“But we’re media nuns, how can we quit social media?”
A sister asked me this rhetorical question recently after she saw that I was signing off Facebook and Twitter for the Advent season.
I thought about the question a bit, but I have to be honest, not for very long. I know that I personally need to take breaks from social media to detach. Social media can so easily become something that sucks away my extra time, energy, and attention.
Sure, as a Daughter of St. Paul, I am called by God to spread the Gospel using modern means of communication, but I am not called by God to let those modern means control me. So I take breaks. And when I do, it gives me time to realize how these things are impacting me.
Here are some lessons I learned this time around:
1. Social media is a silence killer: I found myself logging onto Facebook and Twitter even after Advent started as though I were on autopilot. Before I knew it, I would find myself typing in the URL. Some might say that this is a sign of an addiction but it actually seemed more like something that I just got used to doing to kill the silence. We all try to do that you know. Killing the silence helps us avoid the things we need to face: complicated feelings, relationship difficulties, boredom, etc.
2. Social media can survive without me: I make excuses to stay on social media, or to use it more than I should. One I often tell myself is that I will miss something important. “What if someone has a baby?” I ask myself, “Or what if someone gets married?” I’ve finally come to the realization that people who don’t bother to send me a Christmas card or pick up the phone to tell me these things probably aren’t close friends anyway. Just because social networks have expanded exponentially with social media, it does not mean that we now have to keep up with every acquaintance we have ever known.
3. Social media breaks help nourish key relationships: Sometimes I spend time on social media worrying about people I don’t even know or others with whom I have lost touch long ago. I wonder, “Why did that person unfollow me?” or “Why did that person I have not spoken to in over a decade suddenly angrily comment on one of my Facebook posts?” Social media creates connections with people we don’t know or others who would have fallen away from our inner circle of relationship if it weren’t for the internet. That can be nice, but energy spent on these relationships is also energy not spent on the people right in front of us. Taking breaks helps us reprioritize, especially when it comes to the most important relationship: Jesus.
And that brings me to the biggest change I have seen over this Advent break from social media. Like all forms of penance, this break has opened up space in my life.
I have always noticed that when I choose a penance for Advent or Lent, little things creep in to fill the empty space. And they are not necessarily good things.
If I give up sugar, I start eating more carbs. If I give up coffee, I start drinking more tea. If I give up Facebook and Twitter, I spend more time on Instagram and Reddit. This is normal and human, but this Advent I asked the Lord to help me to at least give him some of the newly emptied space. And I think he did. This Advent has not been perfect. But there has been something softer and slower about it, despite the busyness in my life. I’m grateful for that.
And I’m ready for Christmas!
Hope you are too.