We’ve all seen it at least once in the past 16 years of booming internet use.
One of your friends has made this post–“I’m taking a break from social media for _____ amount of time”.
They ask for their friend’s cell numbers. This in turn comes with an explanation of why they are breaking up with technology. They beg people to “keep in touch” while they take a quick hiatus from the drama of their preferred social platforms.
I decided to keep my vindication of the internet low key, away from the peering eyes of on lookers. I only told a few friends who might take offense to my sudden disappearance from their cheering section. Then I quietly took my leave of like buttons, hearts, and status updates. I did not decide to do this because I wanted people to miss me. I just felt like my mind needed a break from all the negatives that can come with constant internet use.
All too often, news feeds were flooded with so much hate and fear. It was beginning to take a great toll on my faith and my overall belief in the goodness of humanity. Racism, police hate and polarizing political posts hit me with each scroll. The ever-present reminder of Covid-19 and death combined with it all– I just could not take it anymore. I needed a break.
The first few weeks were hard. I never realized how often I used my phone as a social safety blanket. It forced me to communicate with people face to face instead of through screens and emojis. This left me to wrestle with my boredom through other means. I took to practicing piano and dusting off other hobbies that I had placed on the proverbial shelf. Quite frankly, it was not life changing. I did not come out of this experience with a whole new outlook on life. However, I did learn some lessons about myself and the world I live in.
Materialism and Its Cost
“It is the preoccupation with possessions, more than anything, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.”
It is not a newfound idea. We are all familiar with the fact that we live in a time of unrestrained materialism. We are impulse buyers and a feel-good-now society. A few weeks into this “experiment,” I began to realize how big of a role social media plays in this.
Within the past five years, media marketing has become the best way to spread the word about new products. Among them are those that claim to make you prettier, skinnier, smarter (the list could go on and on). This method of advertising has transformed our materialistic tendencies into a monster. It has begun to create needs that were never meant to be needs. It has caused us to want more than one person could ever need in a lifetime.
As a college student, I had a brief flirtation with minimalism. This was fairly easy because I had little to my name. Nonetheless, I tried to give up my connection to my material possessions. (Marie Kondo, anyone?)
I tried to make capsule wardrobe. This was easy because I only had about 3 outfits at the time. Did I really need two black skirts that looked exactly the same? I started shoveling my way out of the pit that is called debt, and soon all my bills were paid. Now I had a little extra money to throw around, so I made the wise decision to spend it on myself. I drooled over all the Instagram ads. The pretty dresses and clothes that were unique and one of a kind were my heart’s desire. Each time the mail came, I had a golem moment. My precious, MY PRECIOUS!
Before I knew it, I had an insatiable appetite for new clothes and new things that I could not control. Every day I was swarmed with ads from different boutiques. The compliments I received on my outfits fueled my lust even more. To this day, I have to control myself with Amazon Prime, because I can easily convince myself that my dog needs 50 new chew toys and a new collar in every color.
“Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we have, why would we need more?”Matt Haig
All that to say, what I put before my eyes created needs and desires in me. This did not help me financially, mentally, or spiritually. I became too concerned with what I did not have. I had convinced myself that I was not happy with what I did have. Taking a break from social media has definitely curbed my desire, though it has not completely obliterated bad habits. I need to work on those daily. My continual consumption of all the ads and new items grew within me a discontentment.
“Comparison is the death of joy”Mark Twain
This goes without saying. We all know comparing ourselves to others just makes us incredibly unhappy and miserable. I am increasingly susceptible to this pit of despair the older I get. It is a hard world to live in these days, if we are honest. Due to technological advancements, there are multiple ways to showcase a portfolio of all the highlights of everyone else’s life. The truth is, no one takes snapshots of sorrow. Facebook and Instagram were meant to share life’s moments with family and friends. Those who will truly show their lives are few and far between.
I am guilty of comparing. I do not like to feel as though I am not succeeding. It is very hard for me to accept anything less than perfection. In many areas of my life I fall short. Comparison leads me to feel like a failure (even though I am not). There will always be someone who is doing “better” than me. I could cave to my immaturity. I could hope they fail so I can feel good about what I’ve accomplished. But these things are just not Christ-like. I should be able to “rejoice with them that rejoice.”
If someone is living their best life, then we should be cheering them on. It does not diminish anything you’ve done by celebrating the victories of others. Instead of pining over someone else’s life, make your life better. You will come to realize that the grass is greener where you water it. Work to achieve your dreams. Be a cheer leader for everyone else as they try to achieve theirs dreams. The Lord knows we could all use a big dose of “I Believe in You” and “Keep Going”.
I have decided that it is best for me to limit the amount of time I spend on my phone. Once I get to the point that I cannot be happy for someone else, it is time to take a break.
In 2020, the average amount of time that a person spends on social media is 2 hours and 24 minutes. Due to the pandemic, this time has increased to over 3 hours a day on average.
I began to make a mental list of all the things that I spend 3 hours on in the day. It is a pretty small list. Even things that I love, like reading and music, take up only a small margin of my time. I found a quote on Pinterest that kind of stung a little. It read, “Instead of saying that you don’t have time– try telling yourself it isn’t a priority. How does that feel?”
Bleh. No one likes to have the wool pulled from off their eyes. I liked to believe that I was just too busy to accomplish anything. I had prioritized social media, tv bingeing, and napping– then I marginalized everything else. Ironically, I found this truth in the midst of an hour on Pinterest. I still struggle with time appropriation, but it is a work in progress.
I know I need to work on being present in the moment. I cannot tell you how many hours that I have spent with my sisters this past summer. Hours that normally would have spent watching funny videos and looking at memes. Getting rid of the things that distracted me helped me create memories with them. Memories I will cherish for a lifetime.
There are so many moments that we miss because we are plastered to our phones. I had multiple events and special moments of which I did not have to post a picture. Now I could fully embrace the imperfect smile and the not-so-tidy hair. I did not have to dress the moment up so people could admire it. It was for me to keep and to cherish. I have loads of photos on my phone that I never intend to post. Photos that I don’t need to post. It is a beautiful thing from which to be liberated. My life has been enriched just by having those few months off.
Let me sum this up as I gracefully end my time on the soap box. To clarify, I do not believe that social media is evil. It is a wonderful tool if you use it appropriately. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have helped people start their new business, encouraged someone to stay connected to a long-lost friend, and are time capsules for memories that otherwise would have been long forgotten. Know yourself and know your limits. I would highly encourage a break or even just a limitation of the amount of time spent on social media. It is a two-sided coin wherein its greatest assets can be its greatest downsides.