Breaking up with social media is hard to do
So, social media and I are in a weird relationship. We are on again off again. We have extended periods of no interaction and times where I am obsessed. Some days I don’t think about it all and others I cannot stop thinking about it. If you have read anything that I have posted on (of course) social media, then you would know that I do not think that we are designed to be in a relationship with social media. Knowing I say that I believe we are not designed to be in a relationship with anything that is not living, breathing, thinking and feeling, I am confused and concerned by my hypocrisy. And, I write this to think through why it’s been so hard for me to completely break up with social media, in hopes of walking away after I write this. Perhaps, I need some closure and to draw some conclusion in my own brain as to why social media has been and currently is so unhealthy for my spirit, heart, mind, body and relationships.
Let’s just get his one out of the way. One reason why social media is so unhealthy and a point that has been discussed ad nauseum is that social media is not a real reflection of our lives. The person we put on social media is a perfectly curated illusion or in some cases delusion that exaggerates our lives, best qualities, blessings, achievements, vacations, beliefs, faith and families. No one is accurately describing themselves or their lives and no one is constantly posting about the doubts, fears, guilt, shame, pain and worries that plague our daily lives. We had rather post something about politics, puppies, platitudes and our light hearted personalities than about what’s breaking our hearts, the regrets that paralyze us, the feelings of failure and boredom that we avoid with social media, the fears of being found a fraud and the tragedies that are crushing our present lives.
So you say lighten up, what’s wrong with using social media just to have fun, to be entertained, to take a break from our real selves and to promote an image of ourselves that isn’t really true? Well, for me it’s not fun, entertaining or light-hearted. Especially, if I know you and I see the real stuff that’s breaking you down, destroying your life and stifling your development as a real life, breathing, thinking and feeling human being. It’s not encouraging or inspiring for me in the least little bit to see a person online, who I know doesn’t exist in real life.
For the last few years, I thought I could manage social media and the way it exposes me by hiding all the people who I haven’t had an in-person conversation with in years. I did this because I felt like it was wrong to creep into people’s lives while refusing to make any sacrifice to know them as real people in the present moment. Honestly, I don’t think your life is any of my business if I refuse to take the time or energy to be in your life in some capacity. In the past couple of years, I have discovered that In some weird way social media has justified my refusal to spend actual time with my friends, families and neighbors, because I convinced myself that just keeping up with you on social media was keeping up with you. In believing this lie, it has not only disconnected me from real relationships but it has weakened everything in me that I need to be in real relationships. It has made me lazy, judgmental, anxious, arrogant and believing I am in some godlike position to know the hearts, minds and spirits of people without spending time with them.
Because of the godlike position that social media has given me, there have been plenty of times that I have decided that I do not like some people just by the stuff they post and so I avoid them. And I continue to avoid them, until I am forced to spend time with them and something miraculous always happens. I discover that this person, who post so many things that I completely disagree with, is a human being just like me. They are also vulnerable, sensitive, fragile, weak, needy, desperate and dependent on love. Because of this personal interaction, I am reminded of who they are and how desperate we all are for real relationships and community. The truth is we are all hurting and yet we are so afraid to lead with that on social media. The reason being that platforms do not have space for us to process our real lives, real feelings or to be in real relationships. Over and over I keep finding that I do not like who most people are on social media but I do love them in person and as human beings.
For quite a while, I thought that I could just use social media to encourage, inspire and educate. I thought I could use this space to give my experience, strength and hope, and I could help people have a different conversation with themselves and with others. The results have been similar to going on my last diet. I may have gotten in the best shape of my life but in the process I destroyed my health, distracted from the real issues causing my anxiety and disconnected from the real relationships that I needed to process, rest and receive nourishment. In forcing my body to give all it had to give, I hurt myself in many ways. Likewise, in forcing myself to be just a giver on social media, I am hurting myself in many ways. Health and real relationships requires giving and receiving. I am not God, I cannot just give and give and it not break me. I need your experience, strength and hope too.
