Social Media Control

social media icons

Imagine a typical weeknight, probably around 11:30 pm. You’ve managed to get into bed by now, exhausted from the busy day. Instead of setting a literal alarm clock for the next morning and going right to sleep, like people did back in 2005, you reach for the smartphone to set an alarm app. 

Before you know it, 30 minutes or more have passed, you’re still looking at the phone, but you still haven’t even opened the alarm app. What happened? Why is it happening so often? Why has this become the norm for so many people? Social media. 

Chances are you or someone you know has at least considered taking a break from social media at some point. You might have even tried it, and maybe even learned some things from it. I want to share what I’ve observed and experienced during my own breaks from social media. 

Social Media Sucks

Hear me out. Social media doesn’t just suck on its own. It’s actually a really powerful tool. We can instantly communicate with just about anyone, see what they’re up to, share what we’re up to, and even provide feedback about it all (likes or dislikes, etc). When used properly, it can be a great tool. But who decides what is proper? 

How we define proper use of social media for ourselves determines whether or not social media sucks. We all have choices in the matter. What content are we going to consume or post? Who are we going to interact with? How much time and energy are we going to spend on those things? 

When we find ourselves unable to reasonably answer those questions and we catch ourselves mindlessly scrolling, possibly even losing sleep, then we’re letting social media suck the life out of us. 

Nobody Cares About Your Social Media

That’s probably a little extreme to say, but you’d be surprised how true it is. The times that I’ve taken a break from social media, I haven’t done a post to let everyone know, so it was not a big deal to anyone but me. 

You’ve probably seen what I’m talking about. The post that goes something like, “Hey friends, I just want to let you know I’m taking a break from social media because I need to focus on ____ (God, family, career, something of priority).” What makes us think anyone cares so much that we have to make an announcement like that? 

I’ve taken so many breaks from social media. The longest and most recent was a six month period where I vowed not to post anything other than about my anniversary and kids birthdays, all of which took place in a 30-day window. So for all those other months, I didn’t post a single thing. 

Not one single person cared that I was virtually non-existent, or digitally. No one reached out to see if there was some reason I hadn’t been around on social media. 

This makes me believe that announcing a social media break is somehow self-serving. It seems to be a way of provoking a reaction from the digital connections so that we will feel as though they care. We’re only deceiving ourselves. 

Real Friends Don’t Need Your Social Media

The reason no one even noticed that I was inactive on social media for months is the people who actually care about me most are in touch with me regularly offline. They call me, text me, invite me, and see me where we’re doing life together. 

It is incredibly important to know the difference between actual friends who really know us and really love us despite our imperfections and those who only know of us and maybe love an idea of who they perceive us to be. 

I’ve learned that true friends don’t care what I can or can’t do, or what I’ve done or haven’t done. They might celebrate my accomplishments when I have done something, but they love me even when I’ve done nothing. 

I’ve learned that true friends don’t care what I have or don’t have. Some of my best friends in life have known me through plenty and poor and it doesn’t matter either way. They love me for better reasons. 

True friends are not digital. They’re real reel, which brings me to the next learning. 

Our Highlight Reel Isn’t Real

The beautiful profiles of beautiful people going to beautiful places and living picture perfectly beautiful lives is unbelievably deceitful. Comparing and aspiring to that is always going to be an empty and disappointing pursuit of a fantasy that does not exist. 

Life is hard, and sometimes ugly. Everyone has something they are dealing with, the kinds of things that aren’t sexy on social media. The kinds of things only those closest to us are likely to know about. 

When we find ourselves more interested in highlight-reel social media interaction than we are in real-life relationships, we’re on a very slippery slope. Anyone can hide who they really are or what they’re really going through from a digital audience. 

Becoming obsessed with highlight reels is both deceiving and being deceived. It’s leading others to believe partial truths at best, or at worst outright lies. It’s being led to believe that the people who interact with or like the highlight reel really love who we actually are when they really don’t even know us. 

Pursuing Popularity Is a Sign of Insecurity

Teenagers everywhere are competing for follows, likes, comments, or any other indicator that might mean they’re popular. Adults are doing it too. The platforms themselves are designed to prey on our desire to be accepted, which leads to a comparison contest of who is most accepted, aka popular. 

This is again a deceptive distraction from the relationships that actually matter. If we’re constantly pursuing popularity among people who don’t really know us, we will never appreciate the love we already have from those who do really know us. 

To choose the pursuit of popularity over the pursuit of true intimacy is a big sign of insecurity. It is a fear that we’re not enough. It is a fear that our real relationships are not enough. It is a fear that we might be missing out on something better, and believing the lie that digital connections are somehow better than real ones. 

Good Intentions Aren’t Enough

Many of the popular profiles on social media are well known for good reasons. Their intentions are good. Their messages are good. 

It is easy for us to believe that because our social media is good or well-received that it is needed. What will people do without our online presence to encourage them? 

The truth is our motivational speech is only as effective as our relational reach. It doesn’t matter how good our intentions are or how well-received our messages may be without real-life relationships. 

If our best relationships are social media connections we will eventually be void of authenticity, completely unmotivated, and thus unable to motivate anyone else. It just isn’t worth it to be so wrapped up in social media that we believe those connections are more important than real relationships. 

How To Take A Break From Social Media

The dopamine that fires in our brain during social media engagement is powerfully addictive just like literal drugs. The time that I’ve spent denying social media dopamine hits has taught me a lot about myself, our social media culture, and the dangers of the vortex. That’s exactly what it is if we let it be, an energy-sucking vortex. 

If you or anyone you know has a difficult time putting down social media, consider the following tips to regain control:

Remove the drug. The best way to detox from unhealthy dopamine addiction is to cut off the supply. That means take a break from social media. 

Challenge yourself to take a break from social media without announcing it on social media. Set a strong tone for yourself. Draw a line in the sand to tell yourself that you will not be controlled or dependent on social media engagement from this point forward. 

It might not be enough to have the good intention of staying off social media for some time. If we can’t resist the temptation, we have to remove it. For many people that means completely removing access by removing the apps. 

Request accountability. For some of us, removing the apps is still not enough. A really close friend of mine noticed their tendency to just reload the apps and log back in, so they asked me to change their password so they couldn’t log back in. 

Retrain the brain. The point of all these things is to retrain the brain to think differently about social media. We have to learn to keep it in proper perspective and keep our priority on the real people in our lives. 

Remind yourself that when you do go back to social media (if you do) that you will be more aware of the effects that lead to the vortex. Remind yourself that it’s worth enduring the moments of feeling left out or overlooked by the digital world, because ultimately that world isn’t as real as what’s all around you in real relationships. 

There are invaluable positive results from being diligent and vigilant in the effort to maintain a healthy balance with social media. My hope is we all make that effort not only for our good but for the good of everyone around us. 

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