(I’m going to preface this by acknowledging that this topic might be controversial. Of course there are lots of people using and consuming social media in healthy ways who may not need this advice. But I wasn’t one of them. So, in case there’s anyone else out there who needs a little nudge, then this is for them. No matter who you are, we can all benefit from a moment of thoughtful examination, especially during Lent.)
Last fall I read A Mind at Peace for my parish’s book club and it rocked my world. It was a challenging read that forced me to examine my habits – particularly with social media and news consumption – and I didn’t like what I saw. The truth was ugly and painful.
I told myself that social media was connecting me with lots of great people and ideas, helping me to broaden my horizons, inspiring me with possibilities, introducing me to beauty and truth … but it just wasn’t true. Instead, my social media consumption left me feeling more and more disconnected from real-life friends, frustrated over the beautiful things I wanted but couldn’t afford, jealous over the seemingly perfect lives of other wives and moms, and anxious over all the division clogging up my feed. And the worse I felt, the more I scrolled. It was a vicious cycle.
While the book was challenging, it was also very helpful and hopeful (really, I cannot recommend it enough), and by the end of the first few chapters I knew what I needed to do. So I opened Instagram, pulled up the list of accounts I follow and started clicking “unfollow;” then I opened Facebook and did the same.
The criteria was very simple. I asked myself:
- Am I somehow connected to this person in real life?
- Is this connection and its influence good for my mind, heart, soul and vocation?
That’s it. And that was enough to cut the circle of influence in my life by nearly half. Here’s the thing: I wasn’t following terrible people; for the most part they were lovely, thoughtful people sharing good things. But it wasn’t good for me.
Within weeks I noticed that I was spending significantly less time on my phone, I spent less money online, I texted or called friends and family more frequently, and I felt more peaceful about my life in general.
That was six months ago. In the time since, I’ve allowed myself a few exceptions, connecting with writing colleagues that I engage with online regularly, or an author, organization or small businesses that I want to pray for or support with engagement even if I can’t purchase their products. But by and large, I’ve kept with my social media purge. Instead of the great “FOMO” that I thought I’d feel, I am glad to be out of the loop on a lot of things because I have more room in my mind and heart for the things that are right in front of me. And I’ve found myself more content with the things I have, the person I am, and the life I’m living.
If you’ve been afraid to give up social media for Lent, or suspected that you might be more attached to it than you want to be, this might be a good place to start. I’d love to hear how it goes for you, or what you’ve done to find balance in your own life. Chime in below!
Copyright 2020 Megan Swaim