MY BEST BREAKUP