Showing posts with label Social Media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Social Media. Show all posts

Currently | January 2021

Beginning...to think it may have been a mistake, but I started reading The Brothers Karamazov again. I attempted to read it a couple years ago, and I got about halfway through it before 1) the book slowed way down and I lost focus, and 2) I got so confused about some of the cultural aspects of the book that I didn't know what was going on anymore. (Katerina paid Dmitriy and he took off with her money?  Or he didn't pay her money?  Or he didn't pay her back?  Something happened with some payment and I'm super confused.). This time I'm participating in this read-along on Youtube, and hoping some of these people who are really into Russian history can give me some clarity.

Reading...an actual, honest-to-goodness monthly TBR (to-be-read list).  I've always resisted creating lists of books to read each month because I'm a hopeless mood reader.  But I realized that mood-reading didn't go so well last year - it was a slow reading year for me. I have been creating my own book categories for each month, and slotting in my reading choices, and so far it's keeping me pretty focused and productive in my reading.  I plan to continue it into February.  I don't want to share my TBR lists though, because I need the flexibility to swap books out for my different categories if my moods change!

Organizing...I wrote last week about some of the things I've been organizing, so I won't go into detail here, but at this immediate moment I am sorting through December's photos.  I kind of forgot about this winter hike we took until I saw the photos again, so I'm going to be lazy and use them in this post today!






Drinking...chai tea.  I've been drinking a lot of tea this week, trying to resist the urge to eat the rest of the Christmas chocolate.  Somehow if I eat just one or two pieces, and then top it off with a mug of tea, it satisfies my urge to ingest something sweet while we watch our shows.  Chai is especially hitting the spot - it snowed this week, and I spent some time reading a book under twinkle lights, with my tea, while it stormed outside.  It was lovely.

Feeling...out of sorts, once again, and realizing that whenever something stressful happens in the country I majorly slack off on blogging while I obsessively read the news.  As you can imagine, this is not a great routine for my mental health, and there have been several periods like this in the last year (May/June, November, now).  I am trying hard to reset this week and get back to reading my books, getting us into an efficient school routine, working out regularly, etc.  You know, structure.  Order.  Necessary things.

Watching...I'll tell you what I'm not watching today, and that's the inauguration.  No, thank you.  I'm sure if something noteworthy happens I'll hear about it.  No, this week I've been watching Monk and The Mandalorian with Derek (we're late to the party on that one), and Intervention by myself.  Derek doesn't like Intervention, but I find it a little...soothing, maybe?...to watch people agree to treatment for their addictions, and hopefully turn their lives around.  It's uplifting to me.

Wondering...if I'll ever return to Facebook or Instagram.  I haven't quite got up the nerve to delete my accounts, but I did inactivate my Facebook, with Instagram to follow.  

I honestly don't think I'll ever go back.  Aside from all the Big Tech insanity right now (if you are not at least a little alarmed, I'm not sure you're paying attention), I've found my first few weeks untethered to Instagram deeply refreshing.  I've taken social media breaks before, but it was always with the thought of someday returning to the platforms, so I didn't feel truly free of them.  Now I do.  

I feel more present (and I hate that word, but can't think of a better one), more in tune with the needs of my family.  More aware of the areas I have been selfish, the ways I have let social media suck away my time and my joy in motherhood.  I'm actually noticing more frequently the cute little things my kids do, letting this young family stage hit my heart in a way it sometimes didn't when my face was always in my phone.   I'm convicted for allowing Instagram to steal my focus, thankful for the way the Lord has opened my eyes to problems it was creating in my own heart.  

I wish I had let go of Big Tech and addictive social media sooner.  I don't think I even realized how badly it was affecting me until I no longer allowed it to be an option.  I'll probably write more about leaving big social media as I let this new stage settle in, but I'm excited about it, and thankful for all of you who stick around to read my blog.  This is more meaningful place for me to share my thoughts, and I hope a more meaningful place for you to read them. (Bekah's post on blogging yesterday made me so grateful again for this blog community that persists!)

Resolving...to write more letters this year. I think I resolve every year to write more letters, and I rarely do as well as I want to, but I think it's important to keep trying.  Letter-writing is one of those traditions that is being lost, and it makes me so sad.  Nowadays we all shout at each other on social media, but isn't it more emotionally satisfying, more meaningful, more impactful to you as a person, to get a letter written to you by a friend?  Even if it's full of nothing important, it's a tangible piece of evidence that someone resisted the urge to shout into the internet ether, and instead thought of you individually and wanted you to read words written just for you.  That's even more special than it used to be, I think.


What are you all up to this month?


The Year Without An Instagram



(Note: This week I am sharing a few things that have been brewing in my heart about social media this week.  This is the latest installment.)

As so many people did, about a week ago I deleted the Instagram app from my phone.  

In case you missed it, there was a lot of buzz about the new privacy policy, which basically allows Facebook and Instagram to be more blatant in their efforts to spy on you and interfere in your life (I'm exaggerating, but not that much).  From my perspective, the reactions seem to be frantic "get-this-thing-off-my-phone-now" mixed with a side of "but-what-will-I-do-without-Instagram?"  Either that or people just shrugged their shoulders over the Big Brother vibe with an "eh-what-can-you-do?" and went about their merry over-sharing way.

