Near the beginning of this year, I ventured in to Digital Minimalism after reading the book by the same name written by Cal Newport. You can see my original post on it here.
When I first took the plunge, I started by notifying everyone on my Social Media accounts of ways they can keep in touch outside of Social Media. After a while to let that “soak”, I deleted all of my social media account with the exception of WhatsApp, which I use for extended family only (literally just my in-laws). I still text and email.
One of my primary motivations was that Social Media, despite me not being a full-blown addict, affected me somehow in a way I could not fully understand. It added some sort of background tension that I couldn’t put my finger on. The tension existed just by virtue of having accounts in that “world” in addition to the real world.
This theory was confirmed when 30 days after shutting down my accounts, they were automatically deleted by the platforms. When that happened I actually felt something. It felt great! As dumb as it sounds, I felt like a burden had been lifted- one that I was’t fully aware of before.
I recently came across an article by a D. Eaton about the poison-like effects of Social Media. He discussed what T. David Gordon said regarding tools and how new tools in a culture shape and change the culture just like shovels and plows once did. He asserts:
Social media is a new tool, and we must be aware of how it is changing us. Christians especially. Changes brought on by new tools which are positive or neutral are fine, but if you see changes taking place that move you away from what Christ has called you to be, it is time to either change the way you are using the tool, or abandon it altogether.
There have been enough studies conducted on the use of social media that the negative effects are unquestionable. Long use can cause anxiety, depression, unhealthy sleep patterns, negative body image, and unrealistic expectations. One of the most counter-intuitive effects is loneliness.
Originally, I talked in my post about the addictive qualities of Social Media, which I still affirm. It is virtually unquestioned by those who examine it’s traits. However, D. Eaton seems to touch on further effects, namely, anxiety, depression, unhealthy sleep patterns, negative body image, unrealistic expectations, and loneliness.
I didn’t experience all of those, but admittedly some. He suggests that long use of Social Media can cause these things. My question was simply, how long? I asked myself that because I was not a heavy user of Social Media. I would go through periods where I made a number of posts and then dropped off for a while again and so on. I was not a “scroller”, and I didn’t even use push notifications. Yet, I can tell you that the struggle to focus, unrealistic expectations, anxiety, and loneliness were all things I struggled with that have since been lifted since permanently shutting down my accounts. I can imagine the contrast would be even more apparent for heavy users who quit.
With Social Media, there was always the sense that things are happening….elsewhere. The FOMO factor (fear of missing out) is subtle but real. There is also always the sense that your peers are more successful than you are because many people who post about their ministry on Social Media seem to exaggerate, stage, varnish, and shade things in such a way as to make it appear that they are more successful than they are, and more often. They’re not always outright lying, but they’re not exactly pointing out their flaws either, or sharing pictures when nothing much happens. Meanwhile, you sit there keenly aware of what you do, failures and all, setback and all.
All of this can create an anxiety to try harder to succeed. If you have principles in ministry, this desire to make things happen will certainly cause an internal anxiety when it clashes violently with your conviction about letting the Lord build His work. This is why I like what Eaton said, “…if you see changes taking place that move you away from what Christ has called you to be, it is time to either change the way you are using the tool, or abandon it altogether”. If it creates a motive in me that my principles and convictions have to contend with, is it healthy? I might have to say NO!
I’ve also noticed that I still manage to hear about important things happening in the lives of friends and family. The things that aren’t sent to me directly by text or email still manage to filter through to me through actual interactions with people. So far, I’ve not had any “face-palm” moments where things went wrong because I wasn’t on Social Media to hear about it. Being a Digital Minimalist has so far not inconvenienced my life in any way that I can notice. It’s only made things better.
So, I’m still happy with my decision to ditch Social Media. As of right now, I have to plans of going back.