This new year I wrote several posts that talked about my 12 day social media break and what I learned from it. It was a healthy break. I came out of it with new motivations to use social media in a healthy way. In my article Holidays vs. Social Media I talk about motivations to use social media less. In my article Help! I can’t put my phone down I talk about when I was triggered to use social media. In this article I will talk about a new healthy path to go down when I’m triggered to use social media in unhealthy ways.
I want to make the point clear: social media is not bad. Like anything else, we need to put it in its rightful place and make sure we are using it in a healthy way. I have found in my personal life around 50% of the time I use it in a healthy way, but that other 50% I use it is often because I’m trying to escape from something, whether that be ill feelings or the need of approval. That’s called escapism and it is not good.
Here’s the next phase: getting out of the social media pit by creating a new path. I’m going to share with you my biggest triggers and how I’m creating new paths to help me get out of the social media pit.
Trigger #1 When I’m anxious
If I’m in a room full of people and most of them I don’t know? I grab my phone.
If I’ve got a lot on my mind or I am undecided about a decision? I grab my phone.
I grab my phone in these moments when I’m trying to escape something I’m feeling.
Recently I had to make a tough work decision. I would think about it, become anxious (trigger), and go down the social media path. I would repeat this over and over again. This left me with no solution and more anxiety than I had before. I was confused. I had to pick a new path.
What I needed was counsel. First, I prayed. I’m a Christian and I believe God gives direction when I ask (and don’t ask), so I did just that: I asked. Second, I sought good counsel from people around me. After I sought counsel from God and others, I had an answer to my dilemma. It was still a hard decision, but I found a healthier path to go down than simply scrolling through social media that brought up even more anxiety than I had before.
The funny thing I’ve found with taking the social media path when I’m anxious is subconsciously I feel like this is going to make my anxiety go away, when it actually makes it worse. It’s funny how that works out!
When I’m anxious, I identify the way I’m feeling. This is big, don’t miss this. Most of the time I become anxious it is because something is wrong at the core. My main life drift is the need for approval. I get anxious when I’m afraid I will not be liked or approved. I want to control the way people think about me and when I can’t do that, I get anxious. I must identify in that moment: I’m anxious because I’m afraid of not being approved.
Rather than staying in the social media path, my new path is to (1) identify what and how I’m feeling and (2) remind myself of who I am as an approved child of God. In my last post 10 for 10 I wrote how my life mantra is Galatians 1:10. It’s my mantra not because it sounds cool, but because I need it!
Trigger #2 When I wake up
Here’s my typical morning routine:
I grab my phone, look at the time, and open up my phone. I scroll through 3-4 social media platforms, check my email, and I do this in order to “wake up”. I acknowledge and greet my wife, make my coffee, and go to my study to try to spend personal time with God. I have found this to be difficult because my brain is already spinning with tons of data and thoughts because I scrolled through a TON of information already on my social media platforms before I ever get out of bed.
I start off my day foggy and anxious.
When I wake up in the morning I’m instantly triggered to grab my phone, but I don’t. Why? It’s now in our dining room. I physically removed it from our bedroom so I can’t grab it. Instead of grabbing my phone, I acknowledge and greet my wife, I make my coffee, and head to my study to spend personal time with God. Then I engage with my phone and social media afterward.
I have found that this pathway (1) makes my wife feel like she’s important. (2) more clarity in my time with God and (3) less anxiety.
When you start this it is HARD! Your brain wants you to grab your phone with everything in its might! It will think about your phone constantly because this is the path it is accustomed to and your brain always wants to take the path of least resistance. You will make every excuse to have your phone on your nightstand. If you don’t have the proper motivation, this is impossible to accomplish. It was just this morning as I was writing this that I wanted to grab my phone and scroll, but I didn’t because I left it in other room. Sometimes just physically removing your phone from your presence helps.
Trigger #3 When I’m bored
I don’t think the social media path is bad when you’re bored. The problem comes when you get lost in it. Social media platforms are designed so that you never get to the end of them. They cannot be exhausted and there is always more information to scroll through. What turned out to be “just checking updates” ends up being a 45 minute binge.
Plain and simple, it’s really not a wise use of my time.
What starts out as simple boredom ends in scrolling for 45 minutes and becoming cynical about what he/she said, envious at what he/she did, and sometimes wishing my life was better than it was.
In the mornings, I check my updates but I don’t scroll. If I need to post something, I post it and get off. I fill this time with something that is productive.
For instance, a new rhythm I’ve started this year is using the 5:30am-7:30am time slot in my day as a time to engage in creative content. I either want to read something that helps me accomplish my goals or develop something that helps me accomplish my goals. I have become a more productive person with less social media.
Another example, I was waiting on my food at a restaurant the other day. Everything in me wanted to grab my phone to fill this void. But I didn’t; I stood there like a psycho and took notice of everything going on around me. There is nothing revolutionary about this, but it was a way to help me not “escape” from boredom and enjoy the moment. However small it might have been, small victories like this help me in other arenas of life by being present.
I began to redeem boredom and social media started looking less attractive and I became more productive.
Identify new paths
What are new paths you can take when you are triggered? If you don’t identify them you will likely continue to find yourself in the social media pit that has no bottom.
I have learned that I don’t always have to be engaged and that’s a good healthy thing; not only for me as a leader but for everyone around me.
If you have some thoughts on this or want some help thinking through healthy paths, please write in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!