I tend to be all-or-nothing with things.
When I buy a new CD (yes, I still actually physically do that from time to time) and I like it, I play it on repeat for three weeks straight until I have every lyric memorized. (Sorry, Stud. Blame Adele.)
If I realize we’ve been consuming too much sugar lately and our family needs to be eating more nutritiously, I go into a blind panic and raid the kitchen until everything I’d be ashamed for my doctor to see peeking out of my purse has been tossed into the trash. (Sorry, Stud. Blame Whole30.)
I either wake up with a spring in my step to conquer my to-do list and get so much accomplished by the end of the day I’m giddy-high and completely spent…
or I stay in my pajamas and get off the couch periodically only to walk around aimlessly wondering what it is I’m supposed to be doing that day… what day is it again?
All or nothing. Told you.
In light of this, it’s no surprise that I’ve majorly struggled with maintaining balance with the beast we call social media. I’ll get into ruts and keep my phone in my back pocket 24/7, pulling it out constantly at the slightest sign of a lull, and essentially spend the day scrolling, clicking, stalking, pinning, liking, sharing, and posting like it’s my job (and while it actually is for some, it most certainly is not my job). Then I’ll suddenly realize I’ve let myself become addicted to my apps, and I’ll delete them all and go on a social media fast for a week, month, 40-day lent period, whatever.
There are clear problems with either extreme here. When I let social media be my immediate go-to throughout the day, I find myself feeling distracted, untethered, self-doubting, and dissatisfied. When I retreat from social media entirely, I end up feeling like a cross between an ostrich and a monk, and miss out on major life news, prayer requests, and opportunities to keep up with friends and family.
Where the tarnation is the in-between?!
Slowly, clumsily, I’ve started to find that illusive middle ground. It’s taken a lot of prayer, a lot of accountability, and a lot of trial and error. A breakthrough came one day when I opened up the “notes” app in my phone and started cultivating the list below. It’s not rocket science, but it has been hugely helpful to me, and I hope, will be for you.
5 Questions I Ask Myself
Before Getting on Social Media
1. Would it be better to be fully present right now?
This one usually stops me in my tracks. Often I never even get to questions 2 through 5, because this is all I need to set my phone down and move along.
For me personally, in this season of life as a stay-at-home mom of four, my days are full, to say the least. There are always sticky fingers to wipe, sibling brawls to break up, books to read, boo boos to kiss, and sandwiches to fix. It can be overwhelming, and the temptation to retreat into social media can be great, to feel a little more “normal” for just a few minutes.
The problem is, a few minutes quickly becomes an hour, and usually by the end of that hour my kids feel neglected and restless, the house is a wreck because the kids were unsupervised, and immediate regret for that wasted time kicks in. Top that off with a heap of jealousy at so-and-so’s vacation pictures, and sprinkle on some anxiety about all the ways I could be better (thinner, craftier, more spontaneous or witty or organized)… and there you have a recipe for a crappy attitude and a day that is quickly snowballing out of control.
The day is redeemable, of course, but most of the time if I just stop and ask myself in the first place, “would it be better to be fully present right now?” the answer more times than not is “yes,” and I can save myself the detour by focusing on the here and now.
But when they’re napping, or in bed for the night? I absolutely love catching up with friends on Facebook. Or when I’m Sabbath-ing and taking a break from the housework and just want to insta-stalk for an hour or two? I go for it, guilt-free. With intention and in moderation, I can enjoy it guilt-free.
2. Am I getting on social media because I’m procrastinating something?
There’s not too much to elaborate on here… let’s just say the answer is a resounding “YES” 99.9% of the time, and when I’m real with myself and get whatever “it” is done first, I save myself from a future panic attack, and that is just a good thing for e’rybody.
3. Am I getting on social media in an especially emotional state?
You know how sometimes, when you’re scrolling away on your newsfeed, a post leaps out at you? And your stomach turns because “wow is that person clearly feeling very _____ (angry, sad, spiteful, confused)… and man are they going to regret saying that tomorrow”?
Well I really, really, really don’t want to be that person.
I have before and I’m sure I will again. But God has given us a whole other way to live, and it looks like this:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:22-26
I just love that, that mental image of keeping in step with the Spirit of God. It’s so much more purposeful than simply letting my actions be driven by the rollercoaster of my emotions. So I do my best to make sure that I don’t get on social media until my emotions are under His control, or else I know that those last lines, “provoking one another, envying one another” will become true of me.
4. If I get on social media right now, can I practice Philippians 4:8?
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
Here’s another beautiful and convicting passage that can be applied to social media in so many ways. I replace “think” with the technical vernacular… “tweet these things,” “post these things,” “comment these things,” and have the perfect yardstick for whether or not my time online is being spent to His glory.
5. If I get on social media right now, can I handle the people?
“…he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth…” 1 Timothy 6:4-5
I fully realize this passage is specifically talking about false teachers in the time of Christ, but as we enter an election year, I can’t help but feel like this is straight-up prophesy for the comment sections of articles about the presidential candidates of today. UGH. Y’all, I’m sorry, but most days I just can’t handle it.
People can get ugly online, shielded by their screens and tricked into thinking their words don’t make that big of a difference amongst the masses… well, they do. Words are powerful. Proverbs 18:21 says that “death and life are in the power of the tongue,” and Matthew 12:36 tells us that “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”
So if I log onto social media, I have to recognize that in doing so I’m about to be bombarded with people and their words. Yes, a lot of them will be my friends and my family, and many of their words will be inspirational and loving. But a lot of them won’t be, and a lot of them won’t be. I can choose to give grace or I can choose to hold back, but as a believer, I will not join the “constant friction.” I must cling instead to those fruits of the Spirit, those “whatevers,” and if I know that I can’t? I LOG OFF. Simple as that.
This particular post is one that is near and dear to my heart, because these self-posed questions have brought me so much freedom in the last couple of years. Social media is not inherently evil or good. As much as I prefer things in black and white, my favorite apps and blogs are neither things to cling to nor flee from. They’re simply tools. When used with carelessness or evil intent? They can destroy. When used properly, with intention and in moderation? Social media can connect us, inspire us, and bring us great joy.