Starting July 1, I will be taking a break from the personal use of all social media. That’s right, I won’t be posting any Dad jokes on my Facebook timeline (you’re welcome). I won’t be treating anyone to my bite-sized chunks of personal yippy-yap on Twitter. No one on Instagram will know what I am eating. For a whole month I won’t know what 3.6 billion of my closest friends are talking about on social networks.
My job as branding and marketing ministry partner for Oklahoma Baptists requires that I work with our team to assure we are making the best use of these important media channels. So I will continue to manage some social media accounts in my professional capacity at work.
But I won’t be checking my personal accounts through July. Why am I doing this? This is my third year to do this, and each time I do it I find I enjoy it and benefit spiritually from it—that’s about it. I have simply enjoyed the times when I have taken a break from social networking, and July seems to be the best time of year, work-wise, for me to do it.
So what do I get out of taking a break from the personal use of social media? Here are four reasons for (and benefits I get from) my social networking vacation:
1. I do it because I need a break from the habit of checking my social media accounts
Social media use is as much a habit for me as it is a communication tool. Actually, if I am being completely honest, it’s more of a habit than a communication tool. I like to use this time to force myself to break the fidgety habit of checking my accounts. I want to interrupt any compulsive behaviors I have and free myself from them. Cold turkey seems to be the best way for me.
If I stop checking my accounts when I am bored, maybe I could have an actual conversation with someone around me—that is, if they happen to be looking up from their phone.
2. I do it so I can connect with what is really important to me in a more focused manner
Most of what I see on my social media newsfeed isn’t so important that I have to know about it right away—or even all month. Seriously, last year when I gave up social media for a month, I found I was actually more informed and more connected to what is important to me. Social media is a medium for communication, but sometimes it becomes a replacement for communication with others. Rather than just checking in on what people are posting online and leaving it at that, I want to use this time to check in with people whom I actually know and who value my personal attention.
3. I do it because I don’t need all that positivity in my life
Positivity? Don’t you mean negativity? If I tell people I want to take a break from social media because of all the negativity, they nod knowingly in agreement. But negativity on social media is something I can handle—I don’t use social media to debate, and I stay away from trolls just like my mother taught me.
What I need is forcing myself to take a break from “Likes.” In short, I need to break the habit of looking for affirmation and validation of my beliefs and ideas from social media. In July I like to work harder to think on my own and not just shop around online for what other people are saying.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to get out of the echo chamber that social media can become. It’s addictive and probably not spiritually healthy to seek out and focus too much on people who like your jokes, fully agree with your views and are more apt to click “Like” on all the same stuff you like. As a personal discipline, I think I need to pull myself away from that as much as all the online negativity.
4. I do it for spiritual reasons
I put this reason last, not because it is the least important. Rather it is the foundation of it all. The bottom line is, I use July as my personal sabbatical time to focus on my own spiritual disciplines in a different way. It’s a little bit like a fast. Rather than put a key Bible verse here, I will just say that as a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe it’s good for us all to take time to break away from distractions and sit at the feet of our Lord in a more intentional way. To do that, I know I need less screen time. I invite you to try it too. If you do, I promise I won’t post a selfie if you won’t.