All that free time with my face in a screen had led me down all sorts of rabbit trails "checking on" people on the fringes of my real everyday life--estranged family, friends I have fallen out of touch with, young women from hard places I have mentored in the past. I peeked into the tinted window of their lives social media allowed and was left feeling sick. I was deeply concerned by some of the struggles I saw in their pictures and posts, but recognized much of that was based on assumptions and filling in gaps between what they said and what I interpreted. I had a handful of people I wanted to reach out to and try to re-engage, but couldn't decide if peeking in their windows gave me a right to be heard. I felt frustrated and empty.
I woke up the next morning with what I can only describe as a social media hangover. Never had the truth that social media is not the same as real life two-way, person-to-person relationships been more clear to me. I realized I was spending lots of time "peeking in" on people that could have been used to truly enter in with people God had put in my everyday real life.
In one overwhelming moment of clarity, I knew it was time to deactivate my Facebook account. I didn't think it through, I simply obeyed the fire in my belly--knowing deactivation doesn't have to be forever. When and if I feel led to go back, all my info, years of posts and accumulated contacts will still be there. I kept my messenger account so I can still reach out to folks whose contact info I do not otherwise have saved in my phone. It felt scary but right.
I am absolutely NOT a Facebook hater. Frankly, for years I defended it to my friends who had previously defected. I truly felt called there to be salt and light--to post blog entries, uplifting articles, and self-deprecating humor. It was a ministry of sorts. But in the same way I felt a sense of purpose in staying, I suddenly felt peace and freedom in leaving.
I haven't left every media...my Instagram (photos) and Twitter (articles) activity is still high. I don't know that my Facebook departure is forever. But for this season it is a very good thing. God has used the break to teach me a lot.
When I have the urge to "check on" people or connect, I text, e-mail, message or call the person...often with a simple, "Have you on my heart," "praying for you," or direct question like, "how are you?" The response is all the confirmation I need that humans long for personal, meaningful offline connection.
When I read something that moves me I try to text or email it to the specific people God leads me to share it with--or blanket ones go on twitter. :-) This, too, has caused me to pause and remember the specific issues real people in my life are walking through. My relationships while fewer, are so much richer.
And all these difficult, hotly debated political issues...those conversations are so much more productive, informative and helpful over coffee, a Bible or a meal. Seriously.
Honestly, I've re-activated my account a handful of times--and on each occasion, it has lasted less than 5 minutes. It is as if my relational tastebuds have changed. I am hungry now for fewer surface announcements and headlines and more meaningful, personal contact with people seeking to understand and be understood.
Yesterday, I listened to a wonderful talk Jill Briscoe delivered at If Gathering and it seemed to reiterate the same message.
"The place between your own two feet at any given time, that's your mission field." -Jill Briscoe
This is the call. Stop scanning for the next best thing. Look right here in front of you. The place where God has planted your two feet is your ministry. We are to be present here--with THESE people--the ones in your home, workplace, grocery store, church, neighborhood, city, the ones whose paths He has sovereignly ordained to intersect your yours.
"Go where you are sent. Stay where you are put. Give what you've got until you are done." -Jill Briscoe
Maybe in your season and station, social media is a part of your call. Maybe it isn't. But as for me, I am Facebook free and it is very good.