One of the first things they tell you when you publish a book is to make sure you stay in front of your audience. I've worked consistently over the past few years to not only be present on social media but also connected and engaged. And I've loved it. I truly love seeing your photos and reading your favorite quotes. I appreciate being inspired by people different from me, helping to expand my perspective. I crave to know what's happening in the lives of my internet friends. But guess what?
Recently, I found myself overwhelmed. Not only because our country and our world are amidst crisis but also because I found myself using my thumb to see your reactions and concerns before I even checked in with my own.
Here's how that looked:
Hop out of bed, open Instagram.
Eat lunch, check LinkedIn.
Have a snack, click on Twitter.
Post yoga, better look at Facebook.
After dinner, repeat.
And lots of clicks in between.
It was exhausting!
Now the irony doesn't escape me that I'm using these platforms to share with you my burnout moment. I heard clearly the nudge in my spirit to take a break into the new year. And, I did.
Here's what I learned, the first few days were really hard. It was truly like letting go of an addiction (well, I guess it had become that based on the detox time period I have needed). After a week of complete social media detoxing, we had a death in the family and it felt quite appropriate to share my grandmother's obituary (because she was amazing and I wanted to honor her memory) on my personal account. I appreciated the kind words and condolences that interaction offered me. But I didn't jump back in completely, I found myself purposely entering in slowly to check the messages you sent.
And guess what? With purposefulness rather than mindlessness, I felt more in control of my scrolling and less depleted. I found myself realizing I could find balance in my presence here rather than letting social media rule my heart and mind. I wasn't sure that was possible, I was afraid I may have to completely cut ties forever to care for my soul. That felt impossible with my role as a business owner and author (who hopes to publish again someday and will then have a new book to share with you, that I hope you'll want to set your device down to read). At a time when physical presence in community is limited, social media has become a practical lifeline to others. I did not want to lose that connection but I did want to find a new rhythm for my life.
Four ways you can decrease social media time to care for your soul (and how I did just that):
1. Stop using your thumb. Uninstall social media apps from your smartphone and after a detox time period (set by you) re-enter using them only on a computer or tablet. I've found there's less temptation to scroll from these devices than the always present phone that is by my side.
2. Set time limits. You can either set limits for yourself or (if you're like me and need a bit more structure) set your phone to shut down from social media or all screen time at certain times of day or after a certain period of time. This way, your phone is still a phone (what a concept!) and less of a time sucker. I've read so many more books and even picked back up some hobbies (knitting!) I had long forgotten about. I'm amazed at how much time I've gained back with my limits.
3. Install helpful apps (apps that help you be present, learn, or grow) on your phone for those moments of waiting that you truly think you need something to do. I like Insight Timer, Audible, and Mighty Networks (the app where our Peace Seekers community connects).
4. Keep your phone outside of your bedroom. I'll admit, this one is tough for me as I'm a parent of a teen who works evenings and my spouse and I are often already in bed when our son gets home from work. I'm finding a new routine though and purposefully plugging my phone in to charge in the bathroom. I can still hear it in an emergency but it's not by my bed nor am I tempted to pick it up first thing in the morning. Now in the mornings, I brush my teeth, let the dog out, practice meditation then open my devotional. After all those things, I pick up my phone. And guess what? It's just a phone now so it's power over me is much less than it's ever been and my thumb is way less stressed too!
Why shouldn't I be telling you this? Because what if you decide to unplug? What if you miss out on something I'm supposed to share with you soon? What if you make discoveries like me and find a new rhythm that leaves us less connected? Maybe this invitation will keep us accountable to one another? Maybe we'll find a new way to explore peace in our own lives. Maybe we'll discover what matters most and choose being present with God, ourselves, and those around us over the constant distractions. Maybe we'll see more of what God wants us to notice and feel less overwhelmed by the constant stream of information that's available in arms reach.
So actually, I should be telling you all of this! Why yes, you can find connection and balance in social media and still care for your soul. It's possible.
Do you have parameters for your social media use? What are they? How do these guidelines help you? Note: we'll be checking in on this in our Peace Seekers group later this month as we explore the ancient practice of Creating a Rule of Life. I'm working on mine now and am excited to share it with our small and growing private community. If you're looking to find a place with less distraction and more purpose, join us there.
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC