Everyday Christian: I grew up on social media and why I deleted it

Last month I deleted all my social media accounts.

Not simply removed the apps from my devices or deactivated them.

Deleted. Gone.

For some, this might not be a big deal as social tools only have been a recent addition to the ebb and flow of everyday life.

But for me and the generation I’m part of, they have been integral to how I engage the world around me for the entirety of my adolescent-adult life.

It was a tough choice to totally pull the plug. Actually, it was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. But after days, months, and years of wrestling to find a productive and healthy place for social media in my life, I decided to throw in the towel and leave all together.

I’m sure the struggle is all too familiar for so many … The late nights scrolling through endless streams of inconsequential content. Work breaks stolen by going over my “likes” and “comments” as I grasped aimlessly at digital significance.

Leaving every meaningful moment to get that perfect photo for the gram.

Cyber “friendship” cohorts whose nagging notifications interrupt my real-life conversations, exercise, work, church services, date nights, movies, prayer time, and parenting.

The journey towards my “unplug” was founded upon two major pillars of how I see the life of a follower of Jesus: Spiritual maturity/growth, and meaningful Christ-centred community.

When it comes to community, Jesus made it simple about key relationships – love God and others.

After my struggle to moderate social media usage had raged on for more than a decade, I had to ask myself: “Do these ‘tools’ help or hinder living the life I’m called to?”

Does social media empower or sabotage the two relationships Jesus asked us to prioritise?

Social norms are, probably, the greatest combatant against the follower of Christ, apart from our own brokenness, and also the hardest to overcome. For me, leaving the major social media platforms felt like leaving society.

I am the face that app engineers put up on their white boards as they discuss target audiences for social media.

But regardless of how “normal” and expected these platforms have become, I felt they had to go if they did not substantially help me more than hinder.

Taking a good hard look at them, I could only see how these apps had stolen thousands of hours from my spiritual development. Distraction, comparison, temptation, modern idolatry, and materialism are all advocated by the millions of images, posts and video clips which are served up for consumption at an astronomical rate.

If I spent a third of the time I did on social media drawing near to God … what would our relationship look like?

Now, I’m not saying this is the case for everyone. But I am an easily distracted, ADHD-ridden, hyperactive, hypersocial, comparison-prone product of the 21st century who has absolutely no capacity to resist clickbait.

Perhaps for those moderate, passive types, the struggles I speak of are foreign. But I am literally the face that app engineers put up on their white boards as they discuss their target audiences for social media.

I also wonder if anyone can really claim that the social media outlets they are absorbed by promote deeply significant relationships? Do they equip us to build such relationships?

I know I can’t claim anything like that from my lifetime of social media.

But what kinds of friendships are we called by Jesus to build, to promote love and discipleship? Christ’s instructions are for us to have outrageous self-sacrificing love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

I’m not saying modern technologies can’t assist us in our desire to remain connected across the globe, but to utilise them as Facebook and Instagram do (for example) is hardly productive.

I have decided to invest the time and effort I once put into these platforms into the present moment and the person/people in front of me.

When I do draw on our oh-so-beloved modern technologies, phone calls, personal text messages, FaceTimes, even sending photos and videos directly to my community have proven a much more effective use of time and electronic leveraging.

To leave these platforms … has meant greater investment in the people and God I love.

But, wait. There’s a question you keep wanting to ask me: “Come on, why not just moderate your usage?”

Well, to be frank, these apps actively fight against moderation. After watching the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, it became clear that these platforms have been monetised by advertisers and my “addiction” to them is by no means an accident.

My addictive experience has been crafted by experts, and is being sustained by supercomputers which have been given the one task of securing my attention.

No thank you.

To leave these platforms has meant counting the cost of exclusion in one sense. But it also has meant greater investment in the people and God I love.

I know I’ll miss screen-observing events I wasn’t invited to. Peering into people’s lives I’ve never met and will more than likely never know. I’ll have to embrace the life I live, instead of living in vicarious materialist luxury.

I’ll have less “friends”, and may be left to “follow” Christ alone.

But it’s clear as day to me that these apps aren’t designed for our flourishing, but for those who wish to harness our attention for profit. Though they were sold to us on the basis of “enhancing our social connectivity,” they have proven to take more from me than they gave.

I’m now going to take quality over quantity every day of the week, hour of the day, and every God-given second I’ve been blessed with.