‘Spend less time on Facebook’. Ah. Oh dear. As I reflect back over the past month, I can’t help but feel a sense of disappointment as my mind frantically tries to justify my failure on this one. If you want a Facebook detox, don’t do it around the time of your wedding! Whoever placed this resolution in March wasn’t very wise (that would be me)!
Facebook is my go-to page. All the time. When I’m bored, or when I’m stressed out by doing one thing. Sometimes just because. It’s an automatic click. I just need to type in ‘f’ in the address bar and my computer knows exactly where I want to go. And I hate it. I hate my dependency on knowing what everyone is up to, the feeling of being socially connected because of it. I hate that I cannot just simply be – a moment of silence has become, in my mind, an idle waste of time. Lent, especially, should be a reason to give up those mindless habits, surely?
But cutting down on something can sometimes be more difficult than cutting it out completely, going cold turkey. Like a cigarette can trigger a smoking addiction buried long ago. My Facebook addiction is still pretty fresh. Funny – my choice of education is all about trying to find the best ways of breaking free of habits and applying the healthiest life choices – and I’m not sure Facebook is one of them.
True, there are some interesting benefits to Facebook. I have been encouraged and entertained by a lot of posts out there. One friend is always posting gems of wisdom – and I’ve only ever met her once. Yet at times, her voice stirs truths I know I can’t ignore within my heart. Another friend shared a recent post showing a picture with the words: ‘Have you … Been creative? Outside play? Read a book? Exercised 20 minutes? Done something helpful?’ Ironic that in my boredom, I came across some ‘bored’ advise that did not include Facebook! Yet this picture has stayed in my mind and is making me realise my possibilities – and it’s definitely something I will bear in mind the next time I feel the urge to go on Facebook ‘just because’.
So what next? How do I drop such an insignificantly important part of my life and fill it with what I really need – God? Because, if you think about it, isn’t that the reason I (and so many others for that matter) spend hours on Facebook and other social media pages? To chase that feeling of belonging, simply by knowing what another person is doing or thinking or feeling, having access to photos at our fingertips, as if that person were right there in front of us and as if we are a part of that person’s life, and not wanting to miss out on anything that our cyber friends might be getting up to.
In health psychology, implementation intentions have been shown to be quite successful in helping people adopt certain health behaviours, such as doing more exercise or eating healthily. And it’s simple; you specify a time and a place that you will carry out that particular behavior and then stick to it as best you can. Of course there are many problems with it, just like anything that is unpleasant or difficult to achieve. In the past, I have attempted to spend more time reading the Bible, or pray more often, but even when I have specified a time to do it in, I have failed over and over at what should be such a simple task. Again, psychology has dug into the strange realm of human behavior and discovered that very often, social factors can have a powerful effect on whether or not we actually do something that is deemed ‘healthy’. Think about it; would you rather go the gym on your own or go to a zumba class with your friends?
And so it is with God – a God who lives in trinity, remember. I don’t think we benefit much from lonely spiritualism. Of course, times alone and in prayer in a solitary place can have the most powerful impact on us – and then you have those brave Christians who suffer much in silence (but that’s a different story). How can we understand what it is like to be in fellowship with someone (God) if we barely experience it with other people? I believe God Himself is reflected in the relationships we have with other worshippers around us, and that’s what makes worship so special.
As I sit here, typing this out, somewhat in limbo – moving stage, as usual, with my stuff nearly all packed up, ready to head off to a different home in a new chapter – I realise how much not having worshipped for the past year or so has affected me. After all, it’s not just about worship. It’s about who we worship with, and working out our relationships with them; learning to encourage and to better ourselves, offering our apologies and giving out our love. Because that’s our voice. It’s the way we sing out our lives, like the stars in their courses, and that song, as we communicate with those around us, is at the same time our worship. Not always an emotion, but always, always in deed and in truth, and out there in the light (how can we be in the light if we are always in solitude!??).
I didn’t do too well with this resolution. But at least it’s made me realise one possible reason why I failed. I failed because of my own failing fellowship with God. And if you think that’s bizarre, then I would like to claim that I fail at many other things in life, because of my failing fellowship with God. Because those feelings of unworthiness, low self-esteem, or feeling down, is more often than not a result of not being in Him.
Thank God His fellowship with us never fails! Though I do not hear Him, or see Him, His very nature is to be faithful, and in His might and strength, I know that He is with me. Through the times when I feel super-spiritual AND in the times when I know I’m not doing what is honourable in His eyes.
I will still struggle to spend my time in prayer and reading my Bible rather than on Facebook. But He has set before me a future that looks promising; a future that includes fellowship with other beautiful souls, all singing in harmony the song of His love. I can’t wait to drink of that love, to learn again to spend my quiet moments right there – in the quiet – and to shine brighter for those who need that light (just as I need someone’s light right now!). Then maybe Facebook will become a lighthouse to house that light. Rather than the playground of ‘just because’.