Confession Time

I have a confession:

 

I’m addicted to social media.

Not in the way many people seem to be, constantly checking to see if their posts have new likes or comments, seeking validation. I actually barely notice whether things I post get any response and don’t really mind if no one likes my photo or status update.

It seems that my problem is a combination of fear of missing out and a desire to obtain information and knowledge. For example, I may open the Facebook app to see if I have any notifications, any questions to answer (I have both a blog page and a business page and recently made a group to sell some of my Usborne), any updates from family members, etc. But whether I have notifications or not, I inevitably start the scroll. I’ve read about this behaviour before – you scroll down and your aunt has posted something about her dog, your neighbour posted an item for sale, your sister posted pictures of her kids. None of these things are new to you – they are sorted to the top by a particular algorithm – and so you keep scrolling.

In my case, I always feel this concern that I might miss something that someone posted that is important. What if my cousin or a good friend posts a pregnancy announcement and I don’t respond? What if a barbecue is posted for a really good price on Marketplace or a buy and sell group and I miss it? We need a new one and I wouldn’t want to miss a good deal! What if there is a new article or blog post that I haven’t seen before that will help me to better understand my kids, my faith, marriage or something else? So when the first five or six posts on my feed are old or not interesting to me, I scroll. Sometimes for a very long time. Then I catch myself doing it – this usually seems to happen without very much conscious thought – and I put my phone down. Time goes by – five minutes or even a few hours – and I pick up my phone again. The cycle starts over.

What amazes me is that I can and do go days without Facebook and do so without any anxiety over it or missing it at all. This is where it is not quite drug like for me – I don’t have withdrawals, rather I have a weight lifted off of me. I have less swirling thoughts in my head due to much less useless information landing there. I suspect that I could go weeks like this pretty easily.

But then I go back to “normal” (my Facebook free times happen most often when I am out of cell service for a few days or am doing a media fast) and as much as I want to be moderate in my use of it, I go back to the same habit. “Oh, I haven’t been on here in three days, I wonder what happened with that friend’s doctor’s appointment or my brother’s job?” And for some bizarre reason, I am more likely to scroll, scroll, scroll than I am to go straight to that person’s Facebook to find out what is happening with them. Like I think the answer is going to appear before me in my hours of daily scrolling.

At the moment, I have the Facebook app on my phone. I don’t remember exactly what happened to make me download it again after years of only using my phone browser to access Facebook but I do know that when I got it again, I set my “time on Facebook” reminder to two hours. So every day that I reach two hours on Facebook, the app alerts me. And I close the alert and keep scrolling.

So is the answer leaving Facebook completely? Sometimes I think so. But I live very far away from my family and it has been a good way to connect with all of them. Do I set rules for myself about how often and how long I check Facebook? Maybe that could work, but I’ve tried it before and found myself back to the same habits again.

For now, I start with this confession, and another one: I don’t like this and I want to stop. I know it clutters my thoughts, I know it distracts me from my work and the ability to be present for my kids. I know it steals time from God and His calling on my life. But I don’t totally know what to do about it.

Today I will start by deleting the app again. And trying to limit myself to checking Facebook on the computer, which does not hold the same scrolling appeal as my phone (anyone else agree with me here?). But what really needs to be done is addressing the root issue here. I have a need to know¬†that must be dealt with. My fear of missing out must be dealt with. So I will go to the Father and ask Him to show me how to do this. I pretend too often that He doesn’t care what my relationship is with social media but I know that is not true. I believe He mourns for the lost opportunities while I was distracted and that He has a greater plan for me than this.

If this has never been an issue for you and you are shocked by my confession and just can’t understand it, then this post was probably not for you. But if you are also tied to the scroll – on Facebook or some other platform – and can’t seem to break yourself free of this thing, now you know that you are not alone. Ask God how He wants you to fill your time each day. Ask Him what it is that you are missing that needs to be addressed so that you can find freedom from this. He is gracious and compassionate and quick to forgive us, and I know He has the answer.

Think on these things

This morning, we took in our first live stream only church service. Our little church has been live streaming for some time now but this week, it wasn’t just church members who couldn’t be there in person, but all of us watching from home. We were reminded to praise God in the middle of this trial, and after the message, our family joined together to answer the global call to prayer from noon to one local time.

After this time of prayer was done, I listened to another live stream from this morning. The pastor talked about hope and optimism in this time, something that many people seem to be short on. He reminded his church, and all those watching, of the following verse:

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

This simple reminder is crucial right now. Personally, I have been in a great deal of self-conflict (and unfortunately had some conflict with other members of my family) over the opposing information and viewpoints being presented. We can easily look at statistics and see desperation and hopelessness in this time. So many people are afraid, people are sick and dying and economies are slowing down considerably. We are told to limit our gatherings, stay home, don’t even go outside – such extremes in the actual orders, let alone what social media is screaming. It is easy to get caught up in this and listen to these voices rather than the Holy Spirit.

I believe that what the enemy has meant for evil in this time will be turned to good, but we have a part to play in that. Share things that are true and honest on social media – do some real research before you hit “share” on that frightening post. Read books and watch movies or television that are pure – now is the time to build ourselves up in the Lord, not embrace what the world offers. Look on what is lovely – if it is spring where you are, appreciate that beauty outside your window. Watch your kids learn new ways to be creative in the middle of isolation. Focus on good reports first. The statistics are there every day and depending on who you are and what you are listening to, you will read them differently. Remember that while you might not feel too bad about things, the person reading what you are sharing may be despairing and living without any hope. Ask yourself if it does anyone any good to re-share something that is already circulating and causing fear or distress.

I read a comment on a local post yesterday saying that “it is time to panic.” I could not disagree more, even if this virus was about to infect my entire city. As a believer, I cannot give time to fear. Practicing caution or listening to recommendations and mandates is good but I am watching as people make up their own rules based in fear and then spread those around – much like the virus we’re trying to avoid.

I have seen sad things in the last few weeks and have watched as some people seem to have given up all hope. I have also seen beauty in this time – families coming together in ways they’ve never been able to before and neighbours watching out for each other. The latter is lovely, pure, just, true. Think on these things, brothers and sisters.