Six Lessons Learned by Giving up Social Media

by: Emily Kauffman and Morgan Leavy

Morgan Leavy is in her freshman year at Hesston (Kan.) College, majoring in Psychology. She enjoys musical theater, photography, traveling and being with her friends. Emily Kauffman is currently a sophomore at Hesston, majoring in Communications and minoring in Bible. She has developed a passion for the church and a desire to explore how technology is affecting our society and relationships.

This article originally ran in the Hesston College Horizon.

Sherry Turkle, author of the book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, writes, “This is our moment to acknowledge the unintended consequences of the technologies to which we are vulnerable, but also to respect the resilience that has always been ours. We have time to make corrections and remember who we are—creatures of history, of deep psychology, of complex relationships, of conversations, artless, risky and face to face.”

In a search to rid ourselves of, as Turkle puts it, the “unintended consequences” of social media, we decided to give up social media for Lent this year. We were in need of a break. A break from the constant mindless scrolling. While the past 40 days have been full of temptation and loss, we have learned so much about ourselves and the world around us.

Here are the big six:

#1 We became more aware of how social media affects our relationships.

On the first day of Lent, I sat down at lunch with some friends. Immediately, I recognized that the five or six people surrounding me were on their cell phones. There I am, forced to make face to face conversation, and all I could do was watch people on their devices or listen to them talking about the latest Snapchat story. Even in class, I occasionally spot a few people on Instagram or Twitter, mid-lecture. I am now bothered by these actions made by my peers, and I think that in my “app fasting” I have helped influence more face to face interaction with them than ever before. Initiating conversation in those quiet moments to raise heads from phones is a small gesture that can create a more personal interaction. —Morgan

#2 We found more time for other activities.

The first thing I noticed after only one or two days of giving up social media was how happy my brain felt. Without the constant updating of social media in my daily life, I was able to give my brain more breaks throughout the day. During these times I read, journaled, slept, walked outside, called my mom, or engaged in face to face conversations. I knew before beginning my social media fast that I would have more “free” time, but I was surprised at the amount of time social media had once consumed in my life. This abundance of time also allowed me to work ahead on homework, which ultimately led to less stress in my life. —Emily

#3 We found that our that our self-conscious feelings changed.

I think we all can fall into the trap of going to social media to soothe our lonely souls. In a way, by checking social media, we are playing the game of social comparison. Are my eyes as pretty as hers? Is my girl as hot as his? We win the game when we receive the approval or connection we were looking for. Although we may not be conscious of what our real motives are, our tweets, posts, pictures, retweets and likes say a lot about who we are and what we value, as well as who we aren’t. I found that when we make the intentional choice to step away from playing this game, we are left with just ourselves. While this was a little scary at times, I was amazed at how beneficial spending time with myself without distractions was. I found myself feeling emotionally healthier. I was more capable of responding to situations out of a clear sense of how Emily would respond separate from the comparisons and need for validation or approval. —Emily

#4 We were reminded that we need to stop seeking validation from others.

Our posts and pictures all tell a story of who we are and where we are at. If we post a status on how much we dislike a particular party’s candidate, we aren’t asking for people who disagree with us to respond. Essentially, we are asking for validation from other people who agree with us. I believe this way of finding validation is not healthy for us as humans. It builds up walls and limits the amount of face to face dialogue instead of opening the door for empathy. —Emily

#5 We found ourselves feeling more connected to God

Isn’t the whole purpose of Lent to give something up so that you can use that excess time to get closer to God? With less technological communication, I had more communication with him. I often felt like I didn’t have the kind of faith that allowed me to speak to God casually and 24/7. This has improved greatly as I have started going through my day talking to God, out loud or in my head, as though he is just another friend seeing one of my posts on Facebook. This has helped especially with how I deal with negative feelings acquired throughout my days. Although this may not work for everyone out there, I realized that the more I speak with God in this manner, the more I am seeking his approval and validation rather than my peers.’ —Morgan

#6 We have the world in our hands, so we forget to look at the world around us.

Social media really is an amazing innovation. We have the whole WORLD at our fingertips. We can communicate through articles, pictures, videos, humor and so much more. I do not doubt that there are benefits to it all. I also do not think that everyone should have to give up all of their accounts for 40 days to learn that there are negative aspects as well. What I do think is that we all need to step back once in awhile from the bombardment of information that social media provides for us 24/7. Try to step back one day a week, or maybe even an hour a day if you decide that’s what’s best. My eyes have gradually been opened to the little things in this time of Lent. I’m making eye contact with my friends instead of looking at their posts on Instagram as I walk by them. As Turkle suggests, we have time to make corrections. We have time to understand the impact of technology on our lives. So fill your time with those risky face-to-face conversations instead of direct messaging each other. Lift your head up: There’s so much more to “like!” —Morgan

2 thoughts on “Six Lessons Learned by Giving up Social Media

  1. Audrey Metz on said:

    I have had the sad experience described in #1 – meeting good friends I’d not seen in a long time, but when we sat down in a restaurant, they were immediately texting with people who were not there, of course, while I – who was there with them – waited for them to finish. It felt like they were using their cell phones to communicate with whom they REALLY wanted to be with. I watch others on their cell phones and i-pads in public places, while seated with friends/family, and I feel so sad. More than once since then, I have spoken the words: “Cell phones are the curse of this civilization.”

    • Claire DeBerg on said:

      Audrey. Thank you for reading and for your honest sharing. You have touched on something deep in our culture.

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