Sabbatical, Bonus: Lessons From My Social Media Fast

This is the last post about the month-long sabbatical I took in November. Thank you for reading the series and for the encouraging words that many of you have shared with me about the series.

In this post, I want to share with you some lessons I learned from the social media fast that accompanied my sabbatical.

Yes, I was off social media for an entire month!

I chose to take a break from social media because I thought that it would help me accomplish the goals of my sabbatical, which were resting, reconnecting to my core values and relationships, and recharging emotionally and spiritually.

It was one of the best decisions I made during my sabbatical.

For the sake of brevity, I will summarize what I learned in two points.

First, I learned that I don’t need social media.

Social media is not a necessity in life. It is a luxury. It is a tool for communicating and networking with people. Nothing more, nothing less.

After a month away from it, everything in my life was just where I left it. My friends didn’t leave me. My employers didn’t forget about me. My congregation was still there when I got back.

And when I got back online, I didn’t even feel like I had missed out on anything.

So, you may be wondering why I’m on it at all. Well, for me, social media is a very effective ministry tool that helps me to stay informed on “industry resources and trends,” to stay connected to what’s happening in the lives of many of our church members, and to share the wisdom of God’s Word with others.

And viewing social media as a tool/resource helps me to keep a healthy perspective about it. I don’t get sucked into “twitter wars” or drawn into “Facebook drama” because that’s not why I am on it. In fact, those things would harm the witness for Christ that I am trying to establish in all areas of my life, including social media.

My month away from social media taught me that I control social media; it doesn’t control me.

I don’t need social media because social media is not my life.

Second, I learned that I need “hedges” around my social media use.

I took a break from social media in order to concentrate on the key relationships in my life. Think about that. In order to reconnect with the most important people in my life, I felt the need to disconnect from something that is supposed to keep us more connected to the people in our lives.

But that’s not what social media does.

There have been numerous research studies that show that social media is actually having an adverse effect on our society and on our relationships. Instead of making us feel more connected, it is creating more isolation. Instead of a platform for sharing our memories with others, it has amplified narcissism and comparison. Instead of being “fun,” it has been directly linked to an increase of anger and depression.

So, if you and I are going to use social media, we must put “hedges” around our social media use.

The term “hedges” comes from a book of that name written by Jerry Jenkins on how to plant preventative “hedges” around one’s marriage that help one avoid compromising situations and temptations that can gain a foothold in one’s life.

This same principle can and should be applied to social media for the same reason: avoiding compromising situations and temptations that lead us away from the purposes of God.

Here are some “hedges” for social media use suggested by Ben Sasse in his book Them:

After a season of “healthy wrestling” about the dangerous ways that social media tries to pull us from the communities they care most about, the Sasses put a list of 16 truths on their refrigerator. “It’s neither complete nor fancy, but our growing list is a way for our family, together, to make progress thinking about the duties we do and don’t have to digital communities versus real ones.

Here it is:

Digital Time, Real Friends, & What We Care About . . .

1. Your thousandth social media friend won’t make you any happier. Your fourth real friend will.

2. Uninterrupted time is life’s most valuable limited resource.

3. Most news isn’t news.

4. Envy isn’t good therapy. Rage isn’t good therapy. Working out is good therapy.

5. Do something now you’ll want to talk about at the dinner table tonight.

6. Political addicts are weird. (And there aren’t that many of them. They’re just loud.)

7A. I’d rather be with the people I’m with right now than with the people I’m not with.

7B. If #7A isn’t true, then spend more time with the right people.

8. Develop the right addictions. (Another word for addictions is habits. Habits determine character.)

9. Not every bad thing in the world requires a response from you.

10. Not every mean thing said to you requires you to acknowledge it.

11. You’re not omniscient. Don’t assume your bubble of information is the whole story.

12. You’re not omnipotent. Taking in bad news you can’t do anything about doesn’t help anyone.

13. Sports Twitter is infinitely better than political Twitter.

14. Lots more social media is fake bots than social media companies admit.

15. The little old lady on your block probably has an important unmet need today.

16. Social media isn’t great for deep stuff. It’s great for humor. Let’s be known as a family that laughs hard.

Those are some good rules worth adopting.

As Christians, let’s use social media (if we’re going to use it) for redemptive purposes and to spread the light of Christ instead of simply adding to the darkness of the world.

Thanks for reading!

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