The Christian Lenten season is only 2 weeks away and, in a time of uncertainty and unique hardship, what better time to remind ourselves of the sacrificial cross and the light of Christ in a dark and broken world. That being said, it is important to reflect on what is the biggest hindrance to your ability to surrender completely to the love of Jesus in your day-to-day life.
With more flexibility and free time in my life, I have a newfound opportunity to commit more time to the community I have been blessed with in this strange season. However, I often find myself scrolling mindlessly on Instagram or Facebook, unable to find a point of satisfaction in my consumption.
This led me to ponder the benefits of saying goodbye to my various social media feeds in return for a more refreshing outlet of my time.
1. Comparison is the thief of joyim not great enough episode 7 GIF by The Bachelor Giphy
According to Instagram, your co-worker is "living her best life," your ex boyfriend is thriving without you, and your classmate has more followers and, therefore, more friends than you. In the words of a friend's Instagram bio, our posts are our "highlight reels." Social Media does not show the truth of a person's life. Don't forget to be grateful for who and what is a part of yours.
2. Reduces FOMO (fear of missing out)fear of missing out GIF Giphy
Speaking of comparison…Social Media has created a cycle of information overload for its users. Our "For You" pages are never ending (literally) and, each week, there is a new trend that we simply have to try. Studies have shown that our brains were not created to filter and process all of this information. As individuals we simply cannot do everything and be everywhere at once. We were meant for what is around us- don't miss out on that!
3. Improved Mental HealthPost It Mental Health GIF by Rainbow Brains Giphy
Another adverse effect of information overload is the stress it can put on our minds. According to Paul Hemp's article, Death by Information Overload, in the Harvard Business Review, "the stress of not being able to process information as fast as it arrives—combined with the personal and social expectation that, say, you will answer every email message—can deplete and demoralize you."
4. You will be more productive without ithappy work GIF by Soul Train Giphy
The average American spends about three hours on social media daily. That is 21 hours a week, around 1008 hours a year, and about 70,500 hours spent in an entire life. Imagine how much you could get done with 3 extra hours in your day, let alone 70,500 in your life! You will thank yourself later.
5. Longer attention spansquirrel GIF Giphy
When was the last time you watched a whole movie without checking your phone once? What about a book? Because of social media's ability to satisfy our craving for entertainment quickly, our brains have started being re-wired to desire a "refresh" option if our content is not stimulating us immediately. But have no fear! Just as our brains have been rewired to crave constant content, we can rewire our brains back to being able to read that new novel you just bought!
6. Quality relationships over quantityBest Friends Love GIF by TV Land Giphy
Just as our brains weren't meant to digest such immense amounts of content, we also were not meant to have quality friendships with thousands of people. Whether you have 200 followers or 2000 followers, a human's ability to sustain fulfilling, lasting, and close friendships with this many people is near impossible British anthropologist and researcher Robin Dunbar did a study on close friendships and found that every human has about 150 people in their greater social circle.
Each of these members is "layered" on their importance to you. According to most human behavior, a person only considers about 5-10 people as truly "meaningful" to them. So ditch your Instagram followers and spend time with your 5 closest companions.
7. Be present in the momentPray Good Vibes GIF by Ryn Dean Giphy
Now that you've thought about which people in your life mean the most to you, perhaps it will be easier to turn off your phone and appreciate your time with them. When social media is a primary part of our lives, it becomes tempting to wonder where everyone else is and what they are doing. However, all it takes is a social media fast to be reminded of who is sitting right beside you and why they matter.
8. Privacy can be regainedtypography font GIF Giphy
In September of 2020, 'The Social Dilemma' documentary became the most-watched media on Netflix. In the film, the lengths that social media companies go to in order to curate a perfectly individualized feed for its users is exposed by former Facebook, Google, and Apple employees.
They track how long you look at an advertisement or which users you search for the most, and re-adjust based on your new interests. This, in turn, creates an experience that any normal human being cannot say no to. The ethics of these business practices in correlation to new statistics regarding phone addiction and mental health issues caused by media consumption.
9. Social Media is literally addictiveemily warren phone down GIF by Lost Kings Giphy
It wasn't until I watched 'The Social Dilemma' that I began to realize that the behaviors attributed to social media consumption could easily be classified as addictive. After all, the design behind our personal feeds is to create an individual inclination to check our phones.
There have been numerous studies on the similarities between the effects of social media and addictive drugs like cocaine and even heroin. When we receive a message on Twitter, a like on Instagram, or a comment on Facebook, our brains release dopamine - the "feel good" chemical that our brains also release when we drink alcohol or do drugs. Although drugs are much more dangerous to our physical health and well-being, the mental effects of social media are undoubtedly a cause for concern.
10. Giving up social media for lent can teach us somethingsocial media thumbs up GIF Giphy
I am not attempting to argue that social media is inherently evil or that we must all delete our accounts and boycott Facebook (however, I am not stopping you!).
I am aware that having social media is an inherent part of being a member of the 21st century and, personally, do not plan on deleting all of my accounts any time soon. However, fasting from Social Media for a certain amount of time allows us to recognize our inclinations and come up with a plan to control our future intake. Not only that, but it can teach us more about the difficulty of sacrifice...
At the end of the day, lent is about sacrificing something that means a lot to us in order to focus on the only relationship that provides life to the full-- Jesus. If you are anything like me (and the rest of college-aged Americans) then social media encompasses an unnecessarily enormous part of our lives. However, I encourage you to reflect on what is keeping you from experiencing a more fulfilling lifestyle and to be encouraged by the ultimate sacrifice that has already been paid for you on the cross.