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Saturday, January 1, 2011

What I Learned from Social Media Exile

I am writing this up and coming blog on Christmas Day…maybe I have not learned much of anything, lol.
However, there is no pressure to finish and I may not finish this entry today…no worries, if I don’t you will never know. ;)

Anyway, as most of you know I have been on a Facebook/Twitter/Blog hiatus now since the Thanksgiving holiday. The reasons I decided to do this are varied, but one of the biggest reasons was to see just how much power social media had over my life. I am going to let you in on little secret, so come in very close to your screens (not too close you’ll scare the children)…

I did not completely abstain.

Yes, there were moments that I had to use Facebook. I had promised to my fiction readers to use the blog to continue writing Executive Order 16661, but other than that, no posts. I have held true to my word (except to give anyone reading a sneak peek at the new blog space you are reading from now). Twitter was only utilized when posting blog updates and my tweets have indeed ceased. But Facebook, Facebook is a different story; I had to use Facebook some of the times that I cheated.

For instance, my good friend Thomas had an awesome birthday party (and the corresponding present) that needed to be arranged and replied to; since Facebook was the primary medium…I had to use it. Robbie, I guy from church, invited me to his New Years Extravaganza at his house; guess what he used? Facebook.
Then there were the other times I used Facebook; I freely admit this. However, I am very pleased to say that those times have been very few and they did not last more than five minutes. Overall, social media has been majorly extricated from my life.

So, why go back? Since I have shrugged free of the social media juggernaut and the lair of its black, screen-glaring abyss, why put myself under its clutches again?

Well, that leads me to what I have learned from social media exile. 

  1. I have wasted a considerable amount of time on social media

Yeah this is kind of obvious and many of you are thinking, “You had to stop doing it to realize      this? Does a pothead have to stop smoking pot to realize that it causes him to want to eat     everything in the refrigerator?” Yes, I know. However, even though I knew that I have wasted a        considerable amount of time on social media, I did not realize how much time I had wasted. So,       what did I do with this extra time not on social media?

Well, I went sky-diving and Rocky mountain climbing and I lasted 4.7 seconds on a bull...Ok, I know, you don’t believe that at all. To be honest, I still wasted time. In fact, I wasted more time, mostly playing video games. All of this extra time I could have been investing in trying to discern God’s will and direction in my life, I instead spent on everything from Fable III to Heroesof Might and Magic V.

There was some I time I did manage to redeem from evil’s clutches. In fact, my time online has been much more productive and insightful since leaving social media. I have had the opportunity to read, think about, and comment on other people’s writing. I have read more blogs and listened to more talks and podcasts than I could have being glued to Facebook or writing my own opinions on my blog.
I also spent time, offline, writing (though I have not written like I had hoped to) and as a result I came up with the 12 virtues with which I believe God wants to define my life and a third of my life sentence. Through these I hope to begin moving toward godly character, though I recognize that this will probably be slow and very, very painful.

     2.   I don’t think about what I write online

This is where Twitter comes in. I have become addicted to sending out tweets about everything I hear or see that evokes some sort of emotional response. Not being able to do this has made me realize how many great things are not so great given a little pondering and thought. There were many times when I went, “Wow! That would make a great tweet!” only to think a few hours later, “Whoa, there are serious issues with that!” The lack of careful consideration in our impulsive world could be contributing to the sharing of many bad ideas.

Now even though my blogs tend to be more thought out than my tweets (for good or evil), they still lack a certain pause to them. My blogs tend to be reactionary and involve decrying something that I perceive as evil, wrong, unjust, or all of the above. So, most of these blogs are laden with emotion and romance (romance in the literary sense not the harlequin sense…yes, I know harlequin is technically literature), which is not always helpful for logical argumentation. I have discovered that I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with logic and even though I believe that most of life is rational, there are still parts of our existence that are not. However, I should at least try to reason and to be objective when discussing issues that many a fellow believer disagrees on.

I have recently purged my writings that were negative or demented in nature; I did this voluntarily because I wanted to start anew. With this move to a new blog space and a new feel, I believe that my blog and my writing have turned a corner for good. I do believe that with this added experience, I will be more careful about what I put online.