For me, I don't know what category I exactly fall into.  What I can say is that I wasn't panicked.  As I have been sharing my hoarded drafts of posts on this topic, you can probably tell that this move has been brewing for a long time for me.

For the last couple years I took a break from social media over the month of December.  Both times I came back with a fresh perspective on what I was actually doing on social media, and how that habit of checking my phone was affecting my life. Especially after last year's break I realized how addictive Instagram had become for me, that this was a problem.  Still, I didn't feel ready to give it up, and the chaos of 2020 made it difficult to envision cutting ties.  But my unease remained.  

I first started paying attention to Instagram in 2013, when I was pregnant with Clyde.  Back then, it was a fun adjunct to blogging, a way to keep up with people, blog friends and in-person friends, who I really liked and cared about.  Somewhere along the way, it morphed and changed though into something else.  

Instead of enhancing real life relationships, it started to take away from them.  Instead of being an occasional check-in, it started to become a habit.  Instead of sharing, it became curating.  Instead of being a fun way to connect with blog friends, it (almost) killed blogging.

Until, here we are, in 2020, and I find I haven't really enjoyed Instagram in a while.  I have stayed on.  I have escaped into the app in moments of boredom.  I have felt the emotional boost of likes and comments.    I appreciate the artistry of a well-curated feed, and I like seeing my pictures in a little grid.  But I don't enjoy it anymore.

I don't feel good about the way I reach for my phone too often through the day.

I resent the time it takes away from other hobbies, like reading and blogging.

I feel guilt (conviction?) over the attention it steals from my family.

I struggle with the constant opportunity for comparison, only a flick of a finger away.

I hate the yucky feeling I have when I wake up from scrolling and realize I just wasted 20 minutes of my life that I'll never get back.

So no, when Instagram announced it's new invasive policies, I wasn't panicked.  It was the final straw, but I was already sliding that pack off the camel's back before.  

Maybe it's time we rethink some of these platforms.  Maybe it's time we adjust the way we use them.  Maybe we should spend more time thinking about the way social media has impacted us as a society, the way we interact with each other, in negative ways.  Maybe it's time we demand a righting of some of the wrongs.  I'm glad the conversation is starting, because I think even a social media enthusiast may have that sneaking feeling, deep down, that something isn't right here.  Social media isn't going away, but maybe it should change.  We need to figure this out.

For me though, I'm looking ahead to 2021 as the year without the 'gram.  My first in seven years.

A couple months ago, as I was brainstorming post topic ideas, I wrote this down:


"Title: Finding The Balance: Setting A Different Kind Of Social Media Goal 

- my goal is to figure out a way to get instagram off my phone for good."


This has been on my heart a while.  I have known something needed to change, I felt that conviction in my heart.  This is the time.

And I have to tell you something.  I didn't realize how much of a burden Instagram had become for me until the last couple weeks - these fresh and bright weeks when I haven't been on it at all, and don't intend on going back, and realize I don't even miss it all that much.

I feel lighter.

I feel free.

(I broke out my fuzziest sweater and most Christmas-y cup this morning, before we take down the tree this weekend.)

But what can we do instead of Instagram?

I write this little add-on to my post fully knowing that there are some of you who can't give up Instagram. Some of you run businesses that would suffer greatly if you deleted Instagram, and if you have reservations regarding the app and are simultaneously earning an income with it, I can't imagine your struggle.  I hope you find work-arounds for some of the privacy violations, and I hope you can find ways to diversify! It is difficult to be locked into a platform for financial reasons.

But for those of you who are like me, just average users with a small following - there are other ways to connect with people online.  

Parler - I've been on both Parler and MeWe for a couple months, and my experience with these new (and growing) platforms has been good thus far.  They don't use the addicting tricks that apps like Instagram and Facebook use, so in that sense they feel a lot healthier (think old school Facebook and Instagram before the algorithms ruined them).  They have much better privacy policies (especially MeWe), and on Parler specifically there is a small but busy homeschool community popping up.  If you aren't quite ready to give up social media all together (I'm not either), check them out.

Blogging - Good old-fashioned blogging is still a thing - despite my lamenting Instagram's killing of blogging, it's not truly dead.  I've been trying to keep it alive here for years, along with many other people (a few of them in my sidebar).  Back before social media took off so intensely, people took time to write out their thoughts long-form on a blog, and there are a lot of benefits to communicating this way.  Anyone can do it (really).  You don't have to write anything important or profound.  You can treat it just like Instagram if you want to.  It's your blog!  I hope we see a little resurgence of the classic casual blog in the wake of this social media disillusionment.  (I also wrote a post about how to start a casual blog, if you're interested.)

Newsletters - There are some great email newsletters out there, and it's a fun way to keep up with your favorite blogs and businesses right in your inbox!  I'm planning on reviving my newsletter in the new year (with maybe even some freebies for email subscribers - I'm thinking it over).  If you are interested, you can sign up here, or in the box at the bottom of this post!


I may turn this section into a longer post if more ideas present themselves, but I just wanted to tack this on to point out that Instagram is not the end-all, not if we don't want it to be.  We have options. 

This is nearly 2021, after all.

