As an introvert, I need time alone to reset and function well. And I’ve learned that I don’t need to have a tremendous number of friends, just a few close ones. So while social media seems like a great way for me to keep in touch with people when I can’t spend time with them in person – due to distance or schedules or any number of factors – the reality is that social media simply has caused more noise in my life.
What were people on that continent doing? And what about my friends in this country or that one? And how was that former student doing? And what about the friends I made during my organization’s training? That friend from high school, where was she now? What about the person I met while on a cross-cultural trip? So. Many. People. So. Much. Noise.
I knew that reducing the social media noise in my life would mean more than simply limiting the time I spent on it. I needed to remove Facebook from my life. Off and on over the years I deactivated my Facebook account to give myself some quiet. And once I permanently deactivated it, I found my stress level was lower, my sense of obligation to know everything about everyone went away, and I was able to focus on what was happening in my life in the present moment. Most days I feel as though I can barely build new friendships and keep up with the close friendships I already have. So removing one of the ways I stayed up to date with people relieved much of the “friendship pressure” in my life.
Before I decided to deactivate my Facebook account, I thought through a few questions first. Am I someone these friends would normally talk with regularly via social media? Do I have another way to contact certain people to catch up on life? Is being on Facebook necessary for ministry or other reasons right now? Based on the answers to these questions, I felt complete peace about removing one form of social media noise from my life.
Do I sometimes wonder what’s going on in the lives of people I no longer “see” on Facebook? Yes. But am I someone who knows them well enough that I should know everything about their life? Most often the answer is “No.”
I found that Instagram is actually a better fit for me because there’s far less noise on it. Pictures are easier for me to process than endless pages of updates and article links. But I still find it good to unfollow people when I feel overwhelmed by all that I’m seeing. This isn’t because I don’t care about those people; it’s simply what I need to do in order to keep my focus where it needs to be—my relationship with the Father, my marriage, my job, my family, my friends.
If the noise is overwhelming you or if you’re struggling to live in the here and now because of social media, I encourage you to take a step back, take a short break from it, and think through why you use social media. Perhaps you just need a quick, one week reset. Or maybe you are craving a longer break from the noise and pressure social media can bring. And if social media brings you joy and enables you to connect regularly with close friends while you’re overseas, enjoy it. Use it to its fullest potential!
Have you ever taken a break from one or all forms of social media? If so, how did the time away help you reset emotionally and spiritually?