     3.   I use social media for attention purposes.

Yeah this admission sucks, because I hate for it to be true. When it comes to what (or more accurately how) I think and believe, I have felt entitled to be heard. Pastor Tim rightly pointed this out in our last meeting, but I think it bears mentioning again. Until just recently, my writing has been all about me; it is very egocentric. Now, mind you, being an introverted, self-introspective person it is much easier to write about me, than to write about some objective character (which is why even my fiction writing has come from a first-person viewpoint). However, that is not the full extent of the egotistical leanings of my writings that is just touching the tip of the iceberg.

I have always considered my mental and academic life as an extension of myself; when these are “attacked” or not “appreciated” then I have had serious emotional responses. I don’t see arguments as the competition of propositions, but rather a rejection of myself. I take the refusal to hear my viewpoint as personal and since (rightly or wrongly) I believe that I have something meaningful to say and contribute, I have often found ways to force out my message.

But this not only tends to put innocent people under the cross-arrows, it also steals glory from God. I have been very selfish in my writing and I have used it to promote myself, sometimes without meaning to. By stopping the endless stream of publishing my thoughts, I have come to realize that God gives me the talent to write, to speak, and to study. I owe everything to Jesus Christ who instilled these desires in me when I was just starting high school and who transformed me from a lazy bum who cared nothing for learning to someone who cannot put his books down. Everything that I possess academically is from God and it is only right that I acknowledge this and submit my writing for his approval and attention; rather than yours.

     4.   Social media is not evil.

You know it is kind of surprising, but when I started this, I kind of expected God to show how evil social media is and to call me away from it. However, that is not what happened at all. In fact, I have grown to appreciate just how useful and effective social media can be.

Facebook is a very effective tool for long distance communication amongst a group of individuals; it saves valuable time when everyone can be counted on using it (which is increasingly the case). Facebook can also be used to leave messages for friends you cannot seem to get on the phone or whatever. It will never replace the value of personal communication (i.e. in person or even Skype), but it does help keep track of people that 10 years ago would not be possible to keep track (and it is great for remembering birthdays)

Twitter is a very effective way to transmit small tidbits of thought or to quickly organize a group of friends to do something. I have seen some great tweets come over my phone from people I am following not for privacy invasion, but for quotes and life wisdom. It is a great way to share the small moments that make life awesome with as many people who are willing to share them with you. That is awesome.

Blogging is a great way to publish your thoughts and to try your hand at writing. When I first started writing, I was not that great at it; as I have blogged continuously, I have seen marked improvement. Blogs can be useful tools to mobilize people, to advance a cause, to challenge a thought, or to simply express yourself to your readers. Of all the social media I would not want to go without, my blog would be at the top of the list. It does not have to be bad to be a blogger.

    5.   Social media must be used appropriately and with moderation

Since it is not evil then it can be used for good, but as with anything else, it must be used rightly. I have learned that without the aid of electronic networking you have to make phone calls and you have to personally settle disagreements. You cannot write and an angry tweet or Facebook message when such means are not available to you. This forces you to be a human being and work out your problems and disagreements face to face.

There is a glare that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to an early death. Just being on social media to be on social media is a waste of our lives. When we use social media, we need to have a defined purpose and a defined time limit. If we don’t set those boundaries we could be playing Farmville or Castle Age all day before we know it. Also, we need not blog about everything and anything; our best writing comes from the heart and has been purified by the Spirit within us. When we use Twitter we need to not use it like a chat room that just annoys the heck out of people.

If I know my digital people better than I know the people who are actually in my life, there could be issues. Of course, you will have best friends who live all over the world who you can share a digital (and when possible physical) relationship with and social media is great for that! However, if we are totally neglecting the people around us, then we are not being faithful to where God has called us to be. In the flesh people must come before digital people.

In Conclusion

This experiment in abstaining from social media for a season is healthy and I think I will do the same thing next year. We all need time to unplug and think (and hopefully not waste time like I did anyway) and spend more time with the people in our lives. However, social media is not the devil and if you use it wisely, then it can enrich your life and God could use it to reach people you never dreamed possible.  I recommend that if you feel like you must check your social media, that you take a similar break…it may do you a world of good.

Grace and Peace

Do you agree with my claims? Have you ever fasted from something other than food? Have you considered “unplugging?” 


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