Six months ago, I decided to take an extended sabbatical from social media (well, minus instagram because that seems to be my poison of choice). In the life I am living, that choice was probably counterintuitive and even, some would say, stupid. After all, I had just moved across the country, and I am in a ministry role that requires me to share my vision and partner with others so that I can, well, live. I knew that choosing not to post ministry updates, heartwarming pictures, and personal struggles had the potential to negatively impact not only my connections with people I love from back home, but also my ability to make a living. However, I was being drawn into a season of quiet, a heart hibernation that would remove me from the vitriol and careful curation of lives that so often reigns on the interwebs. I wanted to experience the full weight of life--this journey I am walking--without constantly getting swept up in and distracted by the pieces of other people's lives I was encountering through social media. ***My ability to practice good boundaries while engaging in social media is probably far less developed than that of others...No judgment if you are choosing to engage! More on this at the end.***
I don't know how long my season of hibernation will last. Maybe it is coming to an end, but I have learned so much in these last six months, and I am breaking my unintended silence in this space by sharing some of what I have been learning.
1) Sometimes life feels too full and sacred for words. Sometimes the journey seems far from clear, so maybe it is more that I find it difficult to distill cohesive words and sentences from the movement swirling around me and inside my heart. Either way, there is a particular kind of beauty to holding some things close to your heart. Living a life that is totally exposed to the world, or at least the world of social media, circumvents the deep growth that can occur in the quiet, uncurated spaces of your heart.
2) There is a false sense of connection that pervaded my social media use. I have felt a new level of freedom in not exposing myself to the pictures and snippets of people's lives I used to scroll past several times a day. Don't get me wrong, I care about the lives of those I love. But that's exactly why there has been such freedom in avoiding social media. I have had real conversations with people, been pursued by those who care about me through letters and texts and phone calls, and learned about life happenings from those who have desired to stay connected to me. Prior to my hibernation, it was so easy to feel connected to someone based on a typed out comment, when in reality I knew next to nothing about that person's life. I want my life to be about real relationships with real people, not virtual interactions that delude me into thinking that phone call, letter, or in-person hug was not necessary because we liked each other's pictures on Facebook.
3) The poison of comparison is subtle. I don't think I realized how deeply I was being affected until I wasn't. In this season where I have chosen not to scroll, I have found new freedom in embracing MY journey in MY body pursuing MY calling and living into MY beliefs and convictions. I feel more confident and loved as I am when I am not exposing myself to a constant influx of pictures and posts about the rosy parts of HIS journey or HER body or THEIR calling or THAT PERSON'S beliefs and convictions. It goes both ways, too. I know that you did not see the WHOLE of my journey, body, calling, and beliefs in what I was posting. It is just impossible to fully capture a human being on a profile page.
4) God has provided for this last year of ministry and physical distance from those I love even in spite of my seemingly "unwise" choice to abstain from social media marketing. There is a sifting that happens when you distance yourself from social media. The relationships and parts of life that are most important survive that sifting process; everything else falls away. The people who desire to stay connected with and invest in me continue to do so...even without the crutch of social media. And somehow, even without me sharing pictures and heartwarming ministry stories, God has brought a team of people who believe in what I am doing alongside me to make this life of ministry possible. Has it been more difficult? Maybe. I guess I will never know. But the real connections and heart work that has resulted in the last six months have been abundantly fruitful.
By admitting to all of this, I know I am probably the most un-millennial millennial walking the face of the planet right now. And I want to acknowledge the incredible gains and benefits that come from social media. Our society and culture have most certainly been transformed by the incredible advancement that is social media. Paths that are seemingly worlds apart have crossed as a result. People are learning and DOING something about issues of social justice that they never would have been exposed to without the help of social media. Young people are more informed and aware of what is going on in the world than perhaps ever before. I have reconnected with people I never thought I would have the opportunity to see or talk to again. The gains are great, and maybe your life has been positively impacted in ways I could never imagine! Regardless of where you stand with social media, my encouragement to all of us is to live with intentionality. Notice how your heart responds to scrolling. And be willing to click "close" in favor of real connection and relationship once in a while.