ON LEAVING SOCIAL MEDIA FOR A BIT AND LOVING IT (AND WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE BREAK)

Sunday, June 3, 2018
A little preface: I started writing this post on May 17. Today is June 3, so it's been another two weeks since I wrote the following about deleting Instagram from my phone one night - cold turkey - and the freedom life handed me in doing so. I hoped to share this post back then, but life has been busy (surprise, surprise ๐Ÿ˜‰). Tonight, though, after listening to President Russell M. Nelson invite the youth of my church to go on a 7-day social media fast, I had to get here and share my "amen." The prophet related my exact feelings about life without social media in his address. My jaw dropped as I listened to him (he had me pinned!), and my head nodded and nodded and nodded. Listen to his full address here (skip to 1:26:00). And here, read on. Let me tell you about how I left Instagram, why I loved the break, and what I learned...


Thursday, May 17, 2018
I deleted Instagram two weeks ago for most of the week.

It was the best thing that's happened to me in a long time. 

Well, I did turn 27,  and true to form, my birthday was a blast. Oh and Kimbee was married almost two weekends ago, too! I should write about the first two events soon (I have pictures from both big days!), but for now, I'm going to divulge some things I realized after deleting "the 'Gram." 

First - my overall realization after removing myself from social media was - relief. Relief! You don't feel relieved when helpful things leave your life; you feel relieved when stressful things leave your life. It goes without saying that social media in general is as detrimental to our health as it is beneficial - that discussion circles around all of the time. The comparison game that social media forces you to play is a poison. I have to admit, though, that seeing my friends' joy via that app often brings me joy. So why, what was it about Instagram that was hurting me? How had social media become a stressor for me? (Instagram, specifically, I don't use Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat) Why was I so relieved after I deleted it? 

Here's what I realized: 

Realization #1: I was wasting more time on the app than I thought. The time I'd been spending scrolling was (obviously) time that I wasn't being productive. The idleness had been agitating my soul, I realized, which is why the severed-Instagram strings felt relieving. I'm a doer, born and raised, so to just be bobbing along, although easy, was frustrating me deep down. It felt relieving to not be tethered to something that was subtly, slowly sucking away so much of my time, keeping me at a productivity level way beneath my capacity.

Realization #2: I had been going to IG for connections - for true friendship - and had been failed. After deleting Instagram, I could not turn to it for social fuel and I saw SO CLEARLY that that app wasn't filling me with true friendship at all. It kept me in touch with my friends, but not connected with them. A connection is between two things. One thing touches one other thing - plug + socket - and voila you're connected. The swift scrolling I was getting used to on Instagram wasn't truly connecting me with a single person. I had to go elsewhere to find my people without IG on my phone, which is exactly what I did (bless FaceTime, old fashioned phone calls, and - my new fave! - Marco Polo). After directly connecting, one-on-one, with people that I love off of IG, I finally felt the social and emotional fulness that I had been so hungry for. The experience gave birth to a new name for the app for me: "Insatiable Instagram." Maybe it's just a phase, but at least for now, I really can't get full over there. I need richer, denser calories. Fruit Loops taste good, but they leave you hungry in an hour. Give me eggs on avocado toast with bacon and a green smoothie on the side -- that'll keep me going! Give me real time and real conversations with my real friends. That will keep me going.

Realization #3: I had been suffering from "Information Overload" and had no idea. Without the app, I realized how free my brain felt during the day -- it didn't have to process what 500 people were doing, along with analyzing the 100, unsolicited ads in my feed (BLEH). My mind wasn't distracted, my attention-span wasn't sucked dry. This sounds almost ridiculous because it's so obvious, but since I wasn't on Instagram, I was with my present world. I was with my girls, I was with my daily tasks, I was with my friends in rich ways. The mind needs to disconnect from the swipes, scrolls, and reels. The brain needs breaks.

These were BIG realizations for me, which will leave some of you gawking at my relationship with social media (I know there are so many out there that don't bat an eye at that world!), and simultaneously it may leave some of you surprised. I have always loved social media for the space it's given me to be positive, joyful, faithful, encouraging of motherhood, and open with my feelings. All good things, but being without that app revealed so much to me: too much of a good thing isn't always wonderful. Even with all of the good that social media brings, it had become too much for me. 

