What I’ve Gained by Giving Up Social Media for 40 Days

Once upon a time in this country, we did things like eat meals, visit with friends, go on walks, visit museums, and spend time with family without taking selfies of the whole experience and sharing it with 1,000 other people.

I remember having a rotary phone in my bedroom when I was 16. One evening when I had talked too long to my boyfriend, my dad decided he was done with the constant gabbing and just grabbed the phone off the wall, put it in some closet and that was that. I think my parents did a great job of setting healthy boundaries for me and my brother with the phone and the T.V.

The age of the internet hasn’t been around that long, but it has changed everything about the world we live in, from business and economy to relationships and family dynamics.

As followers of Christ, it serves us well to thoughtfully and prayerfully consider our use of the World Wide Web; not to disconnect our connection completely but to set healthy parameters to ensure we are mindfully using these technologies rather than becoming enslaved to them.

A Love/Hate Relationship with my Smart Phone

I held off on getting a smart phone for many years after they became popular. I could see the dangers of addiction a mile away and had determined that if and when I did get one, I would engage with it thoughtfully. Some things I love about the smartphone are the ability to make payments, respond to texts, make needed purchases, and get directions places with one click.

Alas, even with intentionality, I found myself carrying my phone everywhere and mindlessly picking it up when there was mental space or down time. I reasoned that people want quick responses to text messages or emails, but this put me on a leash to my phone. I wonder – does anyone else feel this way? ­čÖé

I intentionally did not add the Facebook app to my phone on purpose, and yet still found myself checking Facebook more than once a day.

I’ve taken breaks from social media before and knew that Lent would be a good time to cut out social media┬áto create more mental space for reflection and prayer.

Many of the things I’ve learned during this time are similar to those that I learned during other breaks, but there have been some new insights as well this time around:

Staying in the Moment: One of the things I noticed is how easy it had become for me to be at lunch with a friend or with my kids at the park and take a picture and not just take the picture, but share it on social media.

My husband has been telling me for several years that “you know, you really don’t need to post our whole lives on Facebook…” I realized that I can have experiences and just have them (crazy, right!?) you know, like we all used to do?? There is something of the sacredness of a personal moment that can be lost when it’s shared with, um, everyone else.

With this little revelation, I’m planning to engage much more thoughtfully with social media when it comes to family stuff especially. I’ve also realized that there are probably 20 people tops that I’d love to share specific┬ámoments or memories with – and I can actually do that without sending it to all 900 of my Facebook friends.

The Value of Mental Space: Another thing I have gained is mental space. As a mom of four kids, I don’t have a lot of quiet reflection time each day. I’ve made it a point to take at least a full hour during my baby’s nap (usually more but sometimes a little less, depending on the day) for my personal devotional time with Jesus. I intentionally don’t bring my phone along for prayer ­čÖé

It’s this simple – Being off social media has freed up brain space which has led to more clarity of thought and deeper engagement in my days without added distraction. And when you already have a very full life, this is really helpful!

Guarding Sacred Spaces: But there are other sacred spaces too. Family meal times, Snuggling with my kids, read-aloud time, outdoor play, and homeschooling don’t need to be interrupted by me being on my phone.

So while I have been richly blessed by this time of abstinence from social media, it has only served to make me more aware of my need to also disengage with my phone more often and set stronger boundaries. I’ve chosen to (gasp!) turn off my phone or leave it at home when we go on walks or other outings where there is no reason I need it by my side. I want my kids to learn (not just by my admonition so but by my example) what a healthy relationship looks like with digital technology.

What’s your relationship look like with digital technology? Are there areas you sense you need clearer boundaries? I’d love to hear from you!

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