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.
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.
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.
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! :)