A couple other things I've learned and thought about since distancing myself from social media:

When I told Ryan that I had deleted Instagram, he replied "Whaaat? Why?" :) He knows how much I genuinely enjoy the app. I told him I didn't even really know why - I just suddenly deleted it - and then just like that, he deleted it, too. Days later, after I re-installed the app, he saw me mindlessly scrolling one night and said sadly - literally sadly! - "You're back on the 'Gram? It was so nice to have you off of it." 

BOOM. CRASH. BANG.

I have worked hard to not be sucked into my phone all the time -- my family knows that. My girls know that I have screen time when they have screen time; I do not need to be on my phone all day. And yet, I was still checking out too much! Maybe I was gone for just a few minutes here or there, but I was still "gone," and they knew it. My sweet husband saw it. He felt it. I'd open up Instagram and leave reality -- I'd leave him. That is not okay. 

Between the relief I felt after deleting IG, and my husband's chagrin when I brought it back, I realized that my previous relationship with social media wasn't healthy enough. I need to be off the screens even more. I'm working on my new approach as speak -- I don't want to tap out entirely. I have friends that I need to keep tabs on - from elementary school to college girlfriends, study-abroad friends, and cousins all over the country - I have people that are easiest to stay in touch with there. But I can't be there like I was. I cannot shake the fact that I was relieved when I deleted Instagram, and I feel so much better still with some distance there. So yes, I'm still working on my new approach to it all, and while I don't have it nailed yet, I'm just grateful to be shaking things up over here and to be doing and feeling so much better.

Last thought -- there's been a lot of talk recently about the hits our children are taking from social media. There has been a lot of talk about the resolution to the issue -- take away your kids' smart phones. I realized after I deleted Instagram - the most mind-numbing, time-sucking aspect of my smart phone - that I had, essentially, taken my phone away from myself and just like that, I had ground to stand on when, in the future, I ask my girls to hand over their phones. One day I will be able to tell them that I "left the party." That I tapped out, I took a break, and guess what -- I was HAPPY. I still had friends in my life, I still had fun. In fact, I had (I have!) more of that without the app.

Let your kids see that you have the courage to tap out of the party -- the courage to give yourself a break. How on earth can we expect our kids to NOT be on their phones all the time when we are on our phones all of the time? HOW can we ask them to hand their phones over when we never hand our phones over? How can we hope that they'll bravely not participate in the vicious cycles of social-media overconsumption when we don't ever step away from them ourselves? Even if what they're consuming is healthy, too much of an enjoyable thing is simply too much of an enjoyable thing! Our kids have to see that we know that, and that we can stop eating the Fruit Loops. It is unfair parenting to hold your kids to standards that you cannot or will not meet yourself. It is foolish to think that they'll be willing to do any good thing in life that we are not doing ourselves. 

All that said, here's my little invite for you: delete Instagram. Or Facebook, or that video game, or whatever it is that sucks you away from your life in the present. After you delete it, honestly see how you feel without it. Are you lighter? Happier? Relieved, like me? Do you have more time? Are you more productive? Are you getting to bed earlier and sleeping better? Also figure out the following: what was it that you were seeking in your "app escape?" Was it entertainment? Connection? Information? See how you feel when you feed that appetite in another place. Draw comparisons, draw contrasts. Then draw yourself some new bounds. Doing so has been incredible for me. Oh it has been so good for me! Like I said, I am still navigating my new bounds, but I can totally, genuinely report that my appetite for social media has been slashed. No more Fruit Loops. Give me real, good, soul food with real, good, friends with souls I can see and hearts I can feel. 

That's all, folks. :) As always, thanks for listening to and learning with me here. Let me know how your big break goes (my gut tells me you're going to love it)!

๐Ÿ’›

Jeni

PS, a little pic in parting. :) We really have been all over the map in the last month - from Tijuana, Mexico, to Price, Utah, and a handful of places in between - one stop being the Seven Magic Mountains outside of Vegas. They were so cool. Life is so cool!

2 comments:

  1. I have no words, Jeni. Thank you so much for this. Your description of keeping up with, but not connecting with friends was so on point for me. I love reading your writing and your insights. Thank you so much for sharing your gifts! I'm on day one of my social media fast and it has felt like a breath of fresh air!

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    Replies
    1. That breath of fresh air is more refreshing than you expect it will be, huh? I'm so glad you're giving yourself a break (I'm loving this fast, too). Thank you so much for your sweet words and for reading all of these thoughts of mine -- there tends to be a lot of them (for better or worse, ha!), so your kind eyes and ears here mean a lot! XO

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