Updated: Sep 24, 2018
So you read, "Is Facebook Keeping You Captive?" and are ready to start making some changes. But what exactly do you stand to gain by cutting back on ol' social media?
Firstly, to recap, here are some of the pitfalls of excessive social media use:
Fragmented/short attention span
Less time/quality of relationship with God
Less patience and perseverance
Emotional and psychological issues
Improved physical and emotional wellbeing- reduced stress
If you decide to go cold turkey on Facebook for a week, you could experience a drop in cortisol (stress hormone) levels immediately. Participants in an Australian study conducted by the University of Queensland reported feeling an immediate sense of relief when they consciously took a break from social media. Perhaps this is in part because social media can generate so many stresses- we need to reply to a message urgently, we are bombarded by negative news stories, we are oversaturated with an amount of information we can never digest, etc. etc...
Improved attention span/concentration
Facebook ultimately "fragments" our attention span, as we jump from one piece of information to another. When we cut back on Facebook however, we stand to "retrain" our concentration, making it possible to do focused activities like read a book from beginning to end with ease.
With all that improved focus comes greater output and increased creativity. Once we break free of the rigid parameters of Facebook, we can be free to begin creating and living in 3-D.
Improved social life and quality of relationships
The less time we spend of Facebook, the more time we can spend investing into those around us. Less time on social media actually frees us up to be more, well, social. All that increased eye contact and conversation will work wonders for your relationships with friends and family.
Deeper relationship with God
As with any relationship, our relationship with God requires time and focus. You may find that cutting back on social media distractions causes you to become more sensitive to His presence and more readily able to hear His voice.
Remember, making a change is always easier when you think of what you stand to gain.
What to Expect When Quitting or Scaling Back
Firstly, as with any addiction, expect that it won't be easy. As we discussed, you will be fighting your body's biochemistry, in the same way a gambler does to when trying to kick the habit.
During the "five-days of no Facebook experiment", participants reported an immediate sense of relief and decrease in stress levels when they put aside their Facebook accounts. After a few days however, they started feeling the strong pull to go back on, the sense that they were missing out- on their social lives and on being connected with others. Expect to face this kind of "withdrawal" symptom as your body's biochemistry fights back. If you have been a Facebook user for 5 years, for example, and check your notifications more than twice a day, the dopamine centers in your brain would be accustomed to your "habit."
Strategies to Combat Facebook Addiction
Here are some strategies you can use to help you "break-up" with Facebook (whatever that looks like to you.) It might be necessary to walk away completely and make a clean break, or to go from being "in a relationship" with Facebook to just "friends." If you are honest with yourself, God will lead you in the right direction.
1) Firstly, if you are not going to close your account for good, recognize that the goal is to establish new lifestyle habits, not to do the digital equivalent of "Yo-Yo dieting" (i.e. close your account for a week, only to re-open it and use it more intensely than before.) You might, for example, want to try going cold turkey for one week so that your brain gets used to the idea of not being dependant on Facebook, before slowly easing your way into a more moderate approach (allowing yourself to check your account once a day, for no more than 20 mins, for example.) Remember in this instance that the goal is balance. Also remember that it takes at least 30 days to establish a new habit or change an existing one.
2) Recognize that, as with any addiction, you are going to need more than willpower alone to overcome it. You need help- help from above. Know that your battle is not just against your own flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12.) A friend of ours, a pastor who once suffered tremendous health challenges puts it this way:
"One of the enemy's principle strategies is to use the body to 'hijack' the mind." Addiction happens when a person lets down a physical or psychological guard in their lives and a bondage is created.
In the instance of a social media addiction, a mental and spiritual bondage is created through the open door of our own body's biochemistry. Ask God to give you the power of His Holy Spirit to overcome your flesh.
3) Call it out for what it is. Perhaps you may be thinking that the terminology I have been using (addiction, bondage etc.) is a little strong or over the top. But, I would encourage you to be totally honest with yourself. Is this an issue in your life? How many times do you realistically check your Facebook each day? How much time do you waste on it? You will only overcome an issue if you first call it out for what it is. The "Are You Addicted to Facebook?" quiz can serve only as a guide, to get you started.
4) Repent and ask the Holy Spirit for help. Because Facebook is part of the digital world, it is easy to rationalize that we can't commit any "concrete," real-life sins on it. As always though, God is interested in the state of our hearts .
Social media has a way of either nurturing issues of the heart we haven't dealt with or creating new ones.
For example, in a digital world that was deliberately created to capitalise on humanity's need for affirmation and acceptance, it is easy to start basing our identities on our online profiles, rather than the Word of God. Here is a list of some of the areas you may want to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you:
Narcissism- The sin of being overly self-focused and self absorbed, something Facebook is great at doing- driving us deeper within ourselves and our own worlds, as we feed on the world's applause.
Lust- Sexual imagery abounds on social media and is constantly dangled before the us as "click-bait". If you have an issue in this area you may want to consider giving up social media completely.
Fear of Man/people pleasing- How easy it is to respond to an online comment and manipulate our response- either out of a fear of man or desire to please man. Could it even be possible that the way we "stage" our lives in social media crosses the line into deception?
Covetousness/Discontentment- While viewing our friends' polished online representations of their lives, it is all too easy to fall into jealousy and to desire what we don't have. My cousin got a new house? He doesn't deserve it, I should be the one with a new house. Sarah got married? Well what's wrong with me then? Studies have actually shown that these constant types of comparison can lead to depression.
Contention/Gossip- Countless times, I have seen christians, pastors, and ministers fall into this trap. It usually goes like this: someone either knowingly (usually the case) or unknowingly throws out an inflammatory statement, and, before you know it, a online WW3 is in full swing. How many relationships have you seen permanently damaged by careless comments or political convictions? Let's may sure we don't grieve the Holy Spirit.
Pride/Self promotion- Facebook lets you be your own "hype-man." Because of this, it is all too easy to fall into creating self-promoting posts and becoming arrogant.
Laziness- Let's face it, Facebook has the potential to absorb a lot of our time. But we need to ask ourselves: "Are we being good stewards of the time and talents God has given us? and, "While people are perishing all around us, should we be sitting on Facebook and doing nothing?" (Note: Some have told me that Facebook can be a great tool for sharing the gospel- while I partially agree, I believe that it should be only a springboard for evangelism, not a means in itself.)
5) Get plenty of exercise. I am convinced that many of us are substituting the endorphins we would normally get from exercise for any endorphins we can get online, whilst firmly seated on our blessed assurances. If you try and cut back on Facebook and don't exercise, you could risk creating an endorphin "vacuum." Try substituting some of the time you would usually spend on Facebook for exercise and I guarantee it will make the transition a lot easier.
6) Read a book. Studies have shown that we read information on a computer screen totally differently from text on a page. Even "Kindle reading" is handled by the brain differently. Perhaps there is something about the screen's backlighting that conditions us to read the text as though we are reading online content- bouncing around and skimming through the information. Rewire your brain to focus for long stretches by reading a book. It is easier on your eyes and good for stress levels (think of the "mindfulness movement.")
7) Stay firmly grounded in "the real world." The less room you have in your life for the digital world, the less likely you are to be consumed by it. Physically being around others will help you to build healthier, stronger relationships. (Oh, and it goes without saying- try and stay off Facebook while socializing!)