By this time a year ago, I sat slightly over thirty days into my fast from social media accounts for the year. At the time, it seemed like quite the challenge; however, I found this season offline to deliver peace in unexpected ways.
This time spent offline made me cognizant of a diagnosis I had been ignoring for years. A chronic disease had been devouring me from the inside out. Its roots grasped onto the strings of my heart causing me to go left when I should've gone right, and the contrary. This debilitating disease was FOMO, otherwise known as the fear of missing out.
There were so many people, so many birthdays, so many pictures, tweets, and messages I had missed. To put this in perspective, if the 350 people I follow on Instagram posted a photo every two or three days, I would have missed 45,000 posts! Likewise, if the 230 users I follow on Twitter tweeted seven times a week, I would have missed 119,600 tweets!
I'm no math major, but these numbers left me struck with confusion, doubt, and a little bit of remorse. While reflecting on these statistics, I sit here and think, "Do I seriously waste that much of my time?" Because the physical nature of my heart desires to be in the loop, I find myself endlessly scrolling...and...scrollin...and...scrolli...and...scro...
Listen closely, FOMO will steer your heart away from God, if you let it. I hesitate to say if you let it because this disease typically catches you when you aren't paying attention. Satan tricks you into thinking you have a couple seconds to spare, which leads to a couple minutes, and hours, and more.
Think about it, if I spend three seconds on each Instagram post, this would amount to 38 hours of scrolling over the course of one year. Likewise, if I spend five seconds on each tweet, this would amount to 7 days of scrolling. Combine the two and that's over a week of my year spent observing others from behind a backlit screen. That's absurd.
When people make New Year's resolutions and reflect upon how they spent their previous year, this comes to mind. Where did I waste my time and how can I make that up? Sadly, lost time can't be made up. However, every second God gives us in the present and in the unforeseeable future is a gift. How we decide to spend those seconds is our gift to Him.
You know, it's funny. Since completing the social media fast, numerous people approached me and talked as if I just travelled the Sahara Desert alone without water. I'll be honest with you, after about the first two or three weeks, it wasn't difficult. Sure, there were times where I would've liked to fire off a tweet or share a photo, but there was nothing in me that said, "I need it!" Yet, isn't that how we feel when we are accustomed to it?
"No. That can't possibly be the cry of my heart. From me? I'm not desperate to know what's going on. I can go without it. Really!"
Our defensive nature reflects a knowledge of the abnormal. You know? Like when your body feels out of whack, but your every last desire is to go see a doctor? There's some sort of dependency there that shouldn't be. We rely so heavily on our public image and perceived self-righteousness that we fail to see our brokenness and dependency.
This issue is more than a social one; it's a spiritual problem that's in the works. Why do we get so defensive over the word God? How about Jesus? Christian? Come sit in a college class and listen...if I bring up any of these words, three groups of people will respond defensively:
- The Christians
- The Non-Christians
- The I-Don't-Care-But-Actually-Do-Crew
Talk about any of these topics in a negative way, the Christians are burning couches. Talk about any of these topics in a positive way, the non-Christians are up in arms. Bring up these topics without bias, and the third group will tune you out. Everyone cares. Everyone has an opinion. All have reservations. And the nature of humanity is to defend.
Why do we defend ourselves? First, we don't like to admit defeat. Likewise, we don't like to admit we can be brutally wrong. Contrarily, we like to boast in victory. We revel in being right, sometimes at the expense of others.
When I observe our defensive tendencies, an obvious root peeks out of solid ground. We have an identity crisis, and social media will advance it if we do not take careful measures. Our feed is not reflective of our fears, nor is it brimming with our failures. No, our feed is jammed with our feet. We cannot post publicly without putting our best foot forward.
Don't believe me? Take a look at the last five photos you and your three closest friends posted on Instagram. I'll be the first to say it's true in my life. I'm looking at a picture of my beautiful girlfriend, a TCU baseball picture, and an advertisement for this website. These things matter to me; yet, would I post a photo of how I look right now, as I lay in bed sick? Probably not. I want to put my best foot forward, but my life remains obscure from the eyes of social media.
Social media is a good way to get to know some of the best qualities in a person. However, quality time spent engaging in face-to-face conversations is a great way to get to know the true character and the heart of a human being. We are far more than who our online profiles say we are.
Though social media wasn't around when Jesus' closest friends walked the earth, the apostle Paul understood the importance of conversational grace. From the dens of prison, he wrote:
"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." (Colossians 4:2-6)
I'm afraid that if Jesus picked us to physically walk with Him as His disciples, we would be more concerned with getting a selfie with Jesus. As He hung on our cross, we would be too busy editing the lighting in the picture we just snapped of Him carrying our cross up the mountain.
Even now, we are too caught up in having religious scrambles over Twitter to go and engage the world for Christ. Jesus never intended for us to be believers. He destined us to be participants. Get in the game!
It's time we study the profiles that truly matter. I'm not talking about the ones you see on social media. I'm talking about the ones you see everyday. The faces you recognize on your walk to work or class. The people who live in your apartment. The teachers and bosses who engage you.
Likewise, it's time we take our focus off the value of our social profiles and place them on our hope in Jesus Christ. We are not confident because we feel confident in and of ourselves. We are confident because the grace of God is sufficient for our brokenness and it is present in all aspects of life - past, present, and future.
Dad, You are too good to us. You give so graciously even though we take so pridefully. When we turn the spotlight onto ourselves, Your grace humbles us. Teach us to beg for grace more often than we beg for likes and attention. Remind us how we are all the same, a bunch of misfits in need of Your love and mercy. Thank You for sending Jesus to die for our pride and insecurity. The fact that we've done nothing worthy of earning Your love shows how extravagant and divine Your gracious giving is. You are good, Dad.