---

Thanks for letting me get all these social media thoughts off my chest, friends.  I needed to clear the air as I look ahead to a brand new year.  Social media has played too big of a role in my life for too long, and I've been praying for a while for the Lord to show me a way to find a balance or get out of it.  I'm excited to see what the future looks like for my little family, and this blog, unburdened by the social media giants.  

I think it's going to be good.

Happy New Year's Eve to you!


Honoring God Through Social Media Use



Do you think we can honor God through our social media use?

The obvious answer is yes, but I want to just consider this a little carefully today.  Because I’m not sure it is such an easy yes as it first seems.


I certainly think it’s possible to use social media in a way that glorifies God, and I used to follow people on Instagram especially that from what I can see do this very well.  I’ve been personally encouraged in the past by several Instagram accounts, and challenged in my faith.  I think lots of people put out content that is glorifying to God and encouraging to fellow believers, and that’s a good thing.


Where I think this gets a little stickier is on a personal level, when we ask “Am I glorifying God with how I’m using social media?”  That question is not just a question of content.  It’s a question of the heart and how we go about getting that good content up.


If I’m shushing my kids so I can record a video for Instagram, is that glorifying to the Lord?


If I spend five minutes in God’s word and an hour on Instagram each day, is that a godly use of my time?


If I check my phone when I should be focusing my attention on the story my husband is telling me, is that glorifying to God?


If I feel a little spark of pride when I tell people about my social media successes, numbers, sponsorships - even if I tack on the verbal equivalent of a #blessed hashtag - is that glorifying God, or is it glorifying me?


These are trickier questions.  I’m not answering them for anyone else.  It certainly is possible that a girl who has gained tens of thousands of followers has a pure heart in doing it for the Lord.  Even if she doesn’t, the Lord can be using and working through her posts and following, despite rough areas that He’s still smoothing out.  


For me though, I am starting to be convicted that my time is so much better spent looking into the eyes of my children, looking at the pages of God’s word, looking at the inside of my eyelids while I pray.  And if social media is taking time away from those more lasting pursuits, I need to reevaluate.


All the verses that are coming to mind as I think about how I need to be spending my time are things that are done quietly, in the hidden places of my heart, and especially within the walls of my home.


Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 

Colossians 3: 15-17


All of Matthew 6 gives examples of doing our good deeds in private, with a heart to glorify God only.


Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men.  Assuredly I say to you, they have their reward.  But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret, and your Father who sees in secret, will reward you openly. 

Matthew 6:3-4


And Colossians 3:2 says this:


Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth.


Paul reminds the Thessalonians to continue to grow in love to one another, and:


...that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, as we commanded you.

1 Thessalonians 4:11


I will be honest with you right now and tell you that the particular weaknesses that Instagram, and social media in general, brings out in me personally, are not compatible with what God calls us to in these verses.  Social media in general is all about doing your “good deeds” in front of men.  It brings my mind right down to earthly things, to the most insignificant of earthly things, like how many people care to follow me on Instagram, or how my shirt will look in a photo.  It’s not minding my own business well, and often it takes my focus away from letting the message of Christ dwell in me richly and letting His peace rule in my heart.


Someone will bring up this verse to me:


In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven. 

Matthew 5:16


And we are called to “let your light shine before men”, but it seems to me that should be an unconscious thing - because in the very next chapter Jesus warns not to pray, fast, or give to the needy on the street corners where everyone can see.  What we shouldn’t hide is the fact that we are believers, and any good that Christ is working in us should be an offering of worship to God alone.  There is a difference in doing our good works out of love and obedience to God, and doing them to look righteous to other people.  Our good works are not to be done to be seen by men, but to be seen by God.  If men happen to see you glorifying God through your obedience and service to Him, knowing that you are a Christian, that can bring more glory to God because of the work they see God doing in you.


I think people, generically speaking, can honor God through social media, and God can take even the broken and sinful ways we sometimes participate in social media, and still use it for His own purposes and glory. But when a person realizes that the ways they have typically used social media have been more self-glorifying than God-glorifying - well, it’s time to make some adjustments.  


To close out these thoughts on how to navigate the modern-day street-corner that is social media, let me just say this.


No one will know when you put down your phone so you can love your family better - but God will know.


No one will see how you set restrictions on your social media apps so you can focus on praying before your kids wake up - but God will see.


No one will hear the conversation you had with your child about salvation that you treasured up in your heart instead of sharing it on Facebook - but God hears.


No one can estimate the value of countless moments that you spend, quietly, pouring your heart into serving your family and friends with your phone pocketed, in leiu of pouring into Instagram - but God weighs those things.


He sees what is done in secret, for the glory of none but Him - and someday He will reward you openly. 



 


Is Instagram Necessary For Bloggers?


(This week I want to share a few posts that have been sitting in my draft folder for a couple months.  I wrote these a while ago, but just didn't feel like I was ready to share my thoughts yet.  But as I am looking at making some big changes regarding my personal use of social media, I thought this was a good time to share the things that have been stirring around in my mind. This post was written in October.)

Instagram came on the scene right when blogging was at it’s heyday, and the general advice at that time was that every time a new social media platform came on the scene, you snagged up your username.  So when Instagram arrived, I did the thing that good bloggers do - I jumped right on and snagged up my personal username, and my blog username.  Instagram seemed like a good platform for connecting with readers in a new, personal, and instant way.  It was fun, at first.


