Entering Social Media With An Empty Tank

Last September, my husband took a much-needed two-week holiday from work. He had vacation days accumulated that would expire soon and had just completed a heavy cycle of projects that lasted months with many long hours at the office and often working weekends. We didn’t have the budget to travel, so we decided to make a fun and light staycation out of it. Lots of sleeping in, ordering takeout, watching movies and reading. I was overjoyed to have him all to myself for two weeks. That alone felt like a vacation to me. And that is what motivated me to do the following.

When our staycation began, on a regular Monday of a regular week, my brain went into regular mode. I wanted to grab my phone all the time. To tweet, to check Instagram, see who wrote what on Facebook, etc. Only, this time, I would look up and see that my husband was there in the room. We were together during hours that normally I don’t have the joy of his company. Wanting to not waste the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation, or simply enjoy him, I’d resist reaching for the phone.

Finally, I decided to regulate my usage. About twice a day for 10 minutes, I would check it and participate by posting, liking, etc., if I felt compelled. Having my husband home for an extended period was much more alluring than endless scrolling, tapping, and commenting.

By the end of his two-week break, I noticed something that wasn’t there before: I had a lot more emotional energy. Not only was there more desire to engage, be present and pay attention, but the energy to do so was in better supply. It was feeling emotionally fully present, more whole (less fragmented?), more focused, and even more content, that helped me realize how much I normally didn’t feel that way.

After that, I became more observant of my own mood and mindset. I began to be more intentional with how I approached social-media, and for what purpose.

I was so taken by the sudden increase of energy, emotional clarity, and focus, I prayerfully decided to create a social media filter for myself. An inventory if you will, to check up on my emotions and gauge expectations:

1. Filter to gauge my heart’s conditions.

Am I running on empty? Have I gotten my fuel from healthy sources, like God’s Word, or spending time in real life with loved ones?

2. Filter to discern what I share or consume.

Is it truth based? i.e. from God’s Word, consistent with it? Honouring it?

Is it true? About me, my life? And not to make me look/feel better.

Is it life-giving?

3. When sharing or consuming remember…

Don’t try to speak to everyone about everything. (refer to #1)

Don’t try to consume everything from everyone. (refer to #2)

Fast forward to the present. Over the past 8 weeks, I’ve been taking one day a week off from social media. The experience has been revealing. It’s helped me understand on a deeper level our need for connection, and in my case, my own mismanagement to satisfy it. It’s brought full circle those questions I created for myself back in September.

I chose Sunday to soak in the respite of a slower rhythm and counter the emotional fatigue I often feel by the end of the week. Although sometimes I switch it up and fast Friday or Saturday, I find Sunday works well. Usually, I begin my fast, late Saturday evening. Then on Monday, either late morning or early afternoon, I will re-engage, catch up with notifications, read status updates, and post if I have something to share.

Now two months into this practice, I’ve noticed that I’m less eager to grab my phone come Monday. Willing yes, but not needing to. Finding that I need it less is refreshing, liberating. It’s also very telling, begging the question: What need was I satisfying?

On the other hand, disconnecting on Saturdays stills feels sudden. It’s when I will reach out for my phone and with a deep sigh remember that in a few hours I’ll sign off. Less habit there. Why is that? I wonder. The answer, for me, has to do with why I use it, why I engage with it.

Paola Barrera
Paola Barrerahttp://wordsoutloud.net
Paola Barrera is a writer and a learner. She blogs at www.wordsoutloud.net about living everyday life with eternal perspective. She and her husband Gustavo live in Montreal, Canada. You can follow her on Twitter  and Instagram.

Related Posts


Recent Stories