Picture yourself at Walmart, your favorite nice restaurant, a public park, the mall, a museum, on the beach, at a waterpark, or in the airport. What do all of these places have in common, you might ask. At each of them, you will likely see a variety of people glued to a variety of screens that they hold in the palms of their hands. Look up and notice it sometime.
Our phones, tablets, and laptops can be really beneficial. With the touch of a few buttons, all the information in the world is within our reach. These devices have given me the ability to stay connected to my people while I am at college no less than 346 miles from the nearest ones. They allow me to keep up with important news and be educated concerning current events. They allow me to find the exact location of my friend when she got stuck on the side of the road. In a more scary sense, they allow me to find out an abundance of information about a person all due to the facts they have chosen to display on the internet. There are some negatives.
Please, please hear my heart. If you and I spend many minutes or even hours editing photos in order to create the perfect picture to post, we might consider taking a step back. If we have studied so much the times that get the most likes that the best times are committed to memory, we might consider taking a step back. If we deliberate posting, because we wonder if someone might think less of us, we might consider taking a step back. If we do whatever it takes to figure out why our followers number went down, we might consider taking a step back. If we only post to make others feel like you and I live extravagant lives full of tropical vacations and prestigious awards, we might consider taking a step back. I have been there. These are not healthy places to be; they are actually quite unhealthy.
Here is a personal story. About 6 months ago, I decided I did not want to be glued to my phone any longer. I deleted Instagram, committed to using Snapchat less, and set aside periods of time each day to switch my phone to airplane mode and spend those moments with Jesus. Yet, my change in lifestyle began more than a year and a half ago when I deleted the Instagram app off of my phone. I was so addicted to social media that once the app was gone, I would click where the app once was, out of habit, and find myself wondering why I was looking at my calendar. Is anyone else screaming “UNHEALTHY”? My attempt to make my habit more of an occasional thing started as taking a month off from the app, which quickly turned to two months, six months, and eventually, I was just seeing how long I could stay off of it. I got Instagram back for the summer before my freshman year of college. I did not use it much, as it was probably the busiest (good busy) summer of my life. By September, I decided I did not need Instagram to cloud everything else going on with the adjustment-to-college process. I deleted the app off of my phone once again. By the end of my first semester, I had completely deactivated my Instagram account. My people had varied reactions to that.
If this story sounds familiar, it is because I wrote about these same events in “Thoughts on Social Media…” a few months ago. I wrote that article just a few days after I disabled, and I still feel the same way now.
The friends I had when I had Instagram are still my friends. Believe it or not, our relationships are even stronger now. To know what is happening in my friends’ lives now, I either have to personally call them, text them, facetime them, or send them snail mail. They tell me it means a lot to them. Most even go as far as to say that my letter made their day. I know people as they truly are and they know me as I truly am. I want to be real. My social media displayed the good times, the times where my smile was the biggest and my joy was full. But what about all of those days I spent in an endless succession of tears? Pictures of my ugly crying never made it onto your feed, because like I said, it was ugly. Yet, it is those times that make up the most formational moments of my life. I can sit here and say I am so grateful for those times. I would not be nearly as close to Jesus without them. Not showing the hard was not showing the world me for who I truly am. I did not want to live a lie anymore.
On the other hand, I do still have Snapchat, because I feel like it is somewhat more personal than Instagram. I have considered deleting it as well to decrease the amount of time spent on my phone, but I am better able to control myself in the realm of Snapchat, so for now, I am keeping it.
Here is one thing I have noticed: the people I admire most are not addicted to social media. They would not have a problem deleting it completely. Yet, if they have it, they have solid reasons I had never thought of to keep their accounts.
I want my identity to be so wrapped up in Christ that I could not care less whether or not a single soul knows where I am, who I am with, or what I am doing. Would that not be the most healthy and beautiful place to be?
I come to You to pray for my friends. In a world where everyone is telling us we need to have perfect pictures to make sure people know how great we are, we want to be different. Never let us get caught up in believing the lies social media plants in our heads. Let us be real with one another, “sharing everything” (Acts 2:44). Jesus, we want to be near You, and we long to look more like You. Lead us down the path of righteousness (Psalm 23:3). We are nothing without You. Thank You for loving us more than we can fathom. Thank You for relentlessly pursuing us each and every day. We love You!