Social media is designed to help us connect with friends and family, but in recent years, it’s taken on a ubiquitous role in our lives. From connecting with online communities to shopping, from looking for home decor inspiration to seeking parenting advice, social media has become a one-stop shop. But there’s a downside to our dependence on social media, and it’s a little too close to addiction for comfort. Lauryn Paradis offers us some practical steps for taking a social media hiatus and breaking free from our cell phone screens.
In our daily lives, it can feel like there’s pressure coming from all around us. Pressure to get as many college degrees as you can. Pressure to get married and have a family soon after. Pressure to find your perfect job.
And on top of all of that, pressure to document it all on social media as if it took no effort at all.
I’m 19 years old, and everyone I know uses social media. In fact, I’ve grown up with it.
Yet, a couple months ago, I felt God strongly calling me to log off all of my social media platforms: Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat—all of it! At first I resisted because I was afraid I would miss out on seeing some big development in someone else’s life.
However, God made it clear to me that social media was becoming a toxic root in my life rather than a community to share with friends. Nine times out of ten, I closed the apps feeling more depressed, anxious, or jealous than before.
Entire days were ruined simply because of what I had seen on social media.
If you can relate to this in your own life, don’t worry! You don’t have to let social media have that kind of hold on you anymore.
Contrary to what society tells us, it is okay and completely healthy to not only put down the phone, but ‘get off’ social media. It may sound crazy, but for a few moments put your doubts aside, and learn what a hiatus from social media could mean for you.
THE DOWNSIDE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
It has been proven time and time again that social media can have a really damaging effect on our mental health, especially in increasing depression or anxiety.
In “The Social Dilemma”—a Netflix documentary that dives into the dangers and addictive nature of social media—they discuss something called the attention-extraction model.
As explained in a Vogue article by Clementine Prendergast: “…it exploits our human desire for the connection to and validation of others, giving us a dopamine hit every time we get a like or reply without ever actually fulfilling our deep human needs.”
Did you catch that last part?
We turn to social media and there’s a chemical trick in our brain keeping us addicted, without ever actually fulfilling us! That dopamine effect keeps us addicted to the never-ending stream of filtered photos and perfected captions, even when we feel so negative after leaving the app!
There is no need to blame yourself entirely for this. After all, our bodies naturally produce these kinds of chemicals and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. We can, however, find a way to break out of the cycle.
One of the most encouraging Bible verses—at least for me personally—is Psalm 37:4 which says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” God was calling me to log off social media because He was trying to show me that I was using it as a form of fulfillment, rather than true community.
So often, I see myself and others turn to social media to feel better about ourselves and to show others our personal achievements. While it’s not wrong to celebrate, we have to remember that as daughters of God, we can only be fulfilled in Him, and our blessings come from Him alone.
We don’t need to prove ourselves to anyone else. Perhaps you need to ask yourself and God in prayer today: What kind of hold does social media have on my life? Is there a cycle that I need to break?
THE COMPARISON GAME
There is so much pressure on all sides to ‘be the best version of you‘. I hear this all the time, and many influencers build their entire platforms around this concept of ‘living your best life’.
An insane pressure exists to not only do all the things, but also stay logged in 24/7 while you’re doing it!
The horrible thing about this online pressure is social media is constantly encouraging us to compare ourselves to one another.
This was something I didn’t want to admit to myself when I eventually logged off, because a large majority of the people I interact with are close, dear friends of mine. I didn’t want to admit that sometimes I was very jealous of them and wished my life looked like theirs.
This jealousy replaced friendly support, and while I never showed it to their face (or profile pic), I couldn’t seem to shake the envy I felt.
Yet God has been teaching me that comparison not only hurts ourselves, but can also secretly (and maybe not-so-secretly) hurt others. Have you ever said or thought something like: “Well I may not have my Master’s degree, but at least I didn’t drop out of college like her!”
Or, “I don’t have the most modern home, but I definitely don’t live in a dump like the house down the street!”
I know I’ve said and thought statements very similar to this, and they seemed harmless at the time. But as I’ve gotten older and reflected on who I used to be, I realize just how destructive this comparison game can be.
Comparison causes us to look down on others, or feel like we don’t measure up. Instead of loving as God loves us, we let the enemy sow evil and hatred into our hearts.