For the 10 plus years of being on and off social media and my investment of time and energy, social media has never created a space for real community or any real relationships. I would love to think my presence matters and if I went away I would be missed. But if I dig deeper, I think the thing that keeps me coming back is my greatest fear and that not only would I not be missed but I would be completely forgotten. How weird is that when most of my “friends” don’t even know me well enough to forget me. Perhaps, getting off social media feels like I am dealing with deeper questions about my existence and even my death. Perhaps it forces me to wonder if I really matter to anyone, have I used my voice, does my presence make a difference, what have I lived for and how quickly would the world move on without me. I understand the whole FOMO psychology but what about the real innate desire of human beings to belong, to give and receive love and our calling to build relationships that are dependent on the sharing of our time, talents and truths. How much time do we waste trying to nourish and sustain ourselves with the crumbs of social media? Why isn’t ok to be forgotten by most, so we can give ourselves to the people and places where we live and breathe? Who is most likely to hear our voice? I don’t know. Perhaps, in the spaces where someone can actually hear our voice.
Finally, another excuse I use to avoid getting off social media is our business. How will I ever grow our business if no one knows about it? How entirely arrogant and rude am I to want to skip all the hard work of real relationships, participating in community and practicing what I say I believe about consumerism and not using people as a means to my profitable ends. Why would it be ok for me to speak into anyone’s life that does not know me and my story? Wouldn’t it be important for someone to know that I care more about them than reducing them to their interests and behaviors, age, gender and location. Why should we ever let someone speak into our lives, who do not know us and we do not know? Why do we avoid asking for help from the people we know and who know us and have seen us live our lives? In my business, I think if we really want to know the truth about our health, we should not only be willing to look ourselves in the mirror and ask if we are healthy but we should be willing to ask the people doing life with us. With that said and in regards to social media, would the most honest question about my business not even be about my business but how can I use my time, talents and truths to love and serve my neighbor? Truthfully, I am not going to die if you don’t know about my business but I will never become the most amazing person that I am designed to be if I don’t know real living, breathing, thinking and feeling people.
Last but not least, the irony of posting this on social media is amazing. Seriously, who cares. Why does it even matter. Why can’t I just go away and live my life? Why do I have to post about going away and living my life? Do I not actually believe what I say about presence? Is everything I write and say really just some way to promote myself and participate in a system that I say I do not believe in. Am I not the biggest hypocrite? The answer is yes, yes, yes. One of my deepest desires is to build community. I want to know people’s truth and not so much their opinions. I want to help people and to do that I have to spend time with them. There is no getting around this. The world is in a real crisis. We desperately need people willing and trying to create a space for people to be people and not products they use to their consumer ends. I really do want so much more than social media can ever give. I want to love as many people as I can with my whole person and create the time and space to be, work, live, play, learn and dream together. I am not God, I cannot be friends with the whole world but I can be a really good friend to a few. I can create a space to be present with others. I can love my neighbor. I can move to give my time, talents and truths to love and encourage others and yet, I cannot do any of this on social media.
I do believe social media is connecting us in an unhealthy way and it is part of why we are so unhealthy. I believe it has created an unhealthy dependency that supports and sustains our loneliness, anxiety, fragmentation and false selves. The only way we are ever going to become the most amazing people we are designed to be is by being with each other and remembering who we are and how we are naturally designed to be healthy, whole and human through the giving and receiving of love and truth.
“Connection is health. And what our society does its best to disguise from us is how ordinary, how commonly attainable, health is. We lose our health - and create profitable diseases and dependences - by failing to see the direct connections between living and eating, eating and working, working and loving. In gardening, for instance, one works with the body to feed the body. The work, if it is knowledgeable, makes for excellent food. And it makes one hungry. The work thus makes eating both nourishing and joyful, not consumptive, and keeps the eater from getting fat and weak.
This is health, wholeness, a source of delight.” - Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays