In 1997, Joshua Harris wrote the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”. He writes about his discontent with the secular dating scene and focuses on alternatives and improvements to dating practices. He also wanted people to see singleness as a blessing instead of a burden. The main premise of the book talked about how dating is all about making yourself look good to the other person – so much so, that you hide your true self in the process.
This book caused a lot of Christian teenagers and young adults to take a hard look at the relationships in their lives and the purposes behind them.
Fast forward to 2016.
My wife, kids and I are moving across the country from Virginia to Oregon. I had just accepted a position as the Kids Pastor at Grace Community Fellowship in Eugene.
Up until this point in my adult life I hadn’t jumped on the smart phone/social media train that most of the world around me had. In fact, I faced nothing but mockery and scorn (in jest) from my friends and co-workers.
Knowing that the church I represented had a presence on Facebook, I talked with my wife about opening a personal Facebook account. I knew I would have to have one in order to manage any pages.
The noise in my heart and mind from this fantastical world was a little like the Whos down in Whoville singing on Christmas morning—“It started in slow, then started to grow.” Pretty soon, I was checking it every day. I didn’t post a lot of personal things, but I was hoping that everything I did post was being liked, loved, laughed, cried, angered, or wowed.
I was requesting friends and accepting friend requests from people I barely knew. I was spending time liking posts about everything from what someone ate on their anniversary, to their child’s ability to use the potty, to what Disney character they are like.
I was spending countless minutes, hours, and eventually days looking at other people’s lives and finding ways for them to look at mine.
Fast forward to 2020.
A pandemic. A contentious election. A nation in turmoil. A different opinion on everything from masks to social justice, from school closures to police reform, from attending church to eating at restaurants, from EVERYTHING to EVERYTHING.
In the days following the shut down and our church’s subsequent decision to cancel services for 3 months, I rushed to make videos and online resources for the kids and families I cared for. I posted them to Facebook, uploaded them to YouTube, and did my best to spread the word. I was spending tons of (additional) time on these platforms.
However, I wasn’t just giving information, I was consuming it. Or better yet…It was consuming me.
All the opinions of every friend, friend of a friend, and even complete strangers was beginning to enter my eye and my mind. And over time, I began to be highly affected. It affected my mood, my family, my job, my contentment, my joy. HOW COULD IT NOT?
So last month, I asked myself a simple question… WHY?
Why am I letting this steal my JOY, my TIME, and my PEACE? Was it because I needed to stay on these platforms? Would I miss out? Was it because I believed it was going to affect my ability to do my job as a kids pastor? It's more than likely a conglomeration of all these things, but I’m not going to let it continue any longer.
So…I’ve decided to kiss social media goodbye.
What do I mean by that? I’m not merely going to delete the app. I've done that many times only to be sucked right back in. No. I'm going all in this time and deleting my accounts, effective November 1.
ARE YOU CRAZY?!? Yes. And proud of it.
In a world that races faster and faster toward new apps, technology, and ways to stay “connected and informed”, I’m changing course.
You won't be able to stay connected to your family as well.
You won't be able to do ministry as well.
You won't be able to keep up with the times as well.
You won't be able to keep your thumbs in shape? 😉
I’ve heard them all before, and I’ve listened to them for way too long. I’m done wanting to be the coolest personality on Facebook. I’m done wanting to “feel connected” by commenting, liking, and viewing parts of people’s lives while I miss being present in my own. I’m done wanting the approval of friends, acquaintances, and strangers on the things that I know are already a gift from God.
What about my ministry as a Kids Pastor?
I believe I can be MORE effective in my ministry if I quit looking at people’s lives and start being a part of them. I can do more for the gospel by sharing the good news with them, than I can trying to persuade them of my own opinions on the coronavirus. I also believe I can love people better if I don’t know their every thought, preference, political leaning, habit, and how they like their steak.
At Grace Community Fellowship, we have an awesome communications team that do a fabulous job with social media. It’s time for me to let them do what they do best, so that I can step away.
SO WHAT NOW?
Where do I go from here?
Simply put…I get back to living instead of looking. No longer am I going to look at a family moment as an opportunity to get likes. No longer am I going to let the thoughts and opinions of those on social media poison my life and rob me of joy. No longer am I going to waste countless hours thumbing through the lives of other people. I’m going to live my own and focus on serving God with it.
Our church has been doing a study in the book of Proverbs. It's all about how to live your life with wisdom - making good decisions based on God's Word. Check out these words from the prophet Haggai:
5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” 7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways." (Haggai 1:5-7, NIV)
Have you given careful thought to your social media use? I have, and you know what I've found?
I've said much, but seen little return.
I've seen much, but never have enough.
I've envied much, but never have my fill.
I've tried to find comfort in it, but am never warm.
I've taken valuable time, and put it in a purse with holes.
To me, the Almighty says, "Josh, give careful thought to your ways."
To you, the Almighty says, "Give careful thought to your ways."
Much like Joshua Harris tried to do with his book, I am wanting you to think. Think about where you stand with social media. Is it robbing you of time, joy, peace, contentment and so much more? Is it having positive or negative influences on your life? Do you need to pull back from or completely remove yourself from social media platforms?
Whatever you do...Give careful thought to your social media ways.
I would love to know your thoughts. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.