FINDING ENCOURAGEMENT IN GOD’S WORD
Thankfully, just like everything else in our lives, we can turn to the Bible for life-changing encouragement. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.”
The bones rot? That’s definitely not a pretty image!
But, unfortunately, this is the effect envy and jealousy can have.
Before we feel too guilty, however, we need to remember we’re only human and bound to feel human emotions. God knows that, too!
But He also knows that we can’t ever find true rest and peace in anyone but Him alone. This is another reason why it is so important to log off social media for a while—we need to reconnect with the only One who can fulfill us and quiet our restless hearts.
He desires for us to come to Him with our jealousies and lay them at His feet. He wants us to know His love is enough for us, because we are set apart as His daughters.
We are in this world, but we are certainly not of it.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
Social media is a very worldly thing, wouldn’t you agree?
The cycle and pressures of social media cause us to be roped into the perfections of this world and the impossible striving toward that standard. Instead, let’s declare God’s promises over our lives and realize the power we have in being set apart.
GOD CALLS US TO REST
God desires rest for us. He doesn’t expect us to do everything in a day, because not even He did! We read in Genesis 2:2 that, “…on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested.”
Even the God of the universe, Lord above all, takes His rest days! He does not want us to constantly burn ourselves out and prove ourselves to the world. He wants us to come to Him at the end of the day, week, month, or year, and rest in His words.
Quite honestly, it can be really exhausting always trying to put on the perfect life and live up to everyone else’s expectations. I spent all four years of high school doing this, especially on social media, and looking back, I wonder why I was striving so hard for everyone else’s love when I had God on my side.
When I finally listened to God and logged off my social media platforms, I never felt so free. I felt a huge burden lift and was finally able to find myself in God.
I started to truly celebrate God, even in the hard days, rather than falsely celebrate myself for likes. I let go of the need to constantly please and impress everybody else, and leaned into freedom.
God wants your story to be your story. He wrote your story for a very specific purpose, and with a very intentional plan.
God desires that you surrender your comparisons and submit to His plan, because His timing is perfect. Only He can lead you toward ‘living your best life’. Only He can lead you to where you need to be.
TIPS FOR A TRUE SOCIAL MEDIA HIATUS
There are a number of practical steps you can take to make big changes in your social media use. You can do all of these things at once, or take steps and see what works well for you. The end goal is to set yourself free from the hold of social media and to find your freedom, rest, and worth in God’s eyes alone.
1. Set Daily Time Limits
Something that really helped me in the beginning was setting daily time limits within the app. When I have been on Instagram for 15 minutes a day—my personal time limit for this app—I get a small message alert on my phone.
Here is a quick how-to for Instagram and Facebook. Other apps also have this option, and a simple “how to” search will quickly direct you on setting those time limits as well.
2. Turn Off Notifications
Trust me, turning off your notifications will feel like such a huge first step! Notifications from social media immediately tell our brain that we need to open up the app and see the like, comment, message, etc. right away or we’ll miss out on what’s going on. Turning off notifications for all platforms gives you the freedom to go about your day without any interruptions from social media. Out of sight, out of mind!
3. Take Breaks
Making a plan ahead of time can help you get in the mindset of taking a break. Setting a routine makes it feel normal, and you can use that time to do other things like have a family day, get ahead on grocery shopping, or catch up on your Bible reading! Come up with a set plan that gives you enough time to get off social media and feel a true difference. I would suggest starting off with one day a week, then the weekend, and working up from there!
4. Delete the App(s) Off Your Phone
Deleting the apps off your phone takes away the temptation to fill the time with endless scrolling and definitely helps during your scheduled breaks. It’s just like turning off the notifications—out of sight, out of mind!
Social media can be a wonderful place to stay connected with friends and family, however, it can also be a very toxic and consuming place if we let it.
Thankfully, we don’t have to!
When we truly take stock of the role social media plays in our lives and bring our concerns to God, He can show us how to find true rest in Him and His words. We don’t have to fall into the trap of comparison, stress, or worry.
Our God is bigger than anything this world could throw at us.
I pray you find your social media hiatus to be a freeing and much-needed cleanse. Use it as an opportunity to scroll through God’s promises instead and let our wonderful Father shower you in love!
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