I only intended to do it for the summer.
My husband has six weeks off every year from mid-June to early-August. We use those weeks to make up for the family time we miss during his hectic school-year schedule. I usually take several weeks away from blogging, and I curb my social media use to honor his desire for a quiet, private summer.
As a high school administrator who spends a portion of every day dealing with cyber-bullying and Snapchat drama, Matt is adamantly anti-social-media. He prefers real life connection and the small, selective sharing of special moments.
He thinks the sacredness of life’s small joys is somehow compromised by all the capturing and captioning.
In the beginning I didn’t understand. To me it seems like a blessing that we can share those moments. With one click we can make big announcements, offer our prayers, and connect with those we never see in real life.
Three months ago, I traveled all the way to New Zealand, and I brought the world with me right inside my pocket. How cool is it that I could share this butterfly all the way from Hamilton? And my friends and family could react as if we were all in the same room!
On my fourth day there, I woke up and grabbed my cell phone off the nightstand. I scrolled through the notifications and read the comments under the picture I posted the day before.
I greeted the new day by poking at a screen instead of pulling back the curtain on a view I might never see again once I return home.
The thought echoed in my mind. Or was it my heart? Or maybe God breathing vital truth into my soul? Perhaps Matt has a point. Connection to others is helpful and necessary for our well-being. Constant connection, however, just might be doing more harm than good.
This is especially true for people like me. My highly sensitive personality causes me to carry a complicated social media complex. I over-analyze posts, read into comments, and compare the details of my life with my friends’ snapshots. I wonder what people glean from my posts, whether I’m sending unintentional messages and what they might be. And I absorb others’ burdens and obsess over mean comments–even when they’re not directed at me.
It exhausts me in ways that might confuse those who aren’t quite so sensitive, and it costs me a lot of time and energy. It’s not just the minutes I spend scrolling through the feeds. It’s the distracted moments that follow as I walk away with swirling thoughts and worries, ones that weren’t there minutes before.
As I looked out a window at the literal edge of the world, I knew I needed a change. I have to put a thicker boundary around my access to the fake, distorted little window in my pocket.
Still, I resisted for several weeks after I got home. The fear of missing out is real and strong. It took a simple reminder from my equally sensitive child for me to finally pull the plug. I deleted all of my social media apps that day. I only accessed my accounts from my laptop, and I didn’t post anything online between my last post on June 9 and this one today.
After six weeks without mobile access to social media, I have no interest in going back. All summer I found multiple signs affirming the choice to step away from my smartphone. I unwrapped the first one in a piece of Dove dark chocolate just hours after I published my last blog post. The wrapper said “Ignore Hashtags,” and I haven’t used one since.
A week later, my family noticed that I was more engaged with them. I stopped saying things like, “Wait while I type this message.” And I stopped making my kids re-take photos that weren’t quite share-worthy.
And then last weekend I attended a conference that I thought would derail it all by reminding me of the writing industry’s emphasis on a “strong social media presence.” Instead, the message of the conference was calming and encouraging. Many of the presenters reminded us to focus on what pleases God and to keep family at the forefront. It was liberating and inspiring, and it redirected my desires toward my children and my indispensable role at home.
That was the last push I needed in the decision to keep my current social media boundaries in place. People ask me what will happen to my blog without social media promotion, and I honestly don’t know. But I do know that I can’t deliver quiet relief from a frantic place inside my own busy mind.
If you struggle like I do, I want you to know that you’re not alone in the challenge. In our over-connected world, it’s easy to get lost inside our phones. As a busy-minded person, I have found such freedom in taking the distractions out of my pocket. I invite you to join me by separating yourself from your biggest distractions, even if only temporarily. Share your experience with me anytime in the comments, over email, or on my Facebook page (from your laptop, of course).
Cheers to an untethered life!
* Join me next week for a follow up post on the 10 things that changed during my phone-free summer. After that I’ll be back to my regular content and weekly schedule.
* Help us prove that a quiet existence can be a powerful existence! Sign up for my email list below, and share these words with the busy-minded people in your life. Thank you for your continued support.