Let me start out by saying this whole experiment kind of happened haphazardly. I aim to be unplugged from media on Sundays, and this past year Christmas happened to be on a Sunday. The holiday excitement around our household carried through the following week, and so I just continued to stay off my facebook account. And then, as I examined my goals and hopes for the new year, I felt like God was asking me to continue the “fast.” Indeed, I felt like a fast across multiple domains was in order to start the new year off right. We are currently in the midst of a food fast of sorts, as we are getting ready to complete our first round of Whole 30. Adding to the fasted lifestyle has included regular early morning wake ups and more structured routines in daily life.
But back to facebook. I’ve never been one to “over share” and even putting this post out there makes me feel vulnerable. But here are some significant lessons I learned from my #40dayfacebookfast. I hope you can be encouraged, and challenged as well as you evaluate your use of media in the future! One of my favorite quotes is “The unexamined life is not worth living” (Socrates). I find that I feel truly alive and purposeful when I have analyzed and examined aspects of my life to determine if they are worthwhile, or “pruned” them to be even more fruitful and useful. Indeed, God calls us to do this and John 15:2 says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” As we consider our use of social media and facebook, where is God calling us to prune?
Here are some things I learned along the way during my 40 days away from Facebook.
It was not hard J
Let me just say that another way: I was sort of expecting this to feel more painful than it was. Similar to when I have fasted from food, the first few days I feel famished and my body feels out of whack. This was exactly the case during the facebook fast. I would automatically try to click the app (I ended up deleting it from my phone so that was hugely helpful!) and I would wonder what certain friends were posting. And then, just like in fasting from food where you body adjusts to the new normal, it became completely normal for me. It was not difficult. It just became the new routine. My mind and heart became adjusted in to thinking of other things, and doing other things with that time.
It puts real relationships in their proper place.
This sounds like a simple thing, but it is revolutionary. Our culture is so addicted (and I am guilty of this as well!) to feeling connected by technology that it’s hard for genuine relationships to prosper. This issue came to the surface about a month ago when our family went through something hugely traumatic. During this time, our local community surrounded us on every side. Let me give you a glimpse of the love we experienced during this time:
-Friends arranged and paid for us to have a week retreat as a family at a gorgeous secluded location: see below!
-People brought us meals…not just dinners every night, but BREAKFAST, LUNCH, and SNACKS as well. They brought food for our whole family of 6, and even considered my daughter’s food allergies (which makes us not easy to cook for!) This made us feel so loved and taken care of!
-Friends gave my husband a ride to and from work, even though it was completely out of their way and could not have been convenient for them!
-Friends sent toys for my kids and puzzles and games to entertain them.
-They texted and prayed and emailed and sent encouragements to us.
-One friend gave me a piece of scripture artwork to remind me of truth that I have hanging in my home to remind me of God’s faithfulness. (from Gracelaced)
We were overwhelmed with love on all sides, and saw new aspects of the love and care of God through their care of us.
The reality is that JESUS CAME. Jesus was the INCARNATION. He was Emmanuel, GOD WITH US. He wasn’t God far away and God sending random messages online. He walked and talked and touched and ate and provided in the flesh. And those are the friendships that are worth cultivating and giving our time to. You can have a billion likes and comments on your photos and be missing the real depth of INCARNATION FRIENDSHIPS that God wants to bless you with!! Let this be my plea – before you log on to facebook, perhaps consider it a cue to connect with a friend that you SEE regularly.
Fight the battle for online connection with the sword of true connection. IT IS WORTH IT!
The void is good for our souls.
Before the past 40 days, I don’t know if I would have realized this exactly. But facebook is not just a loss of “in the moment time.” If you spend 10 minutes on facebook, you haven’t just spent 10 minutes of your life. It is actually more – because you have to add in the amount of time you spend THINKING about what you just read or saw. When I spent significant time away from this influx, I loved the VOID it created in my thought life. Instead of having thoughts about what others were doing filling up my brain, I was able to devote extra time and energy to reading (I read 7 books during those 40 days), prayer, and real friendships. It made me also ask myself what I was seeking when I would have the desire to log on. Was I seeking entertainment? Was I feeling lonely or uninspired? Was I seeking connection with a real friend? What was my heart needing?
Distraction is remedied by FOCUS.
Again, this sounds simple but it is CRITICAL. The enemy wants the people of God to be distracted. He wants us to waste our time and abandon the callings on our lives. Starting out the year of 2017 with a more disciplined, fasted lifestyle has made me even more aware than ever of my tendency to veer towards my own desires and unintentionality. But that is not the life God has called me to. He has called me to live with purpose and to “not shrink back” from the things He has called me to do! A favorite passage of mine is in Hebrews 11. It reads, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised…my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But WE ARE NOT OF THOSE WHO SHRINK BACK AND ARE DESTROYED, but of those who believe and are saved.” The words in that verse remind me of warriors, well equipped and well focused for their tasks. We are truly the “army of God” and if we can live undistracted lives and not shrink back from the work God has called us to do, we can enjoy the fulfillment of God’s promises to us! (Hebrews 11:37)
So, with all these lessons learned, I also came away with a new focus for facebook.
The reason I’m back:
It is all related to stewardship and I want to steward this opportunity well. I live in this current age where information and sharing lives gives the everyday person (like me!) an enormous platform for sharing truth and light with others.
I do not want to squander this platform. I want to have social media in its proper place. One of my favorite “domestic theologians,” Allison Burr, uses the phrase “TOOLS NOT TOYS.” I want to harness facebook as a TOOL for me to use constructively, and minimize its use as a toy/escape from everyday life. I think that is the key for me in keeping priorities in order.
Another fantastic resource for evaluating my life lately has been material from Lara Casey. She publishes “power sheets”, wrote a book, and maintains a blog, all with the same underlying message: CULTIVATE WHAT MATTERS. I love that. I love her heart for empowering people to live out the things that truly matter, and analyze and arrange our hours and minutes to reflect just that.
Lara Casey similarly encourages a thorough evaluation of your use of social media, and even recommends coming up with a “mission statement” of how you want to use social media. She also challenges people to join her every week for a #socialmediafreeweekend. Put down the phone, really connect with people and family, and live life fully. Count me in!
I have been spending my Sabbath day (Sundays) without screens for about a year now, and it has brought so much refreshment to fast regularly from technology and social media. Since this #40dayfacebookfast, I have been also developing some other parameters and non-negotiables to keep my time on facebook in its proper place. I don't want to mindlessly fritter away time on social media, and I want it to lead me TOWARDS deeper relationships and not just surface level relationships.
I want to use facebook for the glory of God, to encourage other moms and women to live purposefully, and to display the goodness of God in my life. I don’t want to conform to culture, but I want to influence culture. I don’t want to draw attention to myself, but draw attention to God and make His name great.
I would love to know your thoughts on facebook and social media, and how you navigate your time! What have you done or what are you planning to do to examine your use of social media? Do you fast from anything in your current lifestyle? What good things do you fill that time with instead? What helps you to step away from your phone, facebook, or instagram?
Please share your thoughts!