On October 5, 2019, I posted a photo on Instagram where I said that I would be teaching on the Sabbath the following day in my small group. And then I stopped posting. I took three months off of social media - Instagram and Facebook - and honestly, it was pretty impactful. (I didn't blog for six months, but that's a different story for a different day.) This may become a yearly thing for me around the holidays. Here are 10 things that happened when I took a three-month social media sabbatical.
Last fall, I was teaching a series to my Sunday morning small group on the topic of discipleship. I discussed what discipleship actually looks like, spiritual disciplines that can help us be better disciples, and I wrapped up that series with a discussion on keeping the Sabbath.
During my research and preparation for that particular lesson, the Lord started to do something in my spirit. I began to crave the Sabbath that the Bible talks about – the restful worship with the Lord. And I realized that, in order to have that rest, distractions have to be removed. A big distraction for me was social media – mindless scrolling that accomplished nothing.
So, on Saturday, October 5th, after I posted a photo of my feet in cow slippers on my front porch rug, I made the decision to go dark for a while. I decided to step away from social media for the remainder of the calendar year and really focus on the holidays and the Lord.
10 Things That Happened When I Took 3 Months Off from Social Media
#1 - I missed a lot of updates on my friends and their kids.
Perhaps the only downside to taking time away from social media is that your friends don’t. They continue to post pictures of their kids and updates on their lives, and if you’re not on social media, you miss those updates.
However, the friends I’m closest to knew that I was taking a break, and would call me (what a novel idea!) to give me the latest and greatest, and text me pictures. Sometimes you forget the joy of texting your friends, but texting (between me and my friends, anyway) gets downright silly with funny gifs…
So, honestly, I don’t know that I really missed all that much after all.
#2 - My mental health improved.
I know there are gobs of studies on the correlation between social media and mental health, but it wasn’t until I witnessed the changes for myself that I realized just how detrimental social media can be.
After a couple weeks away from Instagram and Facebook, I felt happier, lighter, more aware of my life, and more content with my circumstances. I wouldn’t say I was depressed by any means prior to my social media sabbatical, but I definitely would say that social media contributed to my feelings of inadequacy, comparison, envy, and frustration.
Overall, I would say that stepping away from social media helped me focus on my blessings, instead of worrying so much about how “blessed” other people are.
#3 - I realized I'm more creative than I give myself credit for.
Back in the day, before Instagram and Facebook, I used to do crafts all the time. Granted, my daughter was little so I would make crafts with her quite often. But over the years, I stopped making time to just be creative for the sake of being creative.
I’ve been blogging for more than ten years, and sometimes it’s difficult to turn off the part of your brain that says you need to share everything you make. But over the past few months, I got to be creative without (A) the influence of others and (B) feeling obligated to share it online.
My biggest creative project – I came up with an idea for our church lobby for Christmas: four-foot scrolls hand-lettered with Luke 2, and a handmade manger. I surprised myself with that one.
#4 - I inspired others to curb their social media habits.
There were several times where someone would ask me something like, “Hey, did you see that thing on Facebook…?” and I would inform them that no, I didn’t, because I wasn’t on Facebook right now.
Most of the time, they would ask why, which gave me an opportunity to share with them my need for a break and my desire for a more intentional season. I can’t tell you how many people would tell me they loved the idea and were going to give it a try.
Now, whether they did or not, I have no idea, but I do hope my social media sabbatical at least got others considering it for themselves.
#5 - I spent more time with the Lord.
When you don’t wake up and grab your phone, and spend the first part of your morning scrolling Instagram, you have time to do other things.
For me, those other things involved spending time with God. I’ve loved deep, intentional Bible study for quite some time, but my prayer life hasn’t always been so good. Not having my phone in my hand gave me the silence I needed to talk to God, and more importantly, to listen for Him.
I’ve grown quite fond of waking up in the morning and just laying in bed praying for the first few minutes of the day. It’s a great way to set my spirit before the busy-ness and distractions of life come tumbling in.
My time listening to God helped me figure out some things in my life that I may have missed had I spent that time on social media, and that alone is worth stepping away.
#6 - I rediscovered the joy of being "bored".
Remember when we were kids, how awful it felt to be bored? But, especially for me growing up as an only child, boredom forced me to entertain myself.
As a Type-A adult, boredom has been a struggle for me. And I would fill my boredom by scrolling social media. During my sabbatical, however, I actually allowed myself to just be bored.
I took more naps (I’m not usually a nap person), I journaled more often, I watched TV without doing something else at the same time, I worked on a puzzle, and I even took an in-depth online course. Being bored gave me an opportunity to get back in touch with things I love but wouldn’t make time for.
#7 - I reconnected with my passion for photography.
To piggyback on #6, photography has been something I have loved for well over ten years. But over the past several years, with the advent of Instagram and Facebook, and particularly with the rise in smartphones that take incredible pictures, I haven’t really followed my passion for photography.
My DSLR was replaced by my iPhone, and my desire to take photos as a way to document life was replaced by the obligation to take photos in order to share them on social media.
I got back to my love for photography over the past few months. I sent my DSLR off to Nikon to have it cleaned, and I took an in-depth photography course online. In fact, one of my big goals for 2020 is to reboot my photography career – something I used to do as a side-hustle but let other things prevent me from pursuing it.
I took a lot of photos over the last few months, none of which were taken with the intention of sharing them online. I took them because I genuinely love the feel of the camera in my hand, and the creativity and skill that comes with framing a shot and shooting in manual mode.
#8 - I soaked up a vacation with my daughter.
My daughter took all online classes to wrap up her senior year, and actually graduated from high school in December, a full semester early. Her online classes afforded us the opportunity to take a week-long vacation at the end of October when most other kids are still in school.
We went to Vermont, stayed in a quaint Airbnb, drank a lot of maple lattes, enjoyed the clean, crisp mountain air, pet dairy cows (!!!), and even enjoyed a small Vermont Halloween from the front porch of a coffee shop. It was incredible, restful, fun, and exactly what she and I both needed.
And not once did I spend time updating my Instagram stories or share our trip on Facebook. I just enjoyed being there with her.
#9 - I had space to dream big, with no boundaries.
I don’t know if you get this way when you spend time on social media, but for me, I start to feel confined by what others are doing, limited in what’s possible. I don’t always allow myself to dream big. I let my age or my abilities dictate what I think is possible because of what I see others doing.
Taking that comparison away, however, allowed me to dream big. For example, when I look at the full-time photographers on Instagram, most of them are in their 20s and early 30s. I’ll be 42 in June, but here I am planning a photography business, and I’m excited about it!
#10 - Life still happened even when I didn't share it online.
Not surprisingly, life still happened even when I didn’t share it on social media. I gave the announcements at our church’s women’s night of worship, stepping on stage in front of over 100 women for the first time in a couple of years. I went to a concert with my daughter, I spent a week in Vermont, I decorated our church for Christmas, I had brunch with my friends multiple times, I held newborn babies, I photographed families at our annual Breakfast with Santa event…
I lived my life, and truly enjoyed the moment. I savored the season.
I’m back to sharing on social media, but to be honest, it’s different now. I don’t feel obligated to post, and I feel more confident that I can maintain a healthy mindset. I’m going to plan to take another sabbatical at the end of 2020 to truly savor the holiday season again.
So how about you? Have you taken a long break from social media? How did it go? If not, would you consider it?