This article originally appeared at www.GrowChristians.org, a ministry of Forward Movement committed to helping families grow together in faith. © 2017 Forward Movement.
I am embarrassed to say deleting the Facebook app from my phone changed my life. But I’m saying it because it’s true, and this truth set me free, and perhaps you like freedom too.
First let’s allow my pride to say: I didn’t use Facebook THAT much, but I did find it was too much for me. This is not a post opposing technology or belittling social media; it’s about how I found some listening space for my heart and soul.
I still use Facebook, and value it for personal and professional connections. I keep up with friends, enjoy clergy groups, share good news through our church’s page. See funny memes. All the reasons.
So what changed? At Christmas, a friend shared she was off Facebook for good. I could see how lightly she held that, how non-anxious she was about stepping away. It challenged me to consider whether I was held to social media by FOMO—Fear Of Missing Out. I do value the newsiness of Facebook in my small town. My feed provides some diversity that is absent in other parts of my life. I determined I did not want to discard what was meaningful to me, but needed to reflect on the way I related to it.
Having Facebook on my phone meant I could check in…whenever. We post things that depict us in flattering ways, but often access social media when we are bored, unsatisfied, or feeling low. That’s a recipe for reinforcing anxiety (everyone else is doing life better than me!), not peace.
“I want margins in my time, windows cracked so a breeze can blow where it will.”
Once when I was scrolling, I heard a question from within, gently: “Where else do you want to be?” Sometimes the voice says, “What are you looking for?” I don’t think I’ll find it at the bottom of a social media feed. On a bad day, the inner voice goes all Mary Oliver on me and demands, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” “Spend it scrolling Facebook,” is really not the answer I want to give.
What I mean to say is follow Jesus, delight in God, multiply love.
I want my children to see me seeing them, not gazing with adoration into a screen. I am an introvert, and like mulling things over. When mulling time turns into screen time … well, it disappears. Prayer can be hard enough as it is; I don’t want to chip away at my ability to be present, mindful of self, soul and body, by always checking in on what somebody else is up to. I want margins in my time, windows cracked so a breeze can blow where it will.
Accessing Facebook only from my laptop requires a bit more intention. There are still rabbit holes to fall down and time to lose in front of a computer screen, but it’s not something I can do in line at the grocery store. I have to get a thing out of a case, unfold it, and sit in front of it. That puts the physical and material back into the mix.
I’ve had good reasons for not deleting the app from my phone before – it’s the easiest way to post photos. But even good reasons are not insurmountable. Here’s what I do now if I need to update on the go: re-download the app (2 minutes), post photos, and delete the app again. I’m not a purist.
Are there things that don’t get posted? You bet. Sometimes a “latergram” makes sense. Sometimes the moment passes. Every time, the world keeps turning.
One happy fruit of my choice to delete the app from my phone is that I’m creating things. Not Big Fancy Art. Doodling, crafting, playing Legos with my girls, trying new recipes. When I was glitter-gluing a paper pillar of fire for Sunday school, I had three good ideas. There’s space for things to move around in my heart and soul.
Jesus often withdrew to pray. I’m not replacing Facebook time with prayer, but my prayer life benefits from the breathing room.
Want to try a new boundary?
- Limit yourself to 30 minutes of social media per day (set a timer), or to checking in only during a small window: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
- Use a technology curfew. No screens before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. (or whatever works for your sleep cycle). Let prayer be the first and last thing you feed yourself.
- Take a social media Sabbath. Why not Twitter-free Tuesdays?
- Turn off notifications. Choose when you want to access social media instead of being driven by alerts.
- Feeling brave? Ask your kids to help hold you accountable.
The Rev. Ann Benton Fraser is a priest serving a wonderful congregation in rural Mississippi. A Louisiana native, she lives with her husband Andrew and their adventuresome daughters, 5 and 3.