Have you ever sensed a twinge of desire in your heart for a change that feels bigger than you have the strength for? It often comes as a whisper, inviting us to take a leap of faith. As soon as it appears, however, the devil is quick to try and shift our attention back to earthly cares, back to judging others, back to our own noisy passions, or to fill our heads with all the reasons it can’t work, or won’t work (“I’m too tired, too busy, too weak and afraid”). To respond and obey would mean a dangerous transformation- an increase of faith, courage and love. We are fighting a spiritual battle and the devil's most effective weapon is distraction.
For the past three years, I have been exploring the profound benefits of living intentionally, rather than reactively, by trying to develop habits that promote physical, spiritual, and mental wellness.
More recently, however, a growing awareness has been gnawing at me. As much as I have been striving after healing, hope and growth, there remains this lingering sense of fragmentedness preventing me from experiencing the spiritual wholeness my heart and soul are longing for. So I sat with that gnawing, listening for insight and direction.
What dawned on me was this realization that the big elephant in the room, the one I wasn’t fully dealing with, is my relationship with the internet. We’ve been sold this idea of social media as being a “necessary evil” if you want to survive as a ministry, business, artist, or even just a viable member of society (Sure, social media can be a little toxic and distracting but there’s no comparable way to inform, be informed, or stay relevant within our modern society). And thus we’ve become intrinsically connected to news and social media sites that breed darkness, divisiveness, false information and dangerous temptations to judge, despair, and get sucked into time-wasting and peace-stealing rabbit holes.
It isn’t the entire internet I find injurious, but rather my own lack of self-discipline, and undeniable addiction to the dopamine highs of constantly refreshing headlines, likes and comments, reels, updates and the instant gratification of assuaging my curiosity. It is an addiction that became alarmingly clear when I decided to try and quit my current iphone habits cold turkey. The desire to pick up my phone and engage with certain platforms is so strong I’ve needed a prayer rope to help me pray through the urges.
“I want my old brain back”, I lamented to my husband the other day. My attention span has atrophied, as has my patience and ability to stay on task, affecting my work, my faith, and my ability to be present and focused. I don’t want to know so much anymore. All this excess information is poisoning my heart.
Just as I have worked on detoxifying my body, I now need to detoxify my mind, and develop new rituals and behaviors that align with my deepest values and priorities, the first of which is the pursuit of Christ’s peace. As with any addiction, I have to be honest with myself and understand my own triggers, creating boundaries that will protect me from those triggers and help me heal what’s become broken and distorted.
Here are my real troublesome areas and what is no longer working for me: Facebook, Facebook messenger, Instagram, having email on my phone, dinging notifications, impulsive google searches, news sites, and quick and addicting content designed to keep you scrolling for way longer than you meant to.
Here’s what IS working for me: Email on my laptop, news updates from the radio as I make dinner, Audible, my wonderful library app, online meal planning, podcasts, online courses, online music, zoom chats, texting, GOOGLE MAPS.
Seeing it all laid out like this, makes it feel less daunting to swim upstream and muster up the wherewithal to intentionally carve out a new road map for regaining my health and sanity, reducing my stress, and helping me become less fragmented. The truth is, as initially impossible as it sounds, I can walk away from social media. I can choose when and how to read and respond to emails. I can reduce the amount of notifications I receive. I can consume far less content. I can, with Christ’s strength, defeat those fierce urges to engage with the noise of an online world that is not MY little world and access the quiet needed to truly bloom where I have been planted.
We all have different sensitivities and temperaments. There is no one size fits all formula for navigating the internet. It is imperative that we remember, however, we do have the freedom to make it work for us rather than control us. We can curate an online experience that doesn’t cross our boundaries, and promotes creativity, fruitfulness, connection, generosity and light.
As much as possible, I want to empty my heart of diversions and passions to make more room for Christ and His Kingdom. As much as possible, I want to be in the world (serving, loving and creating) but not of this world (becoming swallowed up in earthly cares, conflicts, and agitations).
There comes a time when the damage outweighs the benefit of trying to keep up with a pace that is becoming increasingly hectic on a highway growing ever more road-rage-y and congested. I have reached that point myself and am heading towards an exit ramp. There are some detours I’d like to explore, through small towns and nature preserves. I’d love to slow down and take in the scenery, forgoing anxiety and chaos for calm and simplicity.
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