(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. Last week’s piece—“Social Media: Analyzing the Habit”—was the first of a two-part series on using social media. Today, we finish up that two-part series as well as this entire series on resolutions. )
As I said last week, I love social media. I really do. But the hold it has had on me over the past year became quite obvious as I began evaluating my time. I have no plans to completely retreat from Twitter or Instagram or Facebook. I’m not making a grand exit or even halting some form of weekly engagement. I’m simply attempting to make social media less invasive of my everyday life and work.
So what am I doing?
First, I think it’s important not to add undue burden to my readers. Any suggestions I make and any way of living that I share are not meant to be laws for you. They aren’t meant to be laws for me! As I seek to make changes, my desire is to be more effective and, in some cases, to repent where I see I’ve sinned against my God. But with repentance come grace and life, not burden. And my way (unless it’s clearly in the Scriptures and therefore not really my way) should never be considered the way. With that, here are my thoughts.
And how am I doing?
To be frank, not great. I had a goal and, as with many New Year’s resolutions, I haven’t done a great job of implementing changes so far. I have a few really good excuses (ha-ha), but for the beginning of this year, I haven’t made this change as much of a priority as it will be in the coming days. Basically, what I’ve been doing is learning about the issues and deciding what to do. The last thing I want to do is feed you stuff I’m not doing! May that never be.
With that, let’s grow together! Here are some tips and resources I’m hoping to implement. (a few of these I’m already doing). I’d love to hear from you about what you’re doing!
- If you are tempted to check your phone often, turn off, silence, or move it by a certain time every night and do not check it after that.
- Do not check phone first thing in the morning. (Caveat: I know some of you use your phone app to read your Bible. I do not. Remember that these are tips and not laws.)
- Check phone only at certain times during the day.
- Limit checking phone during “working hours.”
- Schedule times each week for deep, undistracted work that would include no phone. Be unreachable for a period of time. (This might require communicating with your spouse, coworkers, or others who might desire to reach you.)
One additional strategy I plan to implement is taking longer social-media breaks—a week, a month, or even longer. I suspect this will be where the rubber meets the road for me—and maybe for you too! I think taking a long break will show just how much I’ve relied on my phone. I imagine it will reveal my heart: my motives, my fears, my insecurities. Or perhaps I’m giving my phone too much credit. Maybe a break will reveal nothing at all and will instead just be a nice relief.
As to when do I plan to do it. I don’t know yet. In his book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, Tony Reinke suggests not making an announcement when you take a break—just to get off the internet. When I do this exercise, I’ll take his advice and let you know later how it went!
Why I won’t exit completely
I want to love my neighbor as myself. I desire to serve my local community as best I can. This is all true. What’s also true is that both my neighbor and my local community are here, right here on the Internet. Because of busy schedules, it’s possible that I engage with many of my IRL (“in real life”) friends more on the Internet than IRL. My work with the ERLC and my ministry in general does also demand some level of social media (or internet) presence, As long as there are people on here—both local and beyond—I’d like to be on too.
I didn’t even have a smart phone until only four years ago. So I actually don’t think it would be that hard for me to say good-bye to it should society shift how we engage. But for now it’s such a sweet opportunity for gospel proclamation, enjoying one another, and learning about the culture. So for me, at least, it’s not time to say good-bye forever. Whether it’s time for you is a decision only you can make.
Finally, here are a few resources that might serve you in this regard. (Please note that I have not read all of them myself. A few are books I’ve seen recommended by people I trust.):
Engage: A Christian Witness Online, by Daniel Darling
12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, by Tony Reinke
So what about you. Do you have any tips for cutting back on social media? How have you tried? How did it go?