It has been officially one month (and a few days) that I have fasted from social media (Instagram and Facebook).
I cannot believe I made it. No, really. I thought I was going to be all jittery from not being ‘in the know’ on everything. I thought I would feel left out, alone, and secluded.
I am pleasantly surprised to report that it has been quite the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, those first few days weren’t all peachy. The majority of random thoughts that pop in my head are followed by my need to post it to the world. I like putting myself out there and being received. Once I made it over the three-day hump, though, it became easier. Soon after, it got to the point where I nervous about even going back.
This month proved to be quite an experiment. Don’t you love it when make a change for one reason and then God comes through and shows you way more than you ever anticipated?
Real vs Electronic
By week two, I started to notice something: the people in my life could pretty much be put into 2 categories—- REAL life friends and ELECTRONIC life friends. A small handful could be cast as both, but most were easily labeled in one category or the other. It took almost no time at all to realize I had spent too much time focusing on relationships in my virtual/electronic life and failing to nurture the ones in real life.
Once I had this realization on my fast I decided that if someone crossed my mind during the day it was because they fell into the REAL category. They crossed my mind not because of a photo I noticed in my news feed or something awesome they posted, but because they were someone who was a real friend and someone with whom I had a true connection that existed outside of something on my computer. So I made it a point to text, call, or write a note/ email to people who crossed my mind like that.
I also noticed something else that I was not expecting:
I mattered to people.
There were a small handful of people who enjoyed or looked forward to keeping up with my life via my blogs, status updates, and photos. I was on their ‘real’ list. Not seeing me virtually, I still crossed their minds. A sweet friend whom I don’t see in person very often made a point to text me randomly and check in and even send me pics of her kids. I ran into friends at the grocery store and they would catch me up on photos of crazy messes their kids got into. Three friends had babies and in the midst of all their postpartum craziness, managed to send me photos of their new little bundles since they knew I wouldn’t be privy to them online. A friend at the gym took the time to show me videos of his new baby girl giggling or photos of her chunka-licious baby thighs. Other friends at school or the gym would mention “hey, I miss seeing you online.” I expected to miss people, but I was not expecting them to miss me.
The Let’s -Get- Together-(but not really)- Game
So the last week of ‘the fast’, my husband was out-of-town ALL. WEEK. LONG. I love how the Lord’s timing works perfectly. Had this week alone with the kids been in a different month, it probably would have not worked out the way it did. My husband in no way hinders me from growing or learning, but with him gone, the kids and I were a little more lax in our schedule and really more in survival/pass the time mode.
The previous three weeks of making real connections with folks pushed me out of what I thought to be my comfort zone. How often do you see someone and the conversation goes like this:
You: Hey sweet friend!
Friend: Hey! I miss you!
You: I miss you too. We should get together.
Friend: Ya, totally. Let’s do.
Nobody ever gets together. You just say that until the next time you run into them.
Why is that? Do we fear intimate face to face connection? Do we have our own agenda and don’t want others to mess it up? Do we desire community but just don’t know how to get over the awkwardness?
Yes, all of the above. Early in the month, the Lord revealed to me that this ‘fast’ would force change to occur in my relationships. He showed me that true, intimate connection with people is the way of the Gospel— not keeping them at arm’s length with a funny status or picture of my cute kids. With His gentle hand guiding me, I decided to stop playing the “let’s get together” game and actually get together.
I called a few random friends and had an actual phone conversation (with my kids screaming in the background) rather than a text or email. I learned that Starbucks meetings paired with God centered chatting with a girlfriend one on one is truly good for the soul. Other sweet gals in my life invited me to their home for coffee. (Yes, God & coffee usually go hand in hand). While my husband was away, I made a point to use my home to serve and connect with others. I had a friend with her kids over for dinner. While our kids played, over pizza and box wine (don’t judge) we had some really awesome conversation. Another day, some younger ladies from my Fight Club came by (with coffee) to check in and chat about life. I live near the most popular pediatrician in town. A precious friend was taking her daughter in and while I only had five minutes to spare, I asked her to pop by just so I could see her face and hug her neck. Last month I would have been too busy for any of this. I would have assumed I was connecting to people because I saw what they were doing online.
Why don’t we do this anymore? I remember my mother always having someone over for tea when I was little. That was the total norm. Nowadays, we don’t allow others in our home because we don’t want them to see our legos scattered down the stairs, dirty Ninja Turtle undies in the hallway, leftover breakfast crumbs under the table, and hear our children arguing. With face to face interaction comes awkwardness. Exposing others to our messes (both actual and emotional) makes us vulnerable. Vulnerability is scary. But guess what folks, if someone is disgusted by your mess, it says more about their heart than it does about your habits. God loves a beautiful mess.
Over this past month in my social media fast, God showed me way more than I ever anticipated. He exposed areas in my heart I had no idea needed attention. Pursuing real life human relationships amidst our busyness is much more worthwhile than placing our significance in the pseudo community that social media offers. (God also showed me that I should not be allowed more than two cups of coffee in a 24 hour time span, but that’s for another day) Man was created to live in community with one another and ultimately glorify our Maker. We are called to do so. Are you existing in a pseudo-community with a false sense of relationships?
I would ask you to examine your communities— school, church, neighborhood, gym, etc.
- Are you leaving church during the last song so that you don’t have to talk to anyone?
- When you pick up your kids from school, are you quickly in & out or do you make a point to say hi and be friendly to the other moms?
- At the gym, are you there just to focus on yourself and your own agenda or do you encourage others and make them feel welcome in your space?
- In your neighborhood, do others feel comfortable stopping by or sending their children over to play unannounced or do you make them feel like you are always too busy?
- Are there people in your life that exist only virtually?
I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. Reach out and touch somebody! No, really.
I’m not swearing off social media forever… I’m just nervous to jump back in! I’m sure I will check in here and there every now and then. As a whole though, I pray that this month of real life human interaction made a large enough impact to keep me more engaged with the real world than the electronic one.
A friend whom I haven’t seen in a couple of years, thought of me and sent me snail mail! I know, how awesome is that? Other than an occasional ‘thank you’ note how often do you receive something handwritten in the mail? I will seriously keep this forever and probably frame it. Not just because it has an awesome quote or because it’s gold (love), but because it will remind me of that time in my life that I took a step back and pursued actual real life relationships with people. That has been the greatest gift I received during this fast. (You know who you are Friend, I will call you this week)