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Mind

Heart

The Road Signs Pointing to Social Media Overload



There’s hope, friend.

There’s still plenty of hope out there waiting for you.

There’s goodness up ahead and we. will. get. there.

Just the other night, Lane and I went bowling after dinner. Bowling isn’t a thing we normally do but we were both feeling competitive and not wanting the night to end. We played four games and the most beautiful part was that I felt like we forged fresh memories. We did something more than the usual “sit on the couch and watch a show after dinner.” We were present. We were cheering one another on. And I felt free, with the new boundaries I’ve laid down, to not pick up my phone and share our moments with the world.

We are gaining moments back. With new moments comes better momentum. I am excited to be seizing back my life.

But before I tell you the “how” of it all, I need to step back and help you see what you might be missing. The following notes are of things I noticed going on in my spirit -- shutting on and off sporadically like faulty lightbulbs -- up until I made some changes.

These are the road signs I encountered that pointed back to burnout:

You're constantly checking your phone

Even when there isn’t anything to check.

Even when you just checked in 10 minutes ago.

Even when you aren’t fully paying attention to what is right in front of you.

Before the shift, I was picking up my phone constantly and even checking into things I didn’t care about. I would find myself checking my bank accounts because it was a reason to keep me on my phone and feeling productive. Crazy as it sounds, that’s a sign of an addiction. That’s a sign that you’re needing something to produce emotions for you, whether those are good emotions or draining emotions.

I’ll admit that I’ve tuned out of arguments or conversations by grabbing my phone and checking my emails. I’m not proud of that. I’m not happy with that. But the phone can easily become a coping mechanism when feelings are too real and solutions feel too far away.

You're not facing your feelings

This was a big one for me and a vicious cycle I found myself in.

Up until recently, I was waking up to my alarm clock but letting myself scroll through social media in order to really wake up. Can I tell you this is the worst idea I’ve ever had? Scrolling through social media before you do anything else with your day is just allowing a bunch of other people to get their fingerprints on your day before you even take that first sip of coffee.

When I open my Bible first thing in the morning, that is me confirming that I am checking in with God before anything else.

When I open up Instagram first thing in the morning, that is me confirming that people (and their opinions of me) are more important to me than God.

Seeing other people’s stories and words before anything else never made me feel “inspired” as I claimed. It made me feel sad and behind. It made me feel like I didn’t measure up. And those feelings took me down and dragged me throughout my day.

But the strange thing about that? My “sad” feelings led me to pick up my phone even more and scroll even more as if I thought the solution was somewhere in my news feeds. It never was. It never will be.

You're not loving what you used to love

That doesn’t mean you’ve grown out of it or your passions have changed. It simply means you have to go back and reacquire a taste for some things.

I get emails all the time from people who want to read more books. That’s always a top New Year’s Resolution. But the usual reason they’re not reading books? They’re stuck reading captions and news blurbs instead.

"TO GROW A NEW HABIT, YOU USUALLY NEED TO SACRIFICE AN OLD ONE. IT'S HARD WORK AT FIRST BUT THE PAY OFF IS SO SWEET."

Now I get to end my day, nearly every day, by reading on the porch and watching the sun go down. It’s just before dinner and the neighbors are coming home from work and I get to greet Lane as he pulls in from his commute. It’s one of my favorite parts of my day but I have to make space for it constantly.

I never fell out of love with reading, I just didn’t prioritize. You likely haven’t fallen out of love with _______________, you just aren’t making it a priority right now.

You're not present anymore

In all the speaking engagements I give, this is the number one point that gets people nodding their heads and clapping their hands. Most people agree -- social media and the constant attachment to our phones is coming at a cost. We are less present than ever before. We are glued to what is happening in our own little universe. We cannot love people at 100% when we are only giving them slivers and scraps of ourselves.

I noticed several nights where Lane and I would be watching a show but both on our phones scrolling. We weren’t paying attention. We weren’t chatting about the episode. We were just existing, side by side, and calling it a night together.

But the lack of presence takes something more from you than just the present moment. I am convinced of it. It’s dulling our love and compassion for one another. It’s making us feel less joy. It’s causing us to look up and wonder why our relationships aren’t as rich and in-depth as they used to be. We’ve been given so much and we’re living in a time where we are more advanced than ever before, but we are missing the moments. We are starving for the moments. Those moments were always meant to be ours but we’re just not here anymore to grab them.

You just don't care as much...

This was a biggie for me. Like a BIG biggie. I’m a pretty empathetic person. I care A LOT. I am driven by a need and desire to help others. But social media was breaking that part of me down. It was making me tired and apathetic. It was leaving me feeling like there was nothing I could do to change anyone and that my efforts didn’t really matter.

This was the ugliest feeling. I hated feeling like I didn’t care about the messages I got in my inbox because, at the core of me, I know I care so much. I hated the feeling of “not being fazed” by another tragedy on the news or school shooting. It’s not because I didn’t care, it’s because I was way too overloaded at all hours of the day. My brain and your brain aren’t designed to hold this much information without digesting and contemplating it.

If there’s one driving factor that made me realize I needed a change— it was the loss of empathy. It was being willed to put my foot down and say, “I cannot continue to do the work I do with an apathetic spirit. I need to learn how to care again.”

You know that scripture in Ezekiel about the stone heart? How God can replace it with a heart of flesh? That’s what I needed. A heart transplant. A change from feeling nothing at all to identifying with other people, their joys and heartaches, once again.

You're worshipping the pressure to be more

Social media will always try to convince you that you need to be more, do more, say more, care more -- the list goes on and on. Because that’s the world we live in now. We no longer compare ourselves to the kids in class or the group of moms we meet up with on Tuesdays. We can compare ourselves to people everywhere at all times of the day. It never ends. And it will never be “enough” because someone will always have more, do more, be more, care more, and say more than you. It’s a never-ending battle.

I don’t think the solution is giving up social media entirely. I don’t know that that fixes anything especially if social media is something you genuinely loved once. But if you’re constantly driven by the pressure to perform and get the most likes and garner more followers then it might be time to step back and reevaluate.

You might need to change.

You might need to set new boundaries.

But, as I said earlier, there’s so much hope.

The future is so bright.

Let’s start making tiny steps in the best direction forward. Are you in?



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Hannah Brencher is a writer, TED speaker, and online educator with a heart for building leaders. She is the author of "Come Matter Here" and "If You Find This Letter." Named as one of the White House’s “Women Working to Do Good” and a spokesperson for the United States Postal Service, Hannah founded The World Needs More Love Letters in 2011. The global community has grown to over 20,000 individuals across six continents, fifty-three countries, all fifty states, and is established on over sixty-three college campuses.


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