But over time, I don’t know…it seems like Instagram, in combination with other social media platforms, kind of killed blogging.  


I get why it happened.  Instagram was so…easy.  At a time when all the bloggers who seemed to know what they were doing recommended that you needed to get away from free platforms, buy a domain, set up a custom website, make sure your content looked professional and had pinnable images…Instagram required so much less effort and technical know-how to get started.  People started “blogging” on Instagram - it was quicker, and you didn’t need to sit down at a computer or know html code to do it.  That’s where the readers, old and new, seemed to be.


Anyway, fast forward ten years, and here we are, where it almost feels like an old-school blog is obsolete, unless it’s accompanied by a much-more-active Instagram account.  


And I hate that this is the way it is now.


Those of you who follow my blog account might have noticed I was putting more effort into my blog Instagram account for a few weeks there in September.  I’m not sure what prompted me to do this, aside from thinking that maybe I could get people to hop over and read my blog if I put a little more effort in.  But I think there was a part of me that was also trying to figure out if Instagram was the new blog world - if spending a little more time interacting on Instagram might bring back that old sense of connectedness that I had previously found with old-school blogging.  I wanted to see how much effort it took to reach new people on Instagram with my public account, and if it was a good medium for finding that reciprocity that we bloggers used to enjoy.  You know, returning comments, reading each other’s blog, linking to each other in the sidebar - all that was so fun back in the day.  I guess it was an unconscious experiment for me.


After two weeks of complete dissatisfaction with the amount of time I was spending on my phone, my sweet husband took time to listen to my discouraged ranting about Instagram. I was discouraged because as much time as I was spending on Instagram, something was missing for me, and I always left it feeling dissatisfied.





Derek’s social media philosophy is “this is why I am not on Facebook/Instagram!”  But he took the time to hear me out and listen to my struggles.  While I got Facebook under control last year, I wasn’t sure what to do with Instagram.  Because it seemed to me Instagram is necessary for bloggers these days.


As I started to talk with Derek about it, though, I started to question my own assumption about that.  People say if you’re a blogger, you need to be on Instagram, but I’m not sure if that’s always true.  Maybe it’s necessary for bloggers who want to earn an income through sponsorships - a lot of the sponsorships are on Instagram right now.  Maybe it’s necessary for bloggers who need the numbers to show to sponsors.  Maybe it’s necessary for bloggers who want a big following to achieve other goals.


But I’ve never really blogged for the numbers, and that’s kind of what I hate about Instagram.  No matter how much you try to connect, in the end so much of it is just a bunch of people chasing numbers - numbers of likes, numbers of comments, numbers of followers.  Numbers of dollars that you make off all that.


Don’t get me wrong, I know and follow plenty of girls who I think want to use their influence on Instagram to truly connect with people and bring glory to God.  I admire some of those Instagrammers I know, and I don’t think there is anything wrong necessarily with putting in the effort there if that’s what you want to do.


But I’ve realized I don’t want to put the effort into Instagram.  I’m not trying to earn money.  I don’t need a big number of followers to feel significant.  And likes are nice, but I don’t want that to be what I write for.


I have met many friends on Instagram over the years that I appreciate, that have turned into connections outside of the platform, and for those girls I am grateful!  But unfortunately that doesn't happen very often.  And fortunately there are other places to keep up with people online (like...blogs).


So is Instagram really necessary for bloggers today?  I guess it depends on what your goals are.  If your goal is to try to reach the biggest number of readers possible, you might do well to focus all your energy on Instagram.  


Or you might dig into your stats like I did and be surprised at what you find.  While I might get a few new people reading my blog through Instagram, the stats show it’s not a significant number.  I stepped away from trying to earn money from this blog a long time ago, because it sucked the joy out of it for me.  Because of that, gaining Instagram followers would just be an exercise in obtaining bragging rights, at the cost of time I could spend doing something more fulfilling.  




I just want to write, and I believe the people who really count will still come around to read.


And even if they don’t, I enjoy writing on this blog - I’ve always enjoyed it, just for the sake of writing, and sharing my thoughts with people who care to read them, and having a space on the internet that feels like it’s only mine, without it demanding my constant attention.  It’s okay to do something completely disconnected from the numbers, for no other reason than to enjoy doing it.  I think we forget that sometimes.


Are Social Media Breaks Effective?


I am a big advocate of taking a break from social media.  As in, deleting the app from your phone for a set period of time.


Every December for the last couple years I have taken a break from social media.  Both times it has been a great reset, and I return refreshed and ready to set some boundaries.  However, if I’m honest, the effectiveness of those boundaries has varied.  Sometimes I set a rule or limit for myself that ends up being way too easy for me to cheat on, and I fall right back into old habits.  Sometimes my willpower lasts for a a couple months before those old, well-worn patterns start to re-emerge.  


It’s easy to dismiss slightly unhealthy social media habits as if they don’t matter - but they do matter.  Why else do we even feel a need to take social media breaks?  We know that social media can suck away at our time, at our lives.  That’s not really a small thing, is it?  It’s well worth the time to figure out how to combat the pull toward wasting time on social media.


