All good things must come to an end… or at least a pause.
In May 2017 my wife and I made a conscious decision to change many things in our life—including our engagement on social media, and to take an online hiatus. Both of us had it as a mainstay in our life (as most people do) and spent more hours that we want to admit on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter—or whatever other trending platform. It was not rare for us to let the night get away from us as we flicked our thumbs upward, scrolling countless feeds. It wasn’t good for our minds, our marriage or our ministry.
I always claimed I was doing Social Media “For ministry purposes.” At times it did feel more like “Work” than “Play” and I found the immediate access to other people’s lives, and their access to mine, causing me to feel crowded out of my own personal space. I needed to take a break. So I did. Without any notice or “see you in a few months…” messages, I just pulled back, deactivated accounts and left the social media lifestyle I had grown used to. So did Molly. Truthfully, we never looked back.
I stopped blogging. I stopped Tweeting. No posting. No sharing. No liking, engaging or commenting. I was gone. Yet, as I laid down my social media life, I seemed to gain real life back in return.
It only took a matter of days before I felt a burden had lifted. There was no pressure to know what others did (or didn’t do). No need to post my accomplishments or woes, I let them happen without posting them. My life was just that—my life—and I liked the privacy. Truthfully, I also like that did not know what was going on in everyone else’s life too (no offense meant by that). I was able to inquire genuinely when asking, “So what is going on in your life…?” because I really didn’t know. I found that my conversations with people were (1) really about what was exciting them, not just what they posted last and (2) not riddled with “Did you see what so-and-so posted yesterday…?” because people knew I was in the dark on what others were doing.
FOMO (or at least “Distract-o”)
You’ve probably heard the term “FOMO” — The Fear of Missing Out. Well, I believe it is a real thing. Sadly, I think it is a growing epidemic in our age because of the access we have to each other’s lives through social media. When we see what someone else is doing, we wish we could do it too. We live in fear of missed opportunity or simply in fear of missing out on what is happening in someone else’s life. That had probably affected Molly and I more than we wanted to admit. Staying up with what others were doing was at the very least serving as a distraction for us. To stay in tune, we kept coming back to flicking that thumb up many more times each week.
So What did I learn by taking an online hiatus?
- We all need a break sometimes. Breaks from social media give us a reality check on what is right in front of us. It allows for perspective to be gained. I’ve learned that prayer plus perspective equals breakthrough. That is what the social media hiatus was for me. I have perspective and depth now that I was lacking earlier. It may be a year or two, but I will make social media hiatuses a part of my life in the future.
- A healthy marriage means meaningful conversation. The best thing I can do for my kids to in ensure that my wife and I are as happy, connected, growing and enjoying each other as much as we can be. I may have let my evening be filled with social media in the past (and Molly’s too), but we are now committed to talking, reading, praying and enjoying each other after our four kids have gone to sleep. We are also striving to get more sleep and make great use of our early morning hours too.
- Everyone doesn’t need to know everything. I am allowing my social media to be an authentic view of both the good and bad into my life, but not everything needs to be posted. Somethings will remain for just Molly, myself and our close friends. In the same way—I can keep up with people, but I will not apologize if I don’t know what is in everyone’s feed. Because I have boundaries on my social media time, I will miss some things, and that is just going to have to be okay. No more FOMO. I will look forward to interacting with people as the opportunity presents itself.
- I live first to please God; second to “please” men. Let’s be honest: we take pictures, live through stories, and engage in conversation often with the mindset of “What will I post about this?” or “How will I look when this is posted?” I am not going to worry about what people think as I know my primary purpose is to please God. If it causes joy to another person, then that is a great byproduct. But I live before the eye of God 100% of the time. I am going to care first and foremost about what God sees in my public and private life.
So Why did I come back?
Well, the truth is that I do think there is value in using social media for connecting people, reaching people, encouraging people, inspiring people and investing in people. God has called me to be a communicator of His truth to the world. If I try to avoid the world through social media (or whatever other means) I will not be doing what I am called to do. So I am back, but with a renewed perspective. I will be posting with greater intentionality. I am still a real person, but I also am on a mission. I will continue to blog, tweet, post and share for the Glory of God and the joy of… you…His people. I am excited for what lies ahead!