social media affects me...

My church has started a tradition of beginning each new year with a period of prayer and fasting. While it is by no means a requirement for members, our pastor encourages each one of us to ask the Lord if there is something He’d like us to fast from, and also provides us with prayer points that we can lift up together as a body of believers. My family has participated in this time of prayer and fasting, referred to as Seek, for many years now, and like many years in the past (and random times throughout the last decade or so), the Lord asked me to fast from social media, specifically Facebook and Instagram.

My relationship with social media platforms isn’t always healthy. Mindlessly scrolling without limits sends me quickly down a spiraling trap of comparison, self-doubt, irrational fears and a myriad of other harmful emotions. Over the years, I have put self-inflicted boundaries on the apps, but I always end up diving deeper into the sea of obsessively checking posts and stories, ignoring, or worse yet, justifying, my lack of self-control in sticking to the healthy limits I created for myself. Maybe I’m alone in admitting this (but my guess is I’m not), but social media affects me. 

Because of this truth, it did not surprise me one bit when Father asked me to refrain from Insta-world for the seven days of Seek. But, as we neared the end of our seven days of corporate prayer and fasting, the Lord kept whispering to me to keep going - that my time of fasting wasn’t done with the rest of the church. He had more to show me still. So, on day eight, the apps remained unopened.

It has now been one month since my fast began and I feel led to share with you my experience - my revelations - because I believe the Lord has this same challenge in store for many of you. From the bottom of this Instagram addict's heart, I ask that you seek the Lord for wisdom in how you can use social media in a healthy way.

my personal experience...

Now on to my personal experience….

Week 1: Considering I had done social media fasts in the past, and that this time was only supposed to be for seven days, Week 1 really was no big deal. However, I did catch myself still curating photos for my feed, and planning out what my “come back” post would look like when I was able to get back on the apps. This first week made me realize how much of my mind is spent on social media even when I’m not physically on the apps. Perhaps it’s the perfectionist in me, or the “retired” social media entrepreneur, but there is this unspoken pressure to have a curated feed and to have a funny tale to share on your stories to engage your audience - all day long. We may spend hours on the app, but how many more hours do we spend in “real life” thinking about the apps?

Week 2: I started to feel the withdrawals. Wondering what people were doing in their lives - you know, your “friends” that you really can only connect with via social media because you don’t actually know them. I started to wonder if anyone really noticed I was gone, or if they missed my content. Isn’t this the trap that keeps us sucked into the apps. This sense of feeling connected and in relationship with one another? Please hear me when I say that I do think there are a lot of good aspects to social media, but following someone’s stories every day doesn’t mean you’re doing life with them.

Week 3: This week started off with a bang! As I was rushing out of the house at 8:15 am Monday morning my phone started buzzing like crazy. I saw a couple messages from close friends, but because I was in a hurry, I just stuck my phone in my bag and headed out the door. But my phone didn’t stop buzzing! I pulled it out of my bag to find some texts and Facebook messages from people whom I don’t typically talk to on a regular basis. I started to read the messages, all of them the same, “Your Facebook has been hacked…” Thanks to some hacker in South Dakota and the annoyingness of having to change my password a bajillion times, I remembered why I was off the apps - too much head space and time wasted on silliness.

Week 4: I had an amazing book-cation planned with three beautiful friends, a family trip to Boyne Mountain, and a girls night out with pizza and beer in a yurt. I won’t lie, the thought crossed my mind, “You have to get on and share about these events!” I mean, these are the types of things that are MUST shares on social media. You know, so that people can think, “wow, she’s so cool - I wish I could be doing those things.” But guess what, I didn’t get on. I didn’t brag. And my friends and family were still beautiful and happy even if I didn’t give you all a play-by-play of the fun times I was having. Instead, I saw their beautiful faces and enjoyed my time privately. I can’t remember the last time I did that.

tip-toeing back in...

So now we’re here at the end of the month and I’m faced with the truth that I can’t do social media like I used to, the way most Americans do it. I’ve loved my month off so much because it has included such richness. Over the last month, I have read 10 books (like REAL books, not Pout-Pout Fish or Pokemon, although there was a lot of those too), experimented with sourdough (still not great at it), kept my house clean (somewhat), read my Bible and journaled everyday, made new friends at the library and kept in touch with old ones. The last month has taught me that I am ok without social media, and in fact, I’m kind of better without it. 

At this point, I feel like the Lord is releasing me from my fast, but is encouraging me to be wise with what He’s revealed to me - aka, warning me not to get sucked right back into the abyss. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve thought a lot about what this is supposed to look like, this relationship with apps and images of people’s lives always at my reach. I’ve considered a multitude of different limits, many of which I’ve tried in the past and failed at. I’ve considered being done with it altogether. And frankly, I still don't know what the right answer is.

So, I’m tip-toeing back into social media on a weekly basis for now. One day a week, while my older children are at school and my toddler is napping, I’ll pop on. Maybe I’ll share a bit about my kids or a book I’ve loved. Browse through my friend’s feeds and love the photos of their new babies and congratulate them as they work toward personal goals. I’ll linger over recipes, and only look at home decor accounts long enough to glean inspiration but not discontentment. 

Maybe I’ll find I can handle more days than just once a week and I’ll add some more? Maybe I’ll find myself feeling all the negative emotions and back myself down to every-other week or once a month? Maybe I’ll find I don’t need to be so strict about my time at all? The point is, I’m willing to be obedient to myself and to the Lord as we try to navigate how my mental health and social media can coexist - if they can, I suppose.

I do realize there are some of you out there that have absolutely no issues with social media. I commend my friends who already just jump on sporadically and go days without accessing the app just naturally. I am not that person - or at least I wasn’t. If you’re more like me, though, and oftentimes feel drained or unhappy with your life after you’ve spent too long scrolling, I encourage you to take a break. To just enjoy life without social media. To be aware of how you’re feeling in relation to the app while you’re off, and if you feel like you’re being nudged to shift how you do social media long-term.

And because I know this is a legit fear: you will not be forgotten about if you’re not present on social media. Your worth and your acceptance does not come from being visible to your followers. You are chosen, holy, and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12), and Father wants you to fully know that. 

alison stoner

Alison is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of By Design Journal. She and her husband, Matt, are raising their four children in southern Michigan where they enjoy picking berries in the summer months and sledding down snowy hills in the winter! Alison finds joy in a warm cup of coffee and a good book, watching her children play together, and being a part of encouraging communities of women. For more from Alison, follow on Instagram @alisonrosestoner.

Photographs by Cate Autumn Photography and Carly Kristin Photography.

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