Monday, my therapist, James, suggested that I take a 90 day social media sabbatical. He laughed and said my eyes widened at his words, and I’m sure they did. I can’t go 90 minutes without checking Facebook, much less 90 days. Think about it, he said. My psych nurse endorsed the suggestion when I mentioned it to her later that day. Too much social media, she said, like TV, exacerbates depression. The studies prove it. So I wrestled with it. There’s no doubt that I am addicted to Facebook, spending up to 12 hours a day checking, liking, watching, reading. Glancing at the little blue and white icon on my phone, hoping to see the red circle indicating that someone liked what I said; that someone liked me. See, Facebook is my lifeline; my connection to the world. All of my information is gleaned from scrolling through my newsfeed. I spend hours just looking back at my own timeline, looking for confirmation of my self-worth. Pathetic, I know. (But I don’t think I’m the only one.) And this dawns on me: I have no life outside of the one I present on Facebook. I do nothing.
And so I realized that I had to follow James’ suggestion. I had to go live my life out from behind my phone, my laptop. Who am I even? What motivates me? What excites me? What do I want to be? What do I want to do with my life? What do I love? I cannot answer these questions if my phone is constantly in my hand; if my head is bowed, staring at a 5.44 x 2.64 inch screen, finger hovering, swiping, tapping. I have to put down my phone. I have to engage my life before it’s too late.
Kentucky writer James Still once said in an interview that “writing comes out of a life lived.” If I want to write, I have to live. And one thing I know is this: I want to write. But I have not been living for a long time. I have been existing, one orbit around the sun at a time. And I don’t want to come to the end, a sad old woman wondering where the time went. Wondering about all those things left undone, unsaid, unwritten.
This all coincides with a desire to find myself. It started a month ago, this nagging desire to figure out what it is that makes me tick. To find my passion. The need to try and make something of my life. To do something, make a difference, even if it’s a small difference. To leave a footprint.
And honestly, Facebook isn’t going to help me discover my calling in life.
Today I read a timely blog post by Ann Voskamp from A Holy Experience. She writes:
“You miss Jesus—when you don’t look for Him in the right places…
Your soul misses Jesus when more time is spent on Facebook than face in the Book.
Your soul misses Jesus when more time is spent on Instagram feeds than feeding on His Word.
Your soul misses Jesus when more time is spent on Twitter chats than chatting with Jesus whom you claim to follow.
Balanced social media can be a soul meal; too much social media can be a soul suicide.”
And I might add that you miss life. I know I miss the everyday graces. I’m so busy figuring out how to post about an experience that I miss the experience itself.
So here comes the experiment: 90 days without social media. It will be December the next time I check Facebook. I’ll miss the election drama. I’ll miss my birthday. I’ll miss countless events in my friends’ lives.
I’ll miss sharing my life in short anecdotes. I’ll miss posting pictures of my boys being who they are. I’ll miss sharing quotes that inspire or motivate me.
And I’ll miss the affirmation that comes from the likes and the comments. The feeling of being somebody.
And I admit that this will be hard for me. To disconnect. To let go of my voyeuristic need for constant information. Already, two days in, I’ve thought a few dozen times “I’d like to share that on Facebook.” But Facebook hasn’t been there for me and I’ve felt the void.
I know, I need a plan. I need something to fill the empty space, to replace social media. Maybe more than one thing. So here’s my plan.
Read. In one day I’ve read a collection of short stories (“Final Vinyl Days” by Jill McCorkle) and I’m now halfway through an autobiography (“Dimestore: A Writer’s Life” by Lee Smith). I plan to indulge my intellect and feed that part of me that I’ve long neglected.
Write. Every day. Chronicling my time free from social media, journaling, writing a story, writing my story. Discovering who I am as a writer, finding my voice.
Volunteer. Get out into the world. Yesterday I sorted papers for Paul’s teacher. And this morning I shelved books at the public library.
Who knows, maybe I’ll clean my long neglected house. Maybe I’ll learn to engage with the world. Maybe I’ll get off the couch discover who I am.
So when my finger hovers above the screen, my eyes searching for the blue and white icon, I’ll put the phone down. Pick up a book. Or sit at the computer and watch my words fill up the screen. Read a book to Eli. Run. Call my Mamaw. Unload the dishwasher. Shelve books at the library.
And maybe in the process, I’ll discover who I am and what I’m here for.
(This will post to social media, but trust me on this, I won’t be there to see it. I hope.)