created a habit of using my phone as filler. What I mean is, while I’m waiting in line, if I’m at a stoplight, when I’m waiting on the kids to come out of school—whenever I’m sitting or standing still, I’m likely on my phone.
Why is this a problem?
If I’m constantly on my phone during quiet times, I tend to tune out what’s going on around me. If someone approaches me (even my kid) I don’t notice him or her at first. I no longer engage with those around me the way I used to. Simply being still and enjoying quietness has become increasingly difficult.
And increasingly, this habit has grown into a form of distraction. In the middle of reading a book, I’ll stop to check my phone. I do it during work times too. It even happened while I was writing this piece. My husband asked me a question, I answered, then I checked my phone before beginning to type again. My phone is always inches away from me. And increasingly, it seems, my phone is always calling to me.
Again, none of this is inherently sinful. But I am sinning as I fail to love my neighbor and work hard. I acknowledge that compulsively checking social media is not the best habit and can hinder my love for my neighbor, my work, and my ability to be fully where I am.
Why the Habit?
There are many theories floating out there about why we get so hooked on social media. My friend Tony Reinke cites convincing research that suggests we can’t handle silence because we desire “fake brittle popularity” and we are afraid of “God’s serious presence drawn close.” We have all seen evidence on social media of the desire for popularity—people posting fake adventures because it made them feel needed, wanted, attractive, and less like who they really are. And maybe there are some who, as Reinke shares, don’t want to face the reality of who they truly are before a holy God.
Maybe that’s you. Maybe you turn to your phone as a way of escaping yourself and God. Maybe you run to social media because you’re terrified of being alone. Maybe you feel desperate to be known and loved, and you’ve forgotten that if you know Jesus, you are already fully known and fully loved. If any of that is true for you, I’d encourage you to read Reinke’s article in full and seek help beyond these articles. There may be a need for true intervention and healing.
To be honest, though, I don’t believe that’s the case for me—or for many of the people I know. We are a part of communities where sharing ourselves is a habit. We meet with God regularly, and we aren’t afraid of the ugly that is in our hearts. We simply began checking in on social media apps to fill the silences in our lives. And slowly we developed the habit that now touches all areas of our lives.
Nothing devious, simply invasive.
Next Week: Breaking the Habit
If we pause to think about the reality of it all, it’s astounding just how much our phones have become centerpieces in our lives. These little devices rule us, keeping us focused on things that have little to no bearing on our lives and distracting us from our present. This isn’t true for all of us, of course, but it’s a problem for too many. I’ve come to believe it’s a problem for me, so my technology goal for next year is to get this habit under control.
As I did with my article on work and productivity, I will make this a two-part post. Next week I will share some tips and resources I’ve picked up as I am seeking to change some of my phone habits.
(p.s. One of the resources I’ll be sharing about is FREE right now so I didn’t want to wait to share about it. Get 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke for FREE through Christian Audio. The deal ends in the next few days.)