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Why I'm getting off social media this summer (maybe forever)
You never know when God is going to show up and reveal a new prophecy to you. We were together at the pastors' meeting the other day and were talking about the logistics and strategies around how to communicate effectively. Our dialogue is always rich and nourishing for me. We finally said, “to hell with it!" (I don’t think we all used that word, by the way.) What if we just got a little more off-the-grid than we are? What if we unplugged a little?
I’ll admit, it took me about a day to think about getting off social media, but I’ve decided to be the media instead of bend my knee to it. For the summer I’m going to stop posting on Facebook, stop Tweeting (and receiving push notifications every time Seinfeld tweets), and stop taking pictures of the food I’m making and posting them to Instagram. I have fun with social media, honestly. But I have fun doing lots of thing. I’m not sure I was relating better, nor was I a necessarily a better leader as a result, and more importantly, was I follow God more faithfully? I think I need to ask myself those questions more and find out truly the direction the Lord wants me to move in.
Here’s why I’m getting off social media for the summer.
Social media might be addicting. I realized that some of my hesitation about getting off the social media might be because I had gotten so used to it. It became a habit, maybe not the worst habit, but not necessarily one that I consciously formed. Two years ago, I got an iPhone and have enjoyed the super connection it has given me. But I’ve formed a lot of new habits since then. Compulsively checking my Facebook feed almost felt like opening the same fridge over and over and looking for something to eat even though I knew there was nothing but condiments in it. Facebook wasn’t satisfying me, it was just stressing me out. Moreover, it was wasting my time! Countless hours have been wasted doing nothing but looking at funny videos and weird pictures! My computer screen even gets interrupted when one of the thousands of people that I follow on Twitter tweets! So far, it's been a relief!
Social media might be evil. Well, maybe not evil, but it might not be right. Never mind the social and psychological consequences of it, our shortening attention spans (I just told someone today, I’d rather skim an article than watch a video!), When I found out how Facebook works, I was appalled. There’s something distinct about Facebook and how it markets, when compared to other social media giants. It keeps your friend’s information from you to compel you to pay for it. It’s not just that social media is evil, it’s that Facebook, in particular, has a strategy that’s controlling and coercive. I don’t want to be a part of it. I don’t want be competing for attention among all the noise. I want to be different, and distinct. I want to have gravity that's greater than the Empires--just like Pentecost did when it drew peoples from both the Parthian and Roman Empires. It might even be louder to just get off of it altogether.
Social media might not be effective. I’ve written a lot about social media and using it for church planting. One year, we had a photobooth in Advent to share people’s Christmas poses on Facebook. Just recently, I led the #BeRisen campaign to declare the resurrection of Christ to the world. I liked those ideas, but they certainly were not indispensable and they may have caused more harm than good. Now, I know that most businesses need to be on Facebook and Twitter, or so they say, but there are lots of ways of reaching an audience without succumbing to the machine. The "fact' that one must be on Facebook or Twitter to be effective is frustrating, and many people are abandoning it, especially in the West. Is it a sinking ship? I’m not sure, but it’s worth testing. Among my reticence to get off of social media, my friend finally told me and convinced me, “Well, getting off social media might give you the chance to measure whether it’s effective.” It’s true that I generally use social media for the purposes of the Kingdom of God, but my intentions may not be good enough. Is it working? I’m not sure. The best relationships I have are, without a doubt, the ones that are face-to-face. I want to keep doing that and I think social media could be distracting me from that.
I’m not sure that this is a great idea, but I’m thankful that it’s one idea. I want to make a prophetic splash. I want to do something, but I’m not trying to impose any neo-Luddite philosophies on you. I really think it’s OK to use all of this stuff, I’m just taking a break, at least. I’m committed to trying it, it might do some good. In fact, my friends for years have been warning me about how useless and inauthentic social media. I’m ready to listen to them. Just like I was committed to trying out social media, I want to not try it for a few months.
I won’t be perfect at it: I’ll still blog, for example, but that’s not the point I guess. I’ll still Email, which you could argue is no different than Facebook, but I’m not looking for seamlessness with this. I don’t need to faultless to try something, that’s really the point of the grace of Jesus anyway. I want to get off social media to be the media and see what Jesus does with my discipline. I want to challenge the need to be on social media, I want to be the alternative. I don’t think getting off of it is any more pointless than being on it, like Casey Cep argues for The New Yorker. It could be evil or useless, and it’s worth stopping to find out. It’s like any discipline—if you really could give it up for a while, why not try it and see? Maybe I’ll give it up forever.