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Six lessons learned by giving up social media

3.31. 2016 Written By: Emily Kauffman and Morgan Leavy 3,002 Times read

Morgan Leavy is in her freshman year at Hesston (Kan.) College, majoring in Psychology. She enjoys musical theater, photography, traveling and being with her friends. Emily Kauffman is currently a sophomore at Hesston, majoring in Communications and minoring in Bible. She has developed a passion for the church and a desire to explore how technology is affecting our society and relationships. 

This article originally ran in the Hesston College Horizon

Sherry Turkle, author of the book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, writes, “This is our moment to acknowledge the unintended consequences of the technologies to which we are vulnerable, but also to respect the resilience that has always been ours. We have time to make corrections and remember who we are—creatures of history, of deep psychology, of complex relationships, of conversations, artless, risky and face to face.”

In a search to rid ourselves of, as Turkle puts it, the “unintended consequences” of social media, we decided to give up social media for Lent this year. We were in need of a break. A break from the constant mindless scrolling. While the past 40 days have been full of temptation and loss, we have learned so much about ourselves and the world around us.

Here are the big six:

#1 We became more aware of how social media affects our relationships.

On the first day of Lent, I sat down at lunch with some friends. Immediately, I recognized that the five or six people surrounding me were on their cell phones. There I am, forced to make face to face conversation, and all I could do was watch people on their devices or listen to them talking about the latest Snapchat story. Even in class, I occasionally spot a few people on Instagram or Twitter, mid-lecture. I am now bothered by these actions made by my peers, and I think that in my “app fasting” I have helped influence more face to face interaction with them than ever before. Initiating conversation in those quiet moments to raise heads from phones is a small gesture that can create a more personal interaction. —Morgan

#2 We found more time for other activities.

The first thing I noticed after only one or two days of giving up social media was how happy my brain felt. Without the constant updating of social media in my daily life, I was able to give my brain more breaks throughout the day. During these times I read, journaled, slept, walked outside, called my mom, or engaged in face to face conversations. I knew before beginning my social media fast that I would have more “free” time, but I was surprised at the amount of time social media had once consumed in my life. This abundance of time also allowed me to work ahead on homework, which ultimately led to less stress in my life. —Emily

#3 We found that our that our self-conscious feelings changed.

I think we all can fall into the trap of going to social media to soothe our lonely souls. In a way, by checking social media, we are playing the game of social comparison. Are my eyes as pretty as hers? Is my girl as hot as his? We win the game when we receive the approval or connection we were looking for. Although we may not be conscious of what our real motives are, our tweets, posts, pictures, retweets and likes say a lot about who we are and what we value, as well as who we aren’t. I found that when we make the intentional choice to step away from playing this game, we are left with just ourselves. While this was a little scary at times, I was amazed at how beneficial spending time with myself without distractions was. I found myself feeling emotionally healthier. I was more capable of responding to situations out of a clear sense of how Emily would respond separate from the comparisons and need for validation or approval. —Emily

#4 We were reminded that we need to stop seeking validation from others.

Our posts and pictures all tell a story of who we are and where we are at. If we post a status on how much we dislike a particular party’s candidate, we aren’t asking for people who disagree with us to respond. Essentially, we are asking for validation from other people who agree with us. I believe this way of finding validation is not healthy for us as humans. It builds up walls and limits the amount of face to face dialogue instead of opening the door for empathy. —Emily

#5 We found ourselves feeling more connected to God

Isn’t the whole purpose of Lent to give something up so that you can use that excess time to get closer to God? With less technological communication, I had more communication with him. I often felt like I didn’t have the kind of faith that allowed me to speak to God casually and 24/7. This has improved greatly as I have started going through my day talking to God, out loud or in my head, as though he is just another friend seeing one of my posts on Facebook. This has helped especially with how I deal with negative feelings acquired throughout my days. Although this may not work for everyone out there, I realized that the more I speak with God in this manner, the more I am seeking his approval and validation rather than my peers’. —Morgan

#6 We have the world in our hands, so we forget to look at the world around us.

Social media really is an amazing innovation. We have the whole WORLD at our fingertips. We can communicate through articles, pictures, videos, humor and so much more. I do not doubt that there are benefits to it all. I also do not think that everyone should have to give up all of their accounts for 40 days to learn that there are negative aspects as well. What I do think is that we all need to step back once in awhile from the bombardment of information that social media provides for us 24/7. Try to step back one day a week, or maybe even an hour a day if you decide that’s what’s best. My eyes have gradually been opened to the little things in this time of Lent. I’m making eye contact with my friends instead of looking at their posts on Instagram as I walk by them. As Turkle suggests, we have time to make corrections. We have time to understand the impact of technology on our lives. So fill your time with those risky face-to-face conversations instead of direct messaging each other. Lift your head up: There’s so much more to “like”! —Morgan


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5 Responses to “Six lessons learned by giving up social media”

  1. M. South says:

    The reason it’s free is to make merchandise of you.

    • Emily Kauffman says:

      I’m curious if you’d be willing to explain what you mean when you say “to make merchandise of you.”

      • M. South says:

        The corporations that provide the largely canned experience for individuals to participate in social media are among the most valued in the world.

        To the credulous, they offer at no charge a platform for self-expression, community and an ersatz sense of self-celebrity. It’s no mistake that the appeal is narcissistic, having coincided with the phenomenon of the Selfie.

        The distraction is essential to the commercial purpose behind it. Everything that you write, everywhere you visit, everyone you contact, is recorded, analyzed and then sold, for the purpose of enabling exploitation and manipulation. Even emails sent and received using the large free commercial services are analyzed and the information sold in the same way, to the highest bidder and without limitation. It is also part of the joint commercial/government data sharing, as it searches and assigns risk factors to everyone.

        The former are the commercial purposes; even the prices and offers you get will be determined by algorithm, to extract the best advantage over you. Large scale manipulation is being performed by determining what individuals get to see, steering their choices. For the latter political ones, algorithms are used to determine psychological vulnerabilities and steer tailored propaganda most likely to be effective. Even governmental watch lists incorporate these techniques.

        Given our complete cooperation in informing on ourselves, Neil Postman wasn’t far wrong in predicting, that under Orwell’s “1984,” Big Brother was covertly watching us, but in a culture where we are “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” we are willing to expose our very souls to him, by choice.

        I’ve been an IT Director at Fortune 500 companies and an internet pioneer from its earliest days.

        The scripture warns us not to let the covetous make merchandise of ourselves, which is precisely the intended purpose for which social media is designed by those financing and profiting from it.

  2. Bravo Emily and Morgan! Way to go! I look around in restaurants and on the streets and just internally shake my head at the avoidance I’m seeing. I read Turkle’s recent book, “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age”. She has studied the psychology of people’s relationships with technology for 30 years at MIT. She has powerful things to say that support what you have written.

    I support what you have written as I experience it as a limited user. I just did an 11 day ‘fast’ from all technology when on a trip. The stress reduction was so obvious. There is a 30ish woman here in the Twin Cities who runs her own business, and recently had an article published about her annual three month summer ‘fast’ from technology. She said it has not impacted her business at all.

    Keep on questioning the status quo!

  3. Kurt Horst says:

    Thank you, thank you, Morgan and Emily! I found it enlightening that what you discovered is amazingly similar to what is found by persons who practice the Spiritual Discipline of Solitude.