Social media breaks can be so useful for clearing your mind.  There is a sense in which social media acts on our brains like a drug - we get a little dopamine hit every time we get a new notification on social media, and it keeps us coming back for more.  Social media breaks allow your brain to…for lack of a better word…detox from that loop, so that you can make decisions about your social media use with a clear head.


Did you get that last bit?  


You detox so you can make decisions.





Social media breaks by themselves are limited in their usefulness, in my opinion.  You might gain a little space during a period where you want that time back (new baby, the holiday season).  You might feel refreshed while you are off it - you lose that “yucky” feeling, you waste less time, you realize how nice it is to not have that opportunity for comparison constantly within reach.  But the second you upload that “I’m back!” post, you’ll be right back where you started.  UNLESS, you use your break to come up with a plan.  


This is how I handled my social media break last year.  I didn’t just take a break to get back a little time and attention for my family during Christmas (though that was a nice perk).  I read books about social media and found resources for creating digital boundaries.  I sat around and thought a lot about what I liked about social media, particularly Facebook, and what I didn’t like.  I made some really hard decisions and developed a plan, and when it was time to get back on, I followed through on those hard choices.


And I have to say, I’ve never been so satisfied with my Facebook use as I have been this past year.  I don’t feel sucked in by it like I used to, and the thought of giving it up for good isn’t even so crazy.  


But…that’s because I made some actual changes to my Facebook account that allowed me to be successful, and I kept the Facebook app off my phone.  If you take a social media break, but don’t use your break to be 100% honest with yourself about your social media use, how it’s negatively affecting your life, and how to change it - your break, in the long term, is probably going to get you exactly nowhere.


I know this because that’s what happened last year with Instagram and me.  With Facebook, I emerged from my break with some really clear ideas about what I wanted out of Facebook, and what specific steps I needed to take to make it what I wanted it to be.  I did not take the time to be so self-reflective about Instagram, and I have to say that this fall, I find myself right back where I was last year - hating how Instagram is sucking so much of my time, but unsure how to fix it.


You know what I’m going to do?  I’m going to make some obvious adjustments right now (why wait until December?), and then I may very well take another social media break, this time focusing my attention on Instagram.  I need a game plan, and I need time to sort it out.  That’s the key to having an effective social media break - coming up with a plan while you’re away.


Have you taken breaks from social media?  How long were your breaks?  Were they useful for your habits longterm?


Social Media And Me: An Update

 


Last year I unfriended half of my Facebook friends. 

It seemed like a drastic move, but it was the culmination of months of evaluation of social media and how I was using it.  I hated how my first instinct in the morning had become checking my phone.  I hated how I would randomly find myself with my phone in my hand and social media open, without actually remembering reaching for my phone.  I hated how social media had affected some of my friendships, and how it was affecting my own attitude toward the world.  I hated that it was stealing my time.


At the time, Facebook was my biggest struggle, so that is where I put all my thought and effort.  What were the things I liked about Facebook?  What were the things I didn’t like?  How could I make adjustments to keep the aspects that were useful to me and discard the rest?  What was making me waste so much time on Facebook, and how could I eliminate those factors?


After a lot of thought and even prayer about the subject, I decided the only thing that would help would be to drastically cut my friends list, unfollow a bunch of pages, and keep my Facebook use to the function that was most useful to me - which was sharing photos with my close family and friends who appreciated seeing them.  I wrote a whole post about my unfriending process here.  I think it even shocked some of you!  But I knew in my heart it had to be done.


Since I took the steps I outlined in that post, I have felt so much more free in regards to Facebook.  It’s not the time suck for me that it used to be.  I might check it once a day, but since I cracked down on my notifications and the people I follow, there is rarely something new.  I hop on and I hop off.  I’ll occasionally share albums so my grandparents can see my photos, and occasionally I’ll share an article that I find interesting, but that is rare.  My Facebook use overall has probably declined by 70%, and it feels great!


However, Instagram is a different story.





Is it possible that all my bad social media habits just switched over to Instagram?  Did the pandemic throw me off, since social media was the only way to connect with my friends for a while? I don’t know what went wrong, but Instagram has been slowly taking over my life this year, and I’ve realized that it’s time for me to re-evaluate that platform now.  I’m hoping I can make a similar transformation to my relationship with Facebook, because once again I find myself with my phone in my hand and Instagram open, without knowing how I got there.


I hate how social media (Instagram) steals all the free moments in my day.  Yes, they are small moments, times when I’m waiting for a child to finish a worksheet so we can move on to the next subject, or waiting in the line at the grocery store.  The ten minutes after my Bible reading in the morning, when I type out a quick Instagram post.  A half hour after my workout when I post a short video.  


But all those “small moments” add up to a lot of time, time that could be better spent on other things.  I could read a book while waiting for that worksheet.  I could shoot a quick text to a real-life friend in the grocery store line.  I could spend ten minutes memorizing Scripture.  I could take some time to just be still and think.


Those things are all worth so much more, in the long run, than a few hearts on Instagram.


So it’s time to evaluate Instagram.  Usually I would wait for my annual social media break, but after having a chat with Derek, I think I’m going to try a different approach to making Instagram adjustments.  More on that coming up this month.


