“I release myself from the obligation or expectation to share with the world what is going on in my life.”
That was what I wrote in the back of my sermon notebook a few weeks ago in the middle of the service. I had deleted Instagram off my phone the previous night, Facebook that morning on the way to church. It was too much. I was done.
When I first got Facebook back in 2009, it was to share how I was feeling or what was happening in my life (which wasn’t much for a homeschooled 15-year-old). A silly conversation with a friend, a short poem I found or wrote, expression of sadness because my weekend plans got rained out all got shared. Instagram was initially just to share pictures of my life: new hairstyles, rooms decorated for Christmas, a new pet, etc.
Words like “aesthetic” and “curated” were not regularly used like they are now. Except now they aren’t just words: they are how we make our decisions. They are why we have Instagram, why we spend more money than we should on gadgets and home-wares, why we really get the Starbucks Pink Drink. (Kidding about that last one. We all know it’s delish.)
I wanted to get out of the social media rat race. Even if nobody out there was comparing my pictures or posts to their own or anyone else’s. . . I was comparing mine to everyone else’s. Was I doing cool enough things like concerts and pottery classes? Was my caption or recent post clever or “authentic” enough? Did I use the right filter? Is my feed curated enough? Will people notice that I wear basically the same thing in all my pictures? Why don’t my husband and I have new professional photos taken every month? Again–maybe no one was thinking any of these things about my pictures or posts. But these thoughts took up way more head-space than I wanted to admit.
It’s been over a month now. I was really conscious of what I had done for the first two weeks or so, hoping people would notice, would compliment me, envy me, or even look down on me because that would give me a cause. But you know what?
If I deleted social media for the same reason I used it – to impress people or make them think things about me – I was still doing it for the wrong reason. There was no real change in me if I only changed WHAT I did instead of WHY I did it.
Thankfully, I have changed since then. And I can tell you that once my mindset changed, it made everything so much better. Truthfully: everything. I enjoy movies and ice cream dates and moments more fully because I’m not worried about capturing the moment in a picture or sharing what I’m doing with the world RIGHT THIS MINUTE. For a while, after I deleted Insta and Facebook off my phone, I missed them. I missed sharing up-to-the-minute updates on my story, or checking in at a restaurant I had never been to. But I don’t any more. I’ve gone on adventures, had experiences, tasted great food, laughed and cried, and had meaningful conversations that nobody on social media needs to know about.
This realization happened at a concert last weekend. We stopped at a cute cafe for dinner somewhere between Wilmington and Philadelphia, then went to a concert in downtown Philly. Social media did not even cross my mind, until I saw everyone around me on their phones in the restaurant, and everyone on their phones taking videos and pictures of the artist. I don’t get it. It’s not because I’m better than them. It’s because I’ve had the opportunity to step back and see that it’s better to just enjoy the moment. And I definitely did enjoy it, live in front of my face (yay for front row tickets) instead of through my phone screen.
Honorary mention here: less drama and less stress from political posts, theological debates, and MLM pushers. That’s all I’ll say about that but trust me when I say that my life is better because there is now much less of the things mentioned above.
I want to clarify that while I am not on Instagram at all (the desktop website is not worth it), I am still a Facebook participant. I am a mentor in a group, message several people regularly, and obviously started a page for this blog to share not just the blog but also minimalism tidbits and devotional thoughts. But my time on Facebook has severely lessened due to the inconvenience of having to open my laptop, log into WiFi if I’m not at home, and open the website. If something is a struggle for you or takes up too much of your time, put up barriers that limit or make it difficult for you to get to that thing.
Personally, I do still struggle with comparison and discontentment because I’m still human, still see humans every day, and still dream big dreams. But it becomes easier, tiny bit by tiny bit, as I see less of, and therefore worry less about, other peoples’ lives (not in a careless, rude way) and more about the things that are truly important. I can make time for real friendships, present living, and focused actions.
So why am I writing about this? Why don’t I continue keeping this to myself, not concerned with others’ opinions? Because I want you to know that you don’t have to live in bondage from social media. I want you to know that you don’t have to update your status every time you see a movie, go to a restaurant, or see someone live. I want to share this with you so that if you are wondering if you should back off a little, delete the apps, or just close an account altogether, you can know that you’re not alone. You need to know that doing any of those things can be incredibly beneficial for your head-space and time.
Social media was created to be a tool. It was supposed to aid in connections, not replace it. Put a stop to the fake connections. Free yourself from endless ads, mindless scrolling, wondering how many “likes” you’ll get, jealousy over houses, outfits, or pets you’ll never own, and wondering why you don’t have very many real-life friends. Stop measuring your day or week by how many new “likes” or “followers” you got. It will do nothing but disappoint you, or worse.
There is so much more to living than telling people about it.
There is so much more friendship, development of self, and closeness with our Savior to be gained instead of wasting time – even just a few seconds in the middle of a conversation, car drive, or devotion – on social media. I challenge you to abstain for just a few days and see what difference it makes in what takes up your time, head-space, and conversations. Put barriers in place so it’s harder to stalk someone. Make it inconvenient to check-in at any given moment. I can almost guarantee your life will become enriched. You can do more living and learning than just telling people how you’re living or what you learned.