It was just after 7am on New Year’s day when Az, William and I headed to our favourite hangout, a rock pool in Avalon nestled at the south end of the beach for a morning swim.
There was a calmness that enveloped us as we neared the ocean: the smell of the salty air, the crashing of the waves, the mesmerizing colours of the water – indigo and turquoise – against the back drop of the aqua sky. We never grow tired of the beauty where we reside near the beach.
I was inspired and needed to take a picture of the first day of the year. I had my beach bag on one shoulder with phone in my right hand ready to capture the day. #Newyears2018
My hubby and seven-year-old son, dressed in swimmers and flip-flops, walked ahead of me. They both turned around as if they knew what I was about to do, and shook their heads.
“No phones today!” they chorused.
Guilty. I slipped my phone back into my beach bag, feeling like a child that had been caught out doing something naughty.
No phones on Sundays is a family ritual we experimented with last year and have continued with ever since. The only exception to this ‘rule’ is if Az has to work.
As the day unfolded, I was aware of my fingers itching to reach for my phone, of my mind wanting to check for messages, emails, missed calls and comments on social media. I fought the temptation and left my phone in my bag.
When I started my blog, I reactivated my social media accounts. I went from having no social media to constantly writing and updating posts on different platforms. At the time, I didn’t realise how consumed I had become.
Anyone with a regular online presence—blog, business—knows it requires a lot of passion, time and effort to write content and to engage with online communities and readers. It’s exciting and inspiring and I’ve really enjoyed connecting with people, both old and new.
However, I found after six months of blogging I couldn’t switch off mentally and be present when I was with my family, especially on the weekends when it was “us” time. My boys disapproved of my ongoing distractions, whenever I reached for my phone as it chimed or burred or vibrated seeking my attention. But I was oblivious.
Often what I do at the start of every year is to seek the Lord in prayer for a word of direction and encouragement. The boys had gone out to the park to play soccer and I was home alone in my bedroom praying, my hands lifted up in worship. As I started to lean into prayer, with an expectancy of prophetic promises, these words came from left field,
“lay low from social media for a month”
Ouch! My heart sank, my hands dropped down by my side. I was bewildered… ‘Oh, really Jesus, that bad huh?!’
The very next morning I had an appointment with my GP. While I sat in the waiting room, glancing at my phone, I became distracted by what was on the TV screen mounted on the opposite wall.
It was tuned into the Morning Show. Kylie and Larry were interviewing a young lady, in her mid 30s, from Melbourne. She was a psychologist and spoke about the negative effects of social media, namely anxiety and depression.
The words from the psychologist resonated with me. Every spare moment I was on my phone on social media it was the reason I found it hard to mentally switch off.
Right there in the waiting room the Holy Spirit revealed truth to my heart and confirmed His word he’d given me the day before to lay low.
Don’t get me wrong. Social media platforms have loads of positive effects: connecting people, creative expression, flexibility in running a business, for reaching a wider audience for social justice causes.
But when socials are regularly consumed, and as I discovered, if there’s an unhealthy motivation to consume, there’s a possibility that we lose ourselves and start to base our lives, our identities, on ‘likes’ and followers.
The instant gratification of being ‘seen’ and receiving comments can lead to an unhealthy obsession.
When we become wrapped up in being ’liked’ and followed, of being validated by others more than trusting whom God says we are, it will bring despair. Soon our lives become governed by what people think about us more than what we believe about ourselves. We fall into the trap of comparison when we see others succeed, going places. We become dissatisfied with our lives and get down on ourselves for not being where we wanted to be, or where we thought we would be by now. Suddenly, the door of discontent, of envy, has swung wide open.
So, as well as no phones on Sundays, I detoxed from social media for the month of January. Did I struggle?! You bettcha, for the first two days!! I had cold sweats, fevers and withdrawals like any addict LOL.
After I got over my withdrawal symptoms I acknowledged before Jesus my issue with social media and repented from putting it before Him. Because anything that consumes our hearts and minds before our relationship with Jesus is idolatry.
It was only by the grace of God that I rarely looked at my phone; even my boys noticed. I didn’t feel a strong urge in my mind (like I usually did) to look every ten minutes, and I had no FOMO—fear of missing out.
The noise in my head quietened down and I felt overwhelmed with peace. I could think with clarity because fewer distractions were vying for my attention. I felt Jesus had pushed the reset button in my mind. He was helping me reset my priorities.
After my month of fasting from social media, I learnt the invaluable wisdom of keeping things in perspective: quality time with loved ones, my usage on social media and to watch my agenda as to why I blog.
What’s your perspective this year?
We are all in love with our own opinions, convinced they’re correct. But the Lord is in the midst of us, testing and probing our every motive.