Day 365: A Year without Social Media

Exactly one year ago, I had an epiphany while I was driving home from church. I did not want to admit it at first, but the reality hit me. I WAS ADDICTED TO SOCIAL MEDIA (especially, Facebook). However, by the grace of God, I have been able to survive 365 days of not posting on Facebook, which was very difficult for me considering that I have been active online almost every day in the past years. In this post, I’ll be sharing more about what happened and what I learned throughout the year. If you also struggle with an addiction, whether or not it’s social media, I pray that this would be an encouragement for you as it has been a humbling and meaningful experience for me.

THE MOTIVATION

Ever since I signed up on Facebook a decade ago, by God’s grace, I have been using this platform for the good and for His glory. However, things turned sour for me when I let it affect me in many aspects. I saw how I developed this false sense of achievement whenever my posts got more likes, shares, or comments. I noticed how mindlessly being online consumed A LOT of my time (30% of my day), which made me more unproductive. I shared more about this in a previous entry, “When Letting Go Lets You Grow” .

But more importantly, I let this addiction become an idol in my life. It HINDERED me from growing in my walk with God, reading and studying the Bible, pursuing the passions that He has placed in my heart, and finding my true security and joy in Him. Every time I didn’t receive the comment or number of likes that I hoped for, I secretly felt disappointed. Instead of praying for and taking action on the activities that God wanted me to do, I ended up feeling more insecure as I compared my status and life with others.

I remember reminding myself to limit my time online, but there would be nights when I would refresh and scroll through my news feed for hours until I fell asleep. It was crazy! It was definitely an unproductive season in my life! It needed to stop. I NEEDED TO STOP. But, I honestly couldn’t do it on my own. This weakness in my heart motivated me to draw near to God and ask for His help, which led me to having the epiphany that I was talking about earlier.

 

THE CHALLENGE

Last January 2018, our church had a week-long prayer and fasting together. At that time, one of the things I fasted was social media. After letting go of it for 6 days, I noticed how it helped me spend more quality time with the Lord, which I dearly loved. I remember telling God: “Lord, this has been amazing! I should fast from social media more often!” After praying, I felt a strong affirmation from the Lord, “Yes, Nic. Why don’t you fast from social media? FOR ONE WHOLE YEAR.” To which I sincerely replied, “Wait. What, Lord?! One year? Hahaha.”

That surprising conversation with the Lord was the start of a beautiful and grace-filled challenge for me that I never imagined I would do. As I processed the idea the next day, I knew that it was what He wanted me to do for 2018. John 3:30 spoke to my heart at that time which says: “He [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less.” I started fasting from Facebook last January 9, 2018 and I decided to continue fasting from it even after our church’s fasting week. In addition, my fast from Twitter and Instagram followed a week after that.

Before I decided to extend my fast, I asked God: “Lord, what about my blog posts? What about the random, encouraging, or funny posts that I share every now and then – people appreciate it, right? I won’t be able to share those on my social media anymore. Also, I’ll miss out on the updates of people’s lives, on their posts, and on the latest topics!”

As I continued to dwell on these thoughts, I felt the Lord gently rebuke me. “Why are you concerned with these things? You can still post on your blog and glorify me through it, without being fixated on the likes or comments. You can still get in touch with others in person and ask how they are. And about your random encouraging posts, remember that they’re not about you, Nicole. Whatever good others see in you is only because of Me and My grace.”

It was a huge and bitter pill that was difficult to swallow. But by God’s grace, I took that step of faith, updated a few accountability partners, and surrendered my heart and the results to the Lord.

 

THE RESULTS & LESSONS LEARNED

 

1. Letting go of an addiction is not enough. It must be replaced with a pursuit that has greater worth.

During the first two months of the fast, I remember struggling so bad with not being online. There were a few times when I logged into our dog’s Facebook account just to check if people tagged me in posts or photos. Who was I fooling, right? Because of this, I decided to update my settings so that others won’t be able to post on my wall anymore, which would help me avoid being conscious of my profile page.

Also, throughout the last 3 months of my one-year fast, I noticed that even though I had not been active in posting online, I was hooked in watching episodes on Netflix. I realized that it wasn’t enough to just let go of social media. I needed to hold on to what I was pursuing, or else, I would just end up getting addicted to another thing. By God’s grace, the struggle to be offline was real in the past year, but God has been gracious in allowing me to get back up each time I was tempted and to dig deep in my relationship with Him through prayer, the study of His word, accountability, and fellowship with others.

 

2. Having less time online encouraged me to be creative and resourceful in doing productive activities.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says: “So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I knew that God would be honored if I let go of this addiction and pursue Him and other productive things. As a result, last year, by God’s grace, I…

  • Developed my skills in gardening, photography, blogging, and culinary
  • Composed two full songs and a few songs with pending stanzas
  • Read eight books by Christian authors, which was more than the number of books I read last 2017
  • Wrote a few poems
  • Listened to Chip Ingram’s podcasts on some nights
  • Organized celebrations of family and friends for birthdays and milestones
  • Went up and slept at a prayer mountain ten times by myself to have quality time with Jesus
  • Spent more time having meaningful conversations over coffee and dinner with close friends
  • Attended a workshop on songwriting
  • Had more time to intentionally intercede for others
  • Volunteered as a photographer in our church’s media ministry
  • Sang special numbers on two weddings of my friends
  • Had a weekly bible study with a small group of ladies from the office
  • Met new friends
  • Went on fun and eventful roadtrips with different groups of friends

…and many, many more!

One of the questions my friends asked me while I was fasting was “How can you survive not being online anymore? That’s really difficult to do in our generation.” There’s nothing wrong with being online especially if one’s work or calling is directly connected to it. However, if we are not careful or if we spend time online unnecessarily and it hinders us to grow, then it is wise for us to lessen our time with it or take a break and replace it with more productive things. As I went through the year with more available time on my hands, I was pleasantly surprised with the activities and people God graciously allowed me to encounter in person.

 

3. The measure of a man is not defined by one’s status in society or in the social world. It is based on the identity and security that we have in Jesus.

The greatest challenge for me in letting go of social media was surrendering my desire to look for affirmation and attention from others. This has been a blind spot that God revealed to me last year. Although the things I posted before were sincerely from my heart, I knew that deep down, there was still this longing in me to want more responses from the online world. In fact, I realized that if Facebook did not have any react buttons or spaces where we can add comments, it would not have been that appealing to me. I probably would not have been as addicted to it as I was before.

By the grace of God, He has been renewing my mind and heart as the months passed by. It was refreshing to go back to His word and take into heart who He really is and who I really am in Him. Nothing in this world can ever satisfy the deepest longings of my heart – only Jesus can. He IS more than enough for me. I am loved by my Abba Father. I have been saved by grace. I am fearfully and wonderfully made by Him and for Him. He is my Hope and my Security. He is my Peace and my Provider. My constant God in the midst of my chaos. My sovereign Lord in all of my struggles. My Rock and my Redeemer.

THE AFTERMATH

At 12 midnight earlier today, I logged into the three social media applications that I fasted from and I was finally able to accept friend requests online. Hahaha. Yay! Hello, friends! Surprisingly, as of the moment, I do not have the urge to post as much as I did last year. In a way, it had a similar feeling to tasting your favorite candy from your childhood, but not having the appetite or desire to indulge in it anymore. It was wonderfully weird.

I praise the Lord for sustaining me as I took this challenging step of faith. I also thank Him for giving me the support that I needed through His word, prayers, and encouragement from family and close friends. Definitely, this principle of “letting go to grow” is something that I would recommend to anyone who is struggling with any kind of addiction. It doesn’t always have to be a one-year challenge (although it really would help remove an unwanted habit). We can always take it one day at a time. Please do pray for me that I will continue to grow in obedience and in my relationship and walk with Jesus this year.

Today is the 13th day of 2019 and I have yet to find out what my next challenge is, by faith. Until then, I’ll see you around… and online too! :)

Overcoming Addictions

“Just one more episode and then, I’ll go to bed.” This was one of the lies I told myself three weeks ago, when I mindlessly binge-watched a series on Netflix. It started with a random search on a Friday night which eventually led me to staying in my room watching 40 more episodes until Sunday midnight. Before I knew it, I was hours away from waking up and preparing for Monday’s work. I have succumbed to an addiction that I didn’t want nor planned to have in the first place. Why did this happen to me? How did I overcome it?

My weekends are usually spent with family and friends or by myself inside my favorite coffee shop. When I am alone, I enjoy writing on my journal, reading the Bible and books, and doing my other hobbies. During that weekend, you could just imagine the sudden shift in my entire system after I experienced the unproductivity. Unfortunately, I saw how it negatively affected me in the ff. areas:

 

PHYSICAL

My body clock was messed up because I watched episodes until the wee hours of the morning. This made my face have that zombie glow. It was intense! I could feel and see how tired my eyes were and I could not appreciate the beauty of the sunlight and nature the next day because they were all too bright for me. Out of my desperation, I remember telling myself “NEVER BINGE-WATCH AGAIN!” However, the day after, I ended up watching two more episodes before I slept. Oh, boy.

 

EMOTIONAL

My unproductivity and lack of sleep unleashed a side of me that I did not like at all. I was more irritable, insecure, stressed, and easily discouraged. I felt weaker by the moment because of my disappointment towards myself and how I wasted a weekend. I don’t even have to describe how I responded to different people and situations last week. You can just visualize how messed up my heart was too!

 

SPIRITUAL

Out of all the aspects that got affected by my recent addiction, this was the one that broke my heart the most. More than being unproductive and feeling my body give up on me, I deliberately chose NOT to spend time with the Bible and seek God during my rest days that weekend. I know. What was I thinking, right? The message to draw near to Him was loud and clear to me, but my stubborn self still did the opposite. That weekend, I felt so helpless and trapped that I ended up continuing what I was doing because it seemed irreparable already. But, God still pursued my unfaithful heart. I remember thinking: “Nic, you’ve experienced and accepted Jesus in your life. You know how He transformed you from the inside out. Have you forgotten about this? Have you forgotten about Him?” In the next few days, by God’s grace, I slowly came back to my senses and saw the addiction and my idolatry for what they really were.

To be more specific, I did three things to overcome this specific addiction:

FIRST: I humbled myself before the Lord and sought His wisdom. I asked Him to help me see the root cause of my addiction. In my case, I realized that I was hardening my heart towards God because of certain unanswered prayers in my life.  (James 1:5)

SECOND: I became accountable to people in my life that I knew would guide and remind me of honoring God as I let go of the addiction. (James 5:16 and Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

THIRD: I deleted the Netflix app on my phone and intentionally prayed and planned for activities that I can do to replace this addiction in my life. (Psalm 24:1, Ephesians 5:15-16, Romans 12:1-2)

Ironically, I have already exceeded the 6-month mark of fasting from my social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). By God’s grace, this has helped me greatly in overcoming many concerns and in being a better steward of the resources that God has given me. But, I realized that it is important to continue abiding in the Lord and His Word if I want to persevere in this and honor Him through it. Otherwise, I will solely depend on my own feeble strength and eventually fall into more addictions in my life.

1 Corinthians 10 spoke to my heart two weeks ago, as God reminded me of certain principles in the Bible. These verses hit me hard: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (v. 12-13, 23, 31)

By the grace of God, during the next two weekends, I intentionally spent time with Him and His word and I slept for longer periods of time. Woohoo! It was definitely more refreshing than what I experienced three weekends ago. Although I have to be honest, at first, it really did take a lot of effort for me to dig deep in His Word again. However, I am encouraged to keep my eyes focused on God’s faithfulness and grace instead of crippling myself with thoughts of shame, regret, and disappointment towards myself. My spiritual condition might have been wounded, but, I continue to put my confidence and hope in Jesus alone. May this truth resonate in my heart — His mercies are new every morning! They are new every morning.