We’ve probably all considered deleting our social media once before, maybe after a long scroll session that left us feeling worn down and defeated, anxious and lacking peace. Maybe you’ve given social media up for Lent or done some other sort of fasting from it. Maybe you’ve seen someone announce they’re getting rid of it for good and thought to yourself, “I want that, too.”
Since the days of Myspace, social media has been a part of my life. But until I started taking a step back from it, I didn’t realize the hold it really had on me and the power it had to determine my mood, demeanor and overall happiness.
Fast forward to January 2021, when I finally said “goodbye” to my social media pages permanently. I had always feared what I would be missing if I didn’t have my newsfeed to keep me up to date and in the know, but I never really considered what I might have to gain without the constant noise that social media tends to be. And while I’m still learning and growing, the gifts I’ve been made aware of in these past few months have been abundantly clear and tangible.
Presence of mind
The beautiful spiritual tradition of the Church wisely teaches us that living in the present is key to relationship with God, because only in this present moment is he giving us the grace that we need to live for him. He does not give grace in the past or the future, but only in this very moment.
With this in mind, I have found much freedom in being away from the images, posts and stories that stole my mind from the present moment and thus the grace that God was offering me in it. Dreaming is a good and beautiful thing that we need to make space for, but we cannot be constantly living in the clouds. Being away from social media has helped me to have more presence of mind, and more joy in living my current reality instead of always wishing my life was somehow different.
The space for true encounter
With social media, we are constantly seeing other people’s greatest joys, life achievements, sadnesses, losses and traumas. While I think it’s important to be there for others in their happiness and hurts, we also are not meant to carry the burdens of the world within our hearts all of the time. The only person capable of that is Christ, and I found that trying to carry the burdens of others myself was just too much for my little soul to handle. I had no room for the people next to me because I was so overwhelmed by the things I was seeing online, often from people I rarely, if ever, spoke to.
When I stepped away from social media, I replaced shallower connections based on likes, comments and photos with deeper, more real connections — book studies, Facetimes and phone calls, bringing flowers to my neighbors just because. I had more space to love the people next to me and was more inclined to reach out to those I hadn’t talked to or heard from in a while because my heart actually had room to love them and receive them, no matter the state they were in. My friendships became more real, and my soul experienced more peace because of it.
A freedom from objectification
Have you ever been in the midst of a moment in your day and pictured what that moment would look like on your Instagram story? I used to literally think of moments with my son and husband, food I was eating, achievements and successes, and events I attended in terms of captions, stories and posts.
About a month after deleting my accounts, I had the realization that I was no longer writing captions for different moments of my day in my head. This moment of freedom was a huge win for me and helped me to more deeply understand the hold that social media once had on my whole being.
God is constantly giving us gifts, and when we are free from the temptation to objectify those gifts and turn them into posts, promotions and captions, we have more room to really sit and appreciate them. We can receive them without using them to boost our own ego and can give them back to God as an offering of thanksgiving to him.
Pursuit of the correct perfection
“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Christian perfection, becoming like Christ, is a big and supernatural reality to be consumed with. For me, social media was, more than anything else, a competing voice for what to worry about and how much time to alot to it. The perfection of my home, my style, my motherhood and even the exteriors of my faith all tended to stand in the way of true pursuit of Christ and his Church.
Before I deleted my social media, I thought I didn’t have time to pray, to study, to serve, to have a true community. I thought that to be a Catholic woman meant to look, dress and post a certain way. But as soon as I didn’t have my feed to turn to in times of rest or boredom, I realized the large amount of idle time in my day and the multitude of opportunities I had to spend time with God and my neighbor. I also stopped trying to be the perfect missionary, evangelist and “Catholic woman,” and instead I had the freedom to ask God, “How are you calling me to love in this moment?”
This freedom opened the door for me to start making some small but significant changes in my life that have opened the door to let Christ in more and more. And the fruit that is being born in my life because of it is a testament to God’s great mercy and redemption.
There might be reasons why deleting your social media isn’t right for you right now — you’re not ready, you’re afraid, your business depends on it, you don’t want to miss out or lose connections. But I’d challenge you to consider limiting your time on it, taking a break for a while, or even setting a goal of having it gone by a certain date. I spent months saving photos, making connections, getting contact information, and really jumping back and forth before I finally made the decision to get rid of it for good.
In times away from social media, take note of the fruit that is born in your life and what the Holy Spirit is doing, and find some way to remember it. Ask God to make it clear what he is asking you to do. And if he prompts you to move, don’t be afraid to do what he inspires — just trust that he will take care of you always.