“Why are you getting off of Facebook?” “Did something happen?” “Are you okay?” “I never know what you’re doing anymore since you left Facebook and Instagram!”
These were just a sampling of the barrage of questions I received upon leaving the world of social media. After a lot of convincing, and assuring people that I had not “lost it,” I stepped away from the networking life that I had displayed for nine years.
I was 16 years old when I experienced my very first taste of social media via Xanga. Ah, yes. A blog where people could see me for the smart, witty, and utterly charming girl I really was! Not the shy, quiet girl everyone thought I was! This was my first feeling of instant gratification, instant importance, and instant attention. What every girl in high school wants, right?
From there, it was MySpace, where all sorts of people could judge me based on my taste of music (which was great, by the way. Oh wait, you can’t stand Jack Johnson? We obviously can’t be friends, then). Then, I got my glorious Facebook invitation, and MySpace became a thing of the past.
Since then, I’ve been a tweeter, IGer, and I’ve even dabbled in those forum based question/answer-type networks. My social media resume was pretty impressive. Until, it stopped being impressive.
Hello. My name is Ashley Gillespie, and I’m a social media-aholic.
My Big Bad Media Monster
I had turned social media into a time-eating, self-gratifying, boastful addiction. I would wake up, turn off my alarm, and pull up Facebook or Instagram on my phone. In restaurants, I would scroll while waiting on my meal to arrive, I would scroll while waiting at a red light (never scroll and drive, kids), and it would be the last thing I looked at before falling asleep.
Why was this so dangerous? Not only was it taking away my productiveness, but it was also replacing my time to read and explore God’s word. It was refocusing my thoughts and actions on me, and how I was perceived. I would boast about my latest workout routine, how much weight I lost during the summer, my husband and I going on a date night, or post a picture of my decadent lunch at a restaurant with a friend.
Ditching Selfies for Stillness in Christ
Can leaving social media be healthier for us? Through the absence of social media, I have gained on average at least 7 hours of my life back per month! That’s a statistic from statisticbrain.com. Americans, on average spend about 7.6 hours on social media alone. That does not include shopping and browsing. Now, I know that does not sound impressive, but that’s an average number, and I was using social media well above the average person. I’ve used my time to start a consistent practice of Bible reading and praying. In my 25 years of living, I have never read through the entire Bible! So in 2015, I’m planning to do just that. Leaving the social media world is helping me accomplish that goal. According to an article in Relevant Magazine, more people are reading Facebook than the Holy Bible. It has become easier to make time to scroll the page, rather than making time to open up a Bible.
The Absence of Genuine Relationships
According to Belinda Goldsmith, the absence of social media can actually make a person nicer. She has found an increasing number in rudeness among users. According to her article, 78% of users report more uncivil, rude behavior shown online than in real person. Maybe this is due to the absence of face-to-face interactions. It seems that one’s etiquette and manners don’t necessarily follow them into the cyber world.
I didn’t have trouble with rude behavior, but I found myself reverting to maintaining my friendships from a distance. I had limited my interactions with friends to only reading their status updates, or looking through their new profile pictures. What happened to a phone call, a coffee date, or some lunch? It just became easier to live my life behind a computer screen, instead of really living it. And I’m not alone. Check out this video on why we choose to use social media for establishing friendships.
Living Life Off of the Grid
I remember the day I decided to leave all my social media, and my husband said, “Great! See how life can be off of the grid.” That phrase stuck with me. Finally, I could take myself away from the constant notifications, and I could start really finding the treasures that life gives. I’ve already accomplished some great things! I’m almost completely through with Exodus in the Old Testament, and I’ve taught myself how to knit and crochet (two crafts I never thought I had any patience. Turns out, I just never had the time to sacrifice--until now). I have spent many afternoons talking with family and friends, having coffee, and investing in the real relationships. I am having genuine community with brothers and sisters in Christ.