Do you have any boundaries in place for yourself in regards to your time on social media? Or have you taken any measures to make it easier?

Why And How I Deleted Half My Facebook Friends



It's been two weeks since I cut my number of Facebook friends in half.

In November I decided to take a social media break (I wrote a little about why here), but through the entire year of 2019, I've been slowly starting to question the role that social media has been playing in my life.  I knew I was on social media way too much, using it as a distraction from the boring moments in my day.  The last straw was when I started to find myself holding my phone, scrolling through Instagram, without consciously making the decision to pick it up.

So right before Thanksgiving I got off Facebook and Instagram, which I've never done before.  During my break, I read several really helpful books, and took a good hard look at Facebook and Instagram to figure out what role I really wanted them to be playing in my life.  Maybe I'll discuss Instagram another day.  I'm still figuring that one out, since like it or not, Instagram is kind of the place for bloggers to be.  But today I thought I'd share one thing I figured out about Facebook over my social media break, and it's this:

Facebook keeps people from fading from your life.




If you had mentioned this to me a few years ago, I would have viewed that as a good thing.  Now, I'm not so sure.  I have started to consider that maybe some people are meant to fade from your life, and that doesn't have to be a bad thing.

There are people who aren't really friends, just acquaintances that passed through your life for a time. There are friends that you used to have alot in common with, but over the years you've drifted apart.  There are people that you were hoping to develop a friendship with, but years have passed and nothing has ever come of it.

I've always had a hard time letting people go, and I do still think there is value in being a tenacious friend, in making the effort to keep in touch with people who mean something to you.  But it's a tricky thing to balance when social media now gives you the ability to superficially keep in touch with your cousin's-husband's-sister who you met once five years ago.  Or that one person you hung out with at camp, but really don't know at all.  Or someone you used to work with, but who you haven't seen in five years.

Fifty years ago, you would have gradually lost touch with these people, no harm, no foul.  I used to think that was sad, but now I wonder whether it was a blessing in disguise.  These days, the social norm is for these relationships to linger indefinitely on Facebook, because no one wants to hurt the other's feelings by "unfriending" them.  If you dare to unfriend someone, you have to be prepared for the possibility of a conversation when you eventually run into them...or drama behind your back.

It must have been simpler back in the day when people were just allowed to drift apart.



One day I woke up and realized that a majority of my friends list on Facebook were these kinds of relationships.  People I don't really know anymore, or never really knew at all, had all this information about everything that was going on in my life, and I had information about what was going on in their life too.  But without ever putting in the effort to be an actual real-life friend to each other.

Not everyone should have unlimited access to your life.

And some people are meant to be in your life only for a season.

As I contemplate all of this, I also fully resonated with this article about how we make unfriending too much of a "thing".  I actually think we have made Facebook interactions in general too much of a "thing". The article mentions that we have started "validating our real life friendships by our online friendships", as if we aren't really friends with someone unless we are also Facebook friends with them.  I especially liked the question the author asks:

"When we feel like we need to add someone as a friend or maintain their access on Facebook in order to substantiate our interactions in reality, haven’t we reversed the natural process?"

And yes, I think we have.  




Personally, Facebook's most valuable functions in my life have always been as a convenient platform to share multiple photos with my grandparents and aunts and uncles (and other people who care about my children and don't get to see them often), and as a tool to facilitate real-world, face-to-face interactions with people.  

So during my Facebook break, I really started thinking about how to make sure that Facebook was serving those specific functions in my life, and drawing the line there.  To a certain extent, I had allowed social media to fill other functions in my life without my conscious permission.  I don't want Facebook to be a boredom buster, a friendship barometer, a self esteem-booster (or conversely, destroyer), a platform for all my thoughts (that's what this blog is for), a tool for life-comparison, an acquaintance-spying tool, or a cheap substitute for meaningful friendships (more on this coming in another post I think).  

I want Facebook to be just what I said - a photo-sharing tool between close friends and family, and a facilitator for setting up my face-to-face interactions.  That's all.

In order to fit Facebook into the box I had decided on, I realized that I was going to have to unfriend some people.  That's a hard decision to make, because for a lot of people, unfriending is taken as a personal insult.  I was afraid that some people, people I still like and wish the very best for, would take it that way.  I know some people probably did take it that way, but I posted this before I started purging, in an effort to explain:


"Hi Guys! I wanted to let you all know that in the next few days I'll be whittling down my friends list. Since taking my Facebook break, I've realized that some people struggle with social media more than others, and I am one of those people. I knew when I came back to Facebook I was going to have to make some changes, and this is one of them.If I disappear from your friend list in the next couple days, I hope with all my heart that you will know that it is nothing against you at all! This is more about my own personal social media mental health (how's that for a made-up term?), in an effort to maintain a proper balance in my digital life. If you ever want to connect or get together with me, I would absolutely welcome interaction outside of Facebook, through a text, phone call, email, snail mail, etc!  I'm thankful for all of you, and what you've added to my life over the years! I hope we can connect in the future outside a screen.  <3"


And then I took the advice and encouragement from someone who has done this before, and I cut over half of my friend's list.



