A week without any social media, news media, or blogs, has been enlightening. I deleted all the social media apps from my phone and closed all of my pinned browser tabs to social media sites.
During the first few days I found myself absentmindedly unlocking my phone and trying to open social media programs only to realize what I was doing because they weren’t there anymore. I hadn’t recognized how habitual they had become until they weren’t there. It was almost like an automatic reflex. By the end of the week the urge was mostly gone, but not completely.
I realized that I needed to be more deliberate about when I use social media and when I don’t. I have reinstalled some social media applications on my phone. But I have chosen to disable all notification messages and indicators for them. We’ll see how it goes.
The second thing I realized was that by cutting out social media and news media, my everyday life was far more peaceful. I could enjoy the people and events happening immediately around me at home, at work, in my neighborhood, and at church.
My impression is that news and social media make every tragedy and crisis elsewhere in the world feel local. We get caught up in the narratives and topics that the media give us and we end up neglecting the people right in front of us because we are expending our energy elsewhere. It is a good thing to be engaged with the world, and politics, and trying to help people in need. But I feel that news and social media often take that good and healthy impulse, and they manipulate and distort it into something bad and unhealthy.
Last year at the October General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson warned us:
“We live in a culture where more and more we are focused on the small, little screen in our hands than we are on the people around us. […] sometimes it’s easy to miss some of the greatest opportunities to serve others because we are distracted or because we are looking for ambitious ways to change the world and we don’t see that some of the most significant needs we can meet are within our own families, among our friends, in our wards, and in our communities. We are touched when we see the suffering and great needs of those halfway around the world, but we may fail to see there is a person who needs our friendship sitting right next to us in class. […]What good does it do to save the world if we neglect the needs of those closest to us and those whom we love the most? How much value is there in fixing the world if the people around us are falling apart and we don’t notice? Heavenly Father may have placed those who need us closest to us, knowing that we are best suited to meet their needs.”
I realize that I need to live my life and expend more of my energy locally with the people who are around me: my wife, my children, my family, my neighbors. So I will be striving to prioritize face-to-face interaction with the people around me over news and social media.
Going without news and social media is a useful and healthy exercise and I will be doing it on a regular basis in order to help me keep perspective and live more deliberately.
I encourage everyone to try it. You’ll discover things about yourself. And it will improve your life.