I’m grateful to Hope Henchey for sharing her own journey to digital detox. You can read Hope’s blog at Recoveringwomanhood.com.
I’m a 90’s kid, and I started playing on the computer when I was 2 years old. My typing speed averages over 100 wpm and for as long as I can remember, my “default mode” seems to be tapping away at the keys; oftentimes I find myself at my desk and I’m not sure how I got there.
Especially with my extrovert personality type, Facebook has probably been the most dangerous aspect of my technology addiction, since it makes me feel like I can be meaningfully connected to so many people. I feel like a world-changer when I post something thought-provoking that receives a good response and reaches a wide audience, and I’ve connected with lots of hurting and lost acquaintances through Facebook. But it’s still not worth it, and a few months ago I quit for good. Here are some reasons why:
1. A lot of people are addicted to the internet. Do I desire the direction of their lives?
In almost every case, no. Most of my role models—whether they’re well-known writers/speakers or they’re normal people like my friend Amanda—happen to refrain from heavy involvement in social media. Most of the people that I know who do seem to live in social media, even if they’re really cool and I’m fascinated with whatever they post, are actually discontent with their life most of the time, and I don’t want to imitate that.
2. I am so careful with how much screen time my kids consume. Why don’t I show so much care for myself?
Most days my kids are allowed 30 minutes of screen-time max, and it’s much better if they get none at all. I notice an enormous difference in their obedience and even their happiness depending on how much they watch and what they watch. As an adult I’m almost certainly less impressionable than they are, but how foolish am I to guard their habits so closely and not even pay any attention to mine? If I’m certain that excessive screen-time will hurt my kids, how can I be certain that it’s not hurting me?
3. Being concerned with what a thousand people think about me is exhausting.
Nobody really seems to talk about how much they like getting likes, but I’ll just say it: it matters to people…or at least people like me. If I posted something, I would first spend an embarrassing amount of time figuring out what I would say, and then after I posted it I would check back a scary-frequent number of times to see what people thought of it. Guess how satisfying it is when you get lots of likes? Not at all—because I don’t think it’s possible to ever get enough likes, and there will always be people who are getting more likes than you. And what do likes accomplish for the world? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. They are the definition of “man’s empty praise.”
4. Real change happens in real relationships.
I feel like so many people in my generation drank the same Kool-Aid and we all think that we need a big platform. We need to change the world by being famous. That is dumb, dumb, and more dumb. (And it happens to not be the strategy of Jesus.) One time I wrote an article that got almost 5000 shares on Facebook. That was a really big deal for me. But after three days, no one cared. I believe the pen is mightier than the sword, so I think writing articles is important, and having people read them is important (obviously, since I’m writing an article right now.) But I’m pretty sure that by now almost everyone has forgotten about it. And I’m pretty sure that my real-life relationships with others—especially as I raise my children to be world-changers—have more shaping influence on the culture than my article did.
5. What was I even consuming?
I try to be careful about what infiltrates my body and mind. I generally don’t eat fast food or candy bars. I would never dare to read a random book off the Bestseller list. I don’t even trust the radio to pick good music for me! But what in the world am I consuming when I spend 20 minutes scrolling on Facebook? Meme, meme, angsty post, life update from someone I never see, meme, self-centered post, Bible verse I’m not actually gonna read, mind-numbing viral video, 1000th picture of someone’s baby, biased article, etc. Maybe this attributes to why millennials such as myself struggle with depression and anxiety in great disproportion to the rest of society?
6. Who is my neighbor?
The wonderful and frustrating thing about social media, especially as an ENFP personality type, is that I now have access to far more people than I would otherwise. Through Facebook I’ve made meaningful connections or re-connections with people I never would have otherwise. Sometimes those have translated into real-life interactions and I’m grateful for them. But I also felt so connected to so many people. Heartbroken for so many. Discouraged by so many. I felt like I needed to help everyone on Facebook—meanwhile neglecting the people I actually see regularly. My margin for friendships is only so large, and while I love the world, I’m missing out if I try to be friends with the whole world. I need to love my neighbor, the people I actually see (or should be seeing.)
7. My Facebook feed is not representative of the entire culture.
According to my Facebook and Instagram feeds, about 80% of America is white, middle-class, educated, between 20-30 years old, was raised in a Christian home but no longer believes, aligns with liberal values, is addicted to traveling, and really likes eating out and drinking coffee. I hope that doesn’t sound judgmental; I love these people. But that is simply not an accurate picture of my nation’s people; it is feeding a closed-minded perspective. I need to get out and actually know people from all backgrounds.
8. Some things are never a waste of time. Social media almost always is.
Physical exercise, scripture memory, reading good books, meeting up with people, praying, playing with my kids, writing a letter…I doubt that I would ever regret spending time doing those things. They are valuable. I only get 1020 waking minutes in a day and those activities are certainly worth some of them. But scrolling on a screen, chuckling here and there, but overall feeling somewhat hateful towards humanity? I don’t feel great afterwards.
9. There’s a better way to give and receive ideas outside my immediate sphere of influence.
There have been few times when a meaningful Facebook or Instagram post or a meme really stuck with me longer than thirty seconds after I saw it. There have probably been a few times when I made a Facebook or Instagram post that impacted someone who saw it. But blogs have been much more beneficial for changing my life, and books, of course, have been even more powerful. That’s why I hope to see and create media that contains more substance than what I could fit into 140 characters or a Facebook blurb.
Since I deactivated my account, I’ve still found myself going onto Facebook frequently (even though I don’t have an account and there’s nothing to see), just because my mind has been so trained to default to that. It’s been so good to be away from the noise, and I’ve found that I struggle with plenty of sin as it is and I don’t need the numbing, distracting help of social media. Lots of people are being lights for the gospel on social media, and I am so grateful for them, but as a true addict, it became clear that I needed to quit. I’m so grateful for the Lord’s guidance about that.