Time will tell if there will be unforeseen negative repercussions, but so far I've received mostly positive responses.  I'll continue to refine my friend's list until I've achieved the balance that I'm looking for, but for now, I feel lighter.  I'm satisfied that Facebook is now more functional as a tool that serves me, instead of the other way around.  And I'm spending much less time on it.

The hardest part for me in purging my friends list was deciding who to keep and who to let go. As I tried to make some hard decisions, I was heartened by this quote from Digital Minimalism:

"It's worth noting that refusing to use social media...to interact means that some people will inevitably fall out of your social orbit - in particular, those whose relationship with you exists only over social media.  Here's my tough love reassurance - let them go. The idea that it's valuable to maintain vast numbers of weak-tie social connections is largely an invention of the past decade or so...Humans have maintained rich and fulfilling social lives for our entire history without needing the ability to send a few bits of information each month to people we knew briefly during high school."
-Digital Minimalism, pg 155

Let them go.

So I held my breath and took the plunge.  I kept some people that I am hopeful will turn into real-world friends, but I may have to do another purge in the future if nothing comes of those relationships.  I let go of some people that I genuinely like and wouldn't mind being friends with - but I've been Facebook friends with them for years, and we never see each other anymore.

I hope those people will understand that even though we are no longer Facebook friends, that doesn't mean that I don't want real-life interaction with them.  I am hoping that anyone who really would  have liked to keep in touch with me will reach out to set something up, or send a note, outside of social media.

And for the ones that don't - well, I guess we were meant to fade from each other's lives after all.






Tools For A Social Media Break




I knew from the start that I wanted to completely break my phone habit with this year's social media break.  I don't like how my hand is often reaching for my hone before I even realize it, and I figured getting rid of Facebook and Instagram for a while would be the first step.

There are some complications though, with taking a break from social media.  How am I going to still share photos with my family (which is a big value of Facebook to me)?  How am I going to be able to get my blog posts to people who only read through Instagram?  How am I going to have the motivation to resist signing back in to check just "one more thing"?  And would getting rid of those two apps be enough, or would I just find other ways to waste time on my phone?

I don't want my bad habits to be diverted to other digital activities during this break.  I want to spend time doing things in the real world, and develop some "analog" skills that have been languishing for too long.

As I was mulling all that over, I found a few resources that have been or hopefully will be very helpful in making the most of my attempt to break my phone habit over the next couple months, and I wanted to share them with you here!

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport - I listened to this book in two days over the weekend, and picking this book up now was so timely for me.  Newport is talking about the very thing I've been struggling with, getting a handle on your "digital life" and making sure that the ways in which you use technology are actually serving you, instead of making you a slave to technology.  This book gave me so many things to think about, and strategies for making sure that I break my phone habit long-term, not just until my break is over in January.

Freedom.to - This is a tool I read about in Digital Minimalism, and I went straight home and signed up.  Freedom.to allows you to block distracting websites (specified by you) for certain blocks of time or on regular schedules (also specified by you).  I've set mine up to block time-suck websites for the hours of 9-5, Monday through Friday.  Like I said, I didn't want my bad phone habits to just get diverted to other digital time wasters, so this tool should help alot!  They are running a special right now too - you can try it monthly for $7, or get a whole year for $20!

Later.com - I mentioned in my first post about taking a social media break that I am still going to use a scheduler, to let people know that I've posted here on my blog.  This is the scheduler!  You can set it up to share to multiple social media websites (without being signed in), but the one that is most useful at this time for me is posting to my blog Instagram, because this is the only website I'm aware of that let's you schedule posts to Instagram.  I know there is a decent portion of readers (though not as many as you might think) who keep up with blogs through Instagram, and I didn't want those of you who keep up with me that way to totally miss out while I have the app removed from my phone.

Chatbooks - Another hesitation I had with giving up Instagram specifically is that I have a recurring series that automatically prints my pictures to these cute little photo books through Chatbooks.  My kids LOVE these books and are constantly carrying them around.  I was a little sad to miss a couple months of capturing our memories this way, until I remembered that you can add photos to a Chatbook manually through the app.  Did you know that?  It will take a little more intention from me to remember to add photos to the book when I don't have an instant audience or the boost of "likes", but that's also the whole point of my social media break - to be more intentional with how I'm spending my time.  I'm thinking about printing out books of the best photos from the month and sending them to our family members who really enjoy photos of the kids.  Yes, this will cost me more money, but I have to think it will mean a little more too.  (There is also just good ol' texting for sending photos, which I plan on putting to use!)



I'll write another post soon about things I'm hoping to spend time on instead of my phone, but I wanted to share these tools this morning for a few of you who I know were also considering some sort of digital break!

Do you have any other resources I should know about that are helpful for breaking bad phone habits?

Also, real quick, did you know that I actually had a newsletter for this blog?  I haven't sent a newsletter out in years, but I figured now might be a good time to dust it off.  If you need a way beside social media for keeping up with this blog, you can sign up for updates below!



See You Later, Social Media


  (Photos from our October fishing day.)

It's been growing for a while.  This uneasy relationship that has been developing between me and social media.

It all started with a blog post I read about social media addiction last year.  It opened my eyes to something that had already been eating at me.

I don't like the way I sometimes feel compelled to look at one social media platform or another.

I don't like having the weight of my phone so often in my back pocket.

I don't like how I feel...well, yucky after spending more time than I meant to browsing on Facebook or Instagram.

I don't like that feeling that I've missed out on something more important after my eyes have been glued to my phone.



For a while I wanted to be able to just cut back on my usage, set some phone time limits to help me stay off, develop better habits.  But when I take a break or set a limit for one social media platform, I find a lot of my energy is only diverted to a different one, and there I am, still wasting so much time.  Too much of my days wasted.

I'm taking a break.  A break from all social media platforms except here on my blog.  That is how it all started out anyway, right?  All these social media platforms I initially set up to help this blog are actually stealing from it in many ways now.  I am excited for the weeks ahead, to be able to put all my creative and writing energy into this space, the one that I always come back to.

So yeah.  I'm just taking an Instagram and Facebook break, and deleting 75% of the apps on my phone.  I'm not sure exactly how long I'll be off, but I imagine it will be until January so I can enjoy the Christmas season without the social media burden.  If you see updates on my blog Instagram and Facebook page, it will be automated posts that I'll be setting up through a scheduler.  I may pop on once or twice to say "Happy Thanksgiving" and "Merry Christmas", but otherwise, if you want to keep up with me, I'll be here on the blog.



I have lots of plans for what I'm hoping to accomplish with my extra time over the next one or two months.  Maybe I'll share that in another blog post next week!  But my main goal is to get rid of social media for a while, let the impulse to check it fade, so I can evaluate what, if anything, social media is actually adding to my life.  With a clear head.

I want to really look at my kids this Christmas season.  I want to take pictures of them merely because I think they are adorable, not in order to have something to share on my Instagram feed.  I want to bake, and sing, and paint, and fill photo albums, and figure out if I really can be a crafty mom, or if I'm as hopeless in that area as I always thought I was.  I want to memorize verses, and do an Advent study, and have enough blank space in my day to meditate more on what I've read.  I want to stop insta-sharing, and let things ruminate a little bit, and grow into something better so I can share the thought here, fully formed.

I want to focus more attention on my actual life instead of focusing on just making it look pretty on social media.

I love that quote from Annie Dillard that I came across earlier this year.  She said, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."

I want to spend mine on something better than Instagram.



---

Have you ever taken a social media break?  How did it go, and how long did it last?

This isn't my first break, I took a break from Facebook years ago, and again last December, but I'm looking forward to a more thorough break this time!  It's the first time I've said goodbye to Instagram since I joined.

The Memory Thief In My Pocket



I hate this picture.

Okay, hate is a strong word.  I don't hate it.  It's a picture of me and my son while we were fishing last week, so I can't hate that.

What I don't like about it though is that ugly square of a phone sticking out of my back pocket.

Just to clarify, I was NOT poking around on my phone during our fishing day.  The phone is in my pocket because I was using it as my camera.  Photos are a big part of remembering events for me, and  I never feel bad for keeping a camera on me to capture the moments before they slip away (within reason - it is possible to take TOO many pictures).  But looking at this picture yesterday, a thought came to me, and it was this: if there is one thing I won't remember and don't desire to keep memories of in my life, it's the times I am on my phone.  And maybe that should affect my priorities a little bit.



Social media has its place.  I don't think any modern tool like that is all good or bad, so this is not a post about deleting all your social media accounts so you can spend more time making memories.  I'm hoping this might just be a little reminder to you and me to keep some balance.  Because there are some things which are not worth giving up.

It's not worth it to miss real-life interaction in favor of virtual interaction.  Even if the virtual interaction sometimes feels more interesting.

It's not worth it to make your kid call you ten times while you need "just a minute" more to read about some obscure acquaintances' life on Facebook.  Because you probably won't remember or care about that acquaintance in ten years, and it's never "just a minute".

It's not worth it to spend so much time staging perfect photos to grow your Instagram following if it means you are missing real moments with your kids.  Instagram following numbers are sand castles, and your kids should have mostly memories of you without your phone in your face (or theirs).

It's not worth it to get a blog post up every day if you have to stress about cramming writing into a weekend that is going to be full of real-life friendships or put down your sick baby who just wants her mama.

In case it wasn't obvious, that last one was me this weekend.  I'm losing steam on this writing challenge this month, and I think maybe that's appropriate.  Because I'm writing about memory-keeping, which goes hand-in-hand with memory-making.

I had a wonderful Saturday watching my son play his last game of soccer for the year, and driving three hours while we listened to stories to see friends that have stayed some of my dearest friends for the last twenty-two years.  Waking up later than I wanted to the next morning because I was such a good kind of tired, but still making it to church on time, and snuggling my youngest down for her nap before putting together a dessert for a game night with friends who are newer, but still becoming dear too.

And then yesterday, snuggling a sick baby instead of writing up the post I had originally planned for this morning.  I am happy to have this space to record my memories, because I know they would be lost to me if I didn't write them down.  But I won't fondly remember the actual recording of them, and I certainly won't look back nostalgically on time spent poking around on my phone, even if it's for the purpose of recording my memories.

The thing that makes memory-keeping precious is not the keeping part, but the memory itself.  And I think that's just a good thing to keep in mind in our modern age.  Memories aren't worth sacrificing, and it's a noble effort to guard against lesser things that might steal or tarnish memories that could have been made.






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