…learning to live a life filtered by the truth of the gospel.

The First Week September 28, 2016

Filed under: musings — Stephanie @ 4:34 pm
Tags: ,

Day one: I miss Facebook. I can’t do this.

Day two: Missing Facebook really badly.

Day three: Craving human contact. Any human contact. Feeling alone and separated from the world.

Day four: Feeling like this experiment is pointless and stupid.

Day five: Still in detox mode. At the soccer park waiting for a game with nothing to do.

Day six: First day talking to real people besides my family.

Day seven: Do I really want/need to keep up with 490 people? Do they want to keep up with me?

Day eight: How have I survived 8 days without social media? Still a long way to go. I haven’t bothered to do the math. It’s just a really long time.

Giving up social media has been harder than giving up Coke. And giving up Coke was hard, achievable only under compulsion, a dare from my boys. It was something I never thought possible. And while there is the option of drinking Coke again at Christmas, I have lasted this long with only minor temptations after the first few days. While I don’t have the physical withdrawal symptoms with social media as I did with Coke—no caffeine headache, no shaky hands—I have withdrawal symptoms just the same. Crabby mood, slightly disoriented, restlessness, boredom. And I feel the same sense of loss that I felt when I passed up the Coke at the store. Something I depended on for comfort is no longer there. I feel it acutely.

While I am here making this brief connection, I am tempted to give an account of everything that happened in my life last week. All the funny things my boys have said and done, the pictures I have taken, the blogs I’ve read and wanted to share. But that would turn this into a glorified status update so I will resist the urge.

All the thoughts have gone through my head. Does anybody miss me? Does anybody wonder where I’ve gone? Does anybody even remember me? Or have I disappeared? Have I been erased from the social media consciousness already? Have I been relegated to a “whatever happened to” status? There’s a lot of philosophizing going on in my head right now. Ninety days is a long time, and with today’s here today, gone tomorrow mindset, there’s a good chance I’ll be forgotten while I’m gone. In my mind, I’ve already fallen off the face of the Facebook earth.

I realize that in the grand scheme of things, giving up social media is minor. I am not an alcoholic struggling to resist the next drink. I’m not a drug addict looking for a hit. James says that we’re all addicted to something. Just because my addiction is “acceptable” and not as severe as something like alcoholism doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Social media clouds my thinking. It numbs me. It takes time away from the important things. It has dumbed me down, reduced my life to micro stories and 40 character tweets instead of the novels I used to feast on. Even blog posts have become too long for my stunted attention span. And writing? If I can’t get something out in less than an hour, I quit. My mind doesn’t function the way it did before social media.

Though people emphatically commented “enjoy!” as I embarked on this experiment, I have not enjoyed my break so far. Far from it. I crave the satisfaction that comes from posting a status update. I miss scrolling through my newsfeed. I miss feeling connected even if it’s on a superficial level. I miss the instant gratification of those likes and comments. Yes, I have had lunch with a friend. I have read four books in a week. I have written every day. I have shelved books at the library. But, I have also sat on the couch with my phone in my hand looking for validation. Hoping to find in the tiny little screen a sense of worth. Looking for anything to occupy my mind and my hands, I check Goodreads for new books to read and class dojo for Paul’s behavior points and iNow for the boys’ grades. MyPayments+ for cafeteria balances. I check these multiple times a day. I know that Paul buys ice cream or chips or rice crispy treats every day in the cafeteria, that Jack saves his money, buying only a basic lunch, and Eli buys ice cream every Friday. That Paul typically earns good behavior points every day and that they all have good grades. Even now my phone is beside me, email pulled up, futile though it is as I rarely get anything other than junk. Waiting for texts that don’t come. I can only text Mom and email Brian so many times a day. It’s strange that as an introvert I crave so much interaction. I am alone all day, it’s true. I have very little human contact outside of my boys and Brian. Adult conversation is rare. I need approval. I need to know that I am loved. To know that I matter to people. I can’t just rest in the fact that I matter to God. I thrive on the approval of others.

But I am learning, I hope, how to engage my mind again. I have checked out enough books to last 90 days. Already, in 8 days, I have noticed my attention span lengthening, spreading out. Reading, while satisfying, is a slow satisfaction. I have to read paragraphs and pages and chapters to find satisfaction and true satisfaction only comes with the final word. Reading makes me slow down. And I don’t like to slow down. I want that lightning fast, quicker than quick, satisfaction. My attention span and focus have been diluted so much that anything more than a couple of sentences is too long for me to read. I first noticed this when I’d try to read blog posts. I just couldn’t focus on them long enough to get to the end. And when I try to read books, my attention is divided between the book and my phone. I know the solution is to not have my phone sitting beside me all the time but I rationalize having it by thinking what if someone texts me and I have to get up and walk across the room to get my phone. I’m a little lazy too.

I am also learning, I hope, how to cultivate real relationships with the people standing right in front of me. I am not good at this yet. As Paul says, “All she does is sit on the couch and look at her phone.” If this sabbatical is teaching me anything, it’s that the relationships that are the most important are the ones with the people living in my house, the ones I can look in the eye. They are worth me putting down my phone to watch a soccer trick, look at a drawing or help with homework.

I think I’m getting a little better. Something longer than 40 characters can hold my attention again. I can stay up past my bedtime to read just one more chapter. I can sit across the table from someone and have a two hour face to face conversation without looking at my phone. I can write 1000 words a day. I’m not saying that online relationships are worthless, don’t hear that at all. I miss my Facebook friends. I miss hearing about their lives. I wonder if I will know when babies are born or if someone dies. How could I? I am learning what it feels like to not have constant validation of my worth. And that it’s ok to not have that validation. I still crave it, need it, want it though.

Will I come back? That question has already been posed to me. And something I’ve already thought about. Will I? I don’t know. My gut reaction is a resounding YES, I can’t wait! I miss being in the loop. I miss not knowing. I miss my friends. I’m already planning my comeback status update. But, I honestly don’t know if I will get back on social media. Can I live without knowing the latest details? I know myself and I know that I can’t just have one. Like a package of Oreos in the pantry, Facebook tempts me and I know that I won’t be able to go back to it and restrain myself. I will be all in, checking multiple times a day. I have long known that I am lacking in the area of self-control. The same way I can’t eat just one Oreo, I can’t check Facebook in moderation. I don’t know that I can go back to social media and be reasonable about it. If I log back in to Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, I will be logging back in to a life glued to my phone. A life I see through a window instead of being able to touch and smell and taste the world. A life merely watched and not lived.


Experimenting September 21, 2016

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 6:46 pm
Tags: , ,

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.)