Have you ever wished you could turn off the noise of life? I did, so I took a break recently, or a “stay away” as a friend of mine called it. This year has been incredibly trying, confusing, frustrating and full of heartache. I just had to get away to process, gain clarity, and get insight from outsiders I trusted.
I spent two weeks away talking with trained professionals, resting, reading for leisure, and basking in literally not having a care in the world. It was amazing. I was given a stay in a mission’s guest house that doesn’t have an address. Very few people knew where I was. And I had resolved to not engage in texts or phone calls during this time.
As I returned to life as I had known it before this “stay away,” I reflected on what I experienced and learned during this time. And the biggest realization I had was how much outside noise affects me. It might be affecting you too.
Discipleship of the Mind
Do you know about discipleship of the mind? It’s one of the core values held by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. My understanding of this value before my “stay away” was that as Christians we are to be mindful of what we allow to enter our minds – books we read, things we watch, what we listen to, etc. I thought I understood what this meant. I read a lot of Christian living and Scripture-based books, including Scripture itself. My bookshelves are filled with books from InterVarsity Press, and I usually juggle reading 2-4 of them at any given time. I listen primarily to worship music with podcasts thrown in that are primarily educational. And lately I’ve found myself drawn more to home, garden, and cooking shows when I watch television. These are all things that I would consider wholesome with good values.
But what about social media? How does that intersect with the value of discipleship of the mind? How does Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other platforms encourage me to keep my mind focused on “whatever is lovely” (Philippians 4:8)?
I decided they didn’t, particularly Facebook, and so part of my “stay away” included having someone change my Facebook password.
I realized that Facebook posts, groups, pictures, debates, and the like were dragging my emotional state down. Every time I seemed to logged on, it seemed there were debates on politicians, debates on theological issues, people pointing fingers at each other, no one taking responsibility or apologizing for their own actions—and most of these people were Christian Facebook friends of mine. I was disheartened, sick to my stomach, and tired of it all. But I had this need to check the site every time I received a notification. My willpower was nonexistent—something had to change.
But what about all those events that I get invited to? I’ll miss the family pictures of my friends! How will I keep up with the adoption process going on in that private group? What will life be like without this piece of technology that I need…?
Life became wonderfully freeing! The first day or so was a bit tough, but I soon realized that my absence from Facebook was a gift not only to myself but for those I interacted with in person. My phone wasn’t constantly by my side giving off annoying alerts. And I didn’t feel the need to overshare about my life with a community that likely didn’t care that I had lunch with someone they’ve never met before. I didn’t compare myself to my married friends with families, and I didn’t judge others based on their pictures or posts I disagreed with. I felt more joy and peace. I haven’t returned to Facebook yet and am praying about when and even if I should. Sure there have been some message groups and events I have no idea about, but others have brought me in the loop in face-to-face conversations once I share that I’m not on Facebook.
Deafening the Noise
People often share statistics regarding marketing and advertising on how many times we hear or see commercials that affect our brain and lead to false thinking about ourselves and others. But have we stopped to think what the statistics are regarding social media? Imagine being constantly active on Facebook where you have 600+ friends, stroll Twitter regularly where you follow 350+ tweeters, post regularly on Instagram and stroll through hundreds of pictures daily. That’s an additional 1000+ messages we’re sending to ourselves by choice! Messages that can be positive or really negative.
What would happen if you deafened that noise? Would you miss it?
Taking the Challenge
So I’d like to extend an invitation for you to put into practice some discipleship of your mind. Ask someone you trust (a friend, InterVarsity staff worker, parent, or sibling) to change your password on the social media platform you use the most (or most negatively affects you). Set a date at least two weeks out from the password change to get with this person and talk about how the experience has been for you. Take time during these two weeks to also pray and ask God if he wants you to rejoin at the end of this timeframe or if he’s calling you to a longer “stay away.” After this time perhaps you rejoin the platform or maybe you decide it’s not quite the right time to go back.
I’ve personally decided to wait until after the election to even consider coming back to Facebook. Depending on the outcome and results of the election, I may come back or I may take some more time. I’m not in any rush to enter in the hustle and bustle of everyone’s lives all posted in one place for me to see. I’m sure everyone has an opinion on how the election went and I’d rather not be bombarded with them all. Maybe later this month I’ll get the password, or maybe I won’t. The decision ultimately rests on what will be healthiest for me and keep me focused on discipling my mind.
Bethany is InterVarsity’s Discipleship Project Manager who originally came to InterVarsity as the Communication Director for Urbana 12. You can often find her attending concerts, cheering on the Denver Broncos, reading tons of IVP books, and always enjoying soul-stirring conversations with others.
The blog is an avenue for staff and student leaders to hear from the visionary leaders of Collegiate Ministries about theological formation, discipleship, chapter planting, chapter growth, and other key ministry themes for campus work.