Lent: why I quit social media

I am not Catholic but my love for Jesus trumps religious labels, which is why I participated in Lent this year. I gave up social media because the social vortex of the internet leads ta a black hole where mental energy goes to die. I was feeling the weight of it so I took myself to rehab. I needed to meditate on better things. I wrote up a note, posted it on all of my platforms and then I left. For a moment I had that awful feeling in my gut that I get when I drop my phone and it lands facedown. Then, I exhaled in the silence. Disconnecting felt like I had just shut the door at a party and found a room that wasn’t packed with people.

On the second day of Lent, I logged on only to contact someone I couldn’t reach otherwise. There was no checking or updating of any kind. By day three, I used my phone for music, writing, email and to answer the occasional text. My phone was not really the additional appendage it used to be. My thoughts had the freedom to drift. They ebbed and flowed like the waves I now paid attention to that swept the shore. Life felt very quiet. Too quiet. By day five, I still felt stressed without using social. I hoped it would lessen with time. I used my extra hours to spend time on the beach. At the end of the first week, I liked it. I felt better without retweeting on Twitter, scrolling Instagram and checking Facebook. By day twelve though, I had major FOMO without the faintest clue of what I could be missing. Can the fear of missing out be a thing if you’re unaware of what you’re missing? Photos aren’t popping up to flaunt it. I can’t even say how many times I’ve seen something on social that immediately wrecked my mood. FOMO would be if I were logged on and saw that I wasn’t being included. Still, I felt like I should be a part of whatever the thing I wasn’t apart of was. What about my Twitter friends? I kind of left in the middle of a storm. What about my Instagram inspirations? How am I supposed to be inspired now? I had so much more time to think. I thought about how I missed the validation aspect of social media and I wondered why I missed the feeling of being validated through an insincere medium, a medium based on the same addictive principals that apply to gambling. A like doesn’t mean they like you, a comment doesn’t equal kindness. Why then, when we leave, do we miss it? To ask a more poignant question, what is it that we are we really missing?

I didn’t crack under the pressure and made it two whole weeks without being on social. I found a TEDx Talk on quitting altogether, I was pretty convinced I should do it. Then I logged on strictly for blog promotion. I promoted my writing twice during Lent. Each time cost me an hour. One hundred and twenty minutes of cropping, editing, and hashtagging. It felt like an excessive amount of effort to put into a few photos. When had this ever paid off for me anyway? As in, really paid off? Two times perhaps in my six-plus years of being on social, it’s only truly helped me make moves twice. That is not worth an hour or two every day, spread out into blocks of minutes which result in perpetual distraction. How is that worth my mental energy? My boosted posts do well, like this one but those are not free advertising so the conclusion remains that purely being on social is a vacuum to the mind. Also, why pay sites like Facebook that allegedly use people’s private data and make a living by operating a digital age addiction? The principles behind the functions of social media, though it is a psychological addiction and not a substance addiction, have shown there are similar impairments that drug users have. Specifically in white matter areas involving emotions, attention, and decision making. This addiction was found to be so damaging that the a ban was recently put upon social media in Sri Lanka to prevent the spread of uncertainty and fear.

the social vortex of the internet leads to a black hole where mental energy goes to die.-Genevieve Rose

Seventeen days in, I didn’t trust myself so I deleted my social apps. That was a big step for me to take. It took a few days for me just to convince myself to do eliminate them from my phone. What if I really needed to check Twitter? What if I missed an announcement? Doesn’t matter. Get rid of them. I kept instinctively clicking them anyway. I needed to remove the temptation. If I wanted information, I’d go on YouTube, listening not watching, I had to be careful not to substitute Youtube for all the time I spent on social media. I wanted to replace the addiction with something beneficial not merely swap vices. I do like absorbing information so I listened to podcasts or I thought I could start reading. I really should start reading.

Forty days felt like a long time. I told myself to relax. It’s the least I could do for Jesus. His sacrifice was everything. I can do this. I really had to use this extra time to start praying. I had been going on walks and doing stretch routines on ROMWOD but I was supposed to be praying. Isn’t that the point of Lent? I could do forty days, it’s not like I had to sail a zoo aboard a ship through a torrential storm. By day thirty-six, I felt slightly muted from the world, like when my ears haven’t popped from a flight, I could still hear everything but it sounded muffled. I knew I needed the quiet but the silence was deafening. This cleanse caused me to pay attention to my misery. It was scary. Facing failure, isolation, etc. Things being perpetually distracted doesn’t allow you to focus on. Life without social is about noticing. Noticing the world around and yourself. I wasn’t reaching for my phone in the morning to see who paid attention to me. I was standing in front of the mirror, getting ready and facing my reflection. I needed to pray intentionally, this was supposed to be a holy sacrifice. The high social had given me was barely anything but I still craved it. I wanted to go back but not really. I wanted to follow someone back and post something but I didn’t want to wait for likes. Why even do it? I was still not very productive but I was less distracted. I wondered, could I really be successful without it?

Why is it so addictive?

Freedom Phase

They say it takes thirty days to make a habit. Day thirty-eight is when I hit the freedom phase. I didn’t want to go back. I decided to keep my accounts because they might be needed for growth in the future but it was crystal clear that I was not missing anything that matters. Not being on social is a terrific filter because there’s no scrolling for hours to find that one really good thing. If it was really good, I would hear people talk about it. They had wasted their time to find it and I didn’t have to. Also, sans social, I had become much more creative. I was finally able to adhere to a writing schedule. Mindless Peace publishes content on five different topics: Hollywood, Jesus, physicality, females and the world (also a monthly book blog). Topics alternate each week and there is a new post every Monday and Friday afternoon. Thanks for reading. Happy to be writing.

My personal advice to the creatives especially, the writers, musicians, singers, and painters alike-do not use social media-it ruins creativity. Don’t take my word for it. Stop using it completely for three weeks and see how your thoughts improve. Creatives were made to breathe life into the world and we can’t do that if we allow our energy to be sucked out by screens. You don’t need it to be successful that’s a lie. Put your energy into crafting impeccable work. The drain of social media is a subtle process, don’t fail for it. Delete the apps, free yourself, create.-Genevieve Rose

Leaving social media had allowed me to think clearer and breathe fuller. When the last day of Lent arrived I thought I should wait until late in the day to log back on since I began my social cleanse late on the first day. I couldn’t bring myself to do it though. Social is demanding. It makes me tired. I downloaded the app for Instagram and just as quickly, I deleted it. Why bother? Anything I post will be a brag or a promotion, there is no real need for me to do it, only desire. It’s been forty-six days without social media. I may return to the vortex tomorrow or the day after. I may leave the apps off my phone and only log on when I use my laptop. I may turn this discipline experiment into a year-long fast or maybe I’ll remain a ghost from here on out. Only reachable by email, blog or phone like some ludicrous individual. For anyone feeling the weight of social media, the addictive itch, the fatigue, the distraction, I would recommend quitting. If that’s too much, start with a leave of absence. Maybe not forty days but what about fourteen? Start with four, the beginning is the hardest. After four add three more and then allow yourself to feel free for one more week and before you know it you’ll have fasted for fourteen days. Still feeling unsure? Understandable. I barely grew up in a time where there weren’t social media. Quitting entirely must seem like a foreign concept to those who were raised on it. Good news is, anyone, can quit, no matter what degree the addiction has reached recovery is possible. Like anything else in life, it comes down to how bad you want it.

What does life look like without social? It looks like real life. There’s time in between things I that don’t remember feeling before. It’s largely uninteresting at first because without social dousing our brains in feel good chemicals we now have to find the feel good stuff in real life, through real things, like friends, exercise, conversation, whatever lights you up you now have to find because social media isn’t quantifying your personal value in likes and comments anymore. Hallelujah. All of us are worth more than what a screen shows us. Get to know God in your time that has been freed. He understands the reality of life and how to handle it. Jesus has notoriety surpassed by no one and He wasn’t on social. If you’re trying to get off of it, just know it as not as important as you believe it is. How do I know? I logged on again after being absent for forty-seven days and in eleven minutes I remembered why I left. Social media is a digital addiction designed to keep us coming back for more. That’s why when you do leave, the sites send you notifications on what’s been happening while you’ve been gone. Don’t take the bait. Facebook is still pointless. Twitter is still a mess. Instagram is still a brag fest. Get out there and live. What we rely on social for; attention, interaction, respect, love, inspiration, and validation will come naturally. Those are all qualities people have in themselves and can give to others. Wouldn’t you rather know someone likes you rather than seeing they clicked like? I would. Leave social media behind. Your mind and spirit will thank you. Feel free to not follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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