I’m a big fan of social media. In fact, when my son was a preschooler, he said one day from the backseat of the car, “Hey! That guy on the radio just said ‘Facebook’! That’s where Mommy works!” Slow down, cowboy. It’s not where Mommy works. But I can see why you might think so. I do sort of treat it like a fulltime job.
The Internet is a magnetic place, and social media is a community all its own. It seems as though nothing just happens; instead, anything noteworthy is suddenly post worthy. There’s even a quip tossed around social media: If there’s no photo, then it didn’t happen. There can be significant pressure to engage, comment, and “like” in order to prove we are present and engaged, and that we matter. Very quickly, it can become a drain on your time and confidence. Here are a few symptoms and ways you can tell if social media is ruining your life:
The Fear Of Missing Out. Social media follows you to the dinner table and into the bathroom stall because you’re afraid you’ll miss a new headline, photo, or update on a party you weren’t invited to.
This clever term, blending affluence and influenza, describes a contagious condition resulting from the adamant pursuit of more. Symptoms of affluenza include checking Instagram multiple times an hour to see how many likes you have; stockpiling images on Pinterest of the things you feel you must have in order to be content; and perpetually comparing yourself, your life, your possessions, and your body to what other people post on their newsfeeds.
This is just what it sounds like: when Facebook is literally the source of one’s depression. It’s not hard to see how this could happen, since I can scroll through today to see 4K pictures of my friend’s 5K run, the photos from another friend’s trip to Europe, or all the selfies taken in the bathroom mirror and posted by girls who are thinner or taller than I am. It’s all too easy to suddenly think that what I have and who I am are definitely not enough. It’s a slippery slope right into a dip of depression.
The Vortex of the Comments Section.
What is it about the comments section that so perfectly distills humanity down to our most despicable and vile form? The Internet seems overwhelmingly populated by angry trolls who are likely sitting in their underwear in a dark basement, eating Doritos and scrolling online forums to start fights. Somehow, their dark and heartless banter can draw us right in . . . for hours at a time.
The truth is, whether you’re a fan or not, social media is here, it’s a central part of this digital age, and it’s not going away. Every generation has something new on the scene that makes a third or more of the population say, “What? Absolutely not. I’m never doing that.” And yet technology enters the scene, the world accepts it and adapts to it, and it doesn’t matter very much whether or not we thought it was a good idea. Opinions don’t stop the passing of time or the arrival of change. How can you set some boundaries and take your life back?
Take Some Time Off.
Decide on (at least) one hour of every day, one day a week, one week out of the year when you will sign off. Let the notifications stop. Let the world keep spinning for a while without your supervision, and find out what else is going on around you.
Delete Addictive Apps from Your Phone.
I’ve discovered how freeing it is to take things off my phone, even for a little while. Sure, it’s no longer there to keep me busy at the stoplight or when I can’t sleep at night, but that’s kind of the whole point. When it’s not so easily accessible, when I have to go to a computer in order to get my social media, then I’m not so quick to sign on and surrender embarrassing amounts of time.
Talk about Your Real Life.
There’s a fine line between sharing and over-sharing; between “Here’s what’s on my mind” and “Here’s what I might need to share with my therapist instead of in a Facebook post.” So be mindful of what should never be said at all. But the greatest moments in life are sometimes found in the smallest details. Open your eyes to see them, and share them with the world. Choose your daily discoveries to be the content of your Facebook status. Fill your Pinterest boards with the little things that make your life as big, as deep, and as wide as it really is.
Be a Truth Teller.
Instead of chasing the places other people have been or will go, consider chasing these thoughts instead: Truths from Scripture. Powerful quotes from deep thinkers. Encouraging words from others. Encouraging words to others.
Choose Your Voice.
You get to decide who you’re going to be on the Internet, and the truth is, it’s actually a reflection of who you genuinely are. There is no other you. So be intentional about the way you speak to people online. Instead of “liking” something, leave a positive comment. Delight in the celebrations of others. This is especially helpful if you’ve begun to feel jealous; instead of being silent, pour your energy into affirming others for the sunshine in their life.
Stay Away from Internet Arguments.
Here and now, let’s make a pact—you and me and all of us—to disengage from participating in, or even reading, Internet arguments. These can be the ugliest, most venomous encounters with some of the most toxic behavior in the world. It’s a coward’s battleground where people are needlessly cruel behind the anonymity of screen names, and it’s not good for anybody involved. Let’s be better than that.
You have choices and freedom.
You can belong to a social network, social media, and all the virtual communities you choose without getting sucked into a place of comparison and discontentment. In a Pinterest and Facebook world where pins are polished and statuses are considered the headlines of our lives, we need space to be honest with ourselves. We can choose to surround ourselves and others with truth—who God is, who we are, and what we are doing well together and as individuals. These joy-filled moments of truth are enough to fill social media for lifetimes to come.
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You Can Do This—Our culture as a whole, and often the Christian culture in particular, discourages confidence in women. Tricia Lott Williford explores how confidence and self-awareness can be a path toward stronger and richer faith. She offers stories and strategies to inspire and lead women to develop the confidence to stand firm in the face of the blows, losses, and disappointments of life.