This week I decided to unplug from all of my social media outlets for a bit.
What stirred this inside me was my response to a church service during the week. Right when I walked through the doors of the church something inside me changed. I no longer felt safe, which felt weird because it is the safest place I could possibly be. After the service I was upset and angry about various things going on in my life. Eventually, after word vomiting all over a friend, I jetted out. I felt like my feelings were beginning to spiral out of my control and I knew I needed to go to a private place to process. Once in my car, I called an old college friend who I knew would tell me the truth in the situation.
As we dug into my feelings we discovered my need for approval from others was becoming a prominent struggle in my life. The reason I felt so unsafe in my community was because I was so insecure with myself. The lies had broken through all of my defenses and culminated in a big chaotic mess that night. My friend informed me that if this was effecting the way I felt within my community it was worth digging into with God and trusted mentors.
As I thought more about it I recognized one of my primary sources of security is social media. “How many likes can I get from this status post?” “How many people will respond to this tweet?” “Why did those people get tagged in that post and not me? I like volleyball….” I was using social media as my primary source of communication while disengaging in individual relationships.
When I unplugged this week I honestly had no idea where I was going with this. I set not time limit and decided to allow God to lead me in the direction I needed to go. First, I signed out of EVERYTHING and I mean everything. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. When you have several devices signed into these things it’s a bit of a hassle to sign out. For example, my iPad refused to sign out of my twitter account and I spent about 10 minutes trying to figure out how stop the insanity. The reason why I signed out was because I wanted the dust to settle for me. The many emotions I was feeling needed to be identified and I needed to sit in silence with God.
Later, I received an e-mail stating that someone had mentioned me in a tweet. It was then that I recognized something about unplugging. When people “unplug” they tend to sign out of all social media outlets for a week or two expecting whatever their struggle may be to go away. They aren’t addressing the behavior, the feelings, or the insecurities and are avoiding the problem. When they come back they aren’t prepared for the problems they were experiencing and tend to revert back to whatever caused them to do the unplugging in the first place.
I saw this a lot when I worked in inpatient treatment for substance abuse. When my clients would leave, they were leaving a safe place where they didn’t have to deal with their outside stressors. Often they would think they could go back to their hometown and just continue life the way it was without preparing themselves for the battle. What they hadn’t thought about was how those situations at home were probably the reasons why they were drinking or using in the first place. Many would often relapse because they weren’t prepared for social pressures or for whatever triggers that may occur.
After seeing the email, I sat there staring at it for a while struggling with what to do. Do I read the e-mail even though “I promised” God that I wouldn’t engage in social media or do I not read the email because of that promise? It was then that it hit me. This is a friend I care about. I am not disengaging from social media because of them, I am disengaging because of my own insecurities. I decided to read the email and found that my friend was sharing an article they thought I might like.
After reading the article, the next question was, do I respond? If I were to ignore this tweet I would not be addressing the insecurity I had been feeling. So I evaluated the motivations behind me tweeting. Was I tweeting because I expected him to respond and needed affirmation from him or was I tweeting because I was engaging in my relationship with him and wanted to share a piece of myself with a friend?
When unplugging it is important to be self aware and know what is going on inside of you. There will be triggers and those same insecurities are going to crop up every once in a while. It is all in how you respond to them. Jonalyn Fincher puts it nicely in her weekly Vlog on Rubby Slippers.
And just so you know I did tweet my friend back.
Right now, I am signed back in on all of my social media accounts. I’ve been liking, favoriting, and sometimes responding to others posts but I haven’t posted anything. In fact, posting this blog will be a first. As I begin to work my way back into social media I am going to be aware of my motivations and my insecurities as I engage in relationship with my friends and my God.
“Unplugging” really differs among people. Some people unplug because they need some silence to allow the dust to settle within the chaos. Some unplug because they are using social media as a way of increasing self worth. While others unplug because they feel it’s an addiction that they need to stop. Each of these reasons are valid, but unplugging looks different for each one. How someone unplugs depends on the individual and where they are in their life.
The thing about social media is that it doesn’t have to take away from your relationship with God or with your friends. It can actually enhance these relationships.
It all depends on
1) your motivations
2) where you are in your life
3) where you are seeking your value
4) how appropriate your behaviors are
Social media is a fantastic tool to use within community and it’s actually one way I have been able to connect with some of my friends and with God on a different level.
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are thinking about unplugging:
What is going on within my soul? Why do I feel an urge to take this action?
What practices will I use to replace my time spent with social media (i.e. praying, walking, cooking, reading, writing)?
Am I willing to go to God and trusted friends with this struggle?
Am I trying to avoid something by disengaging from social media?
I would love to hear thoughts and ways I can better improve this.
photo credits: writingindustries.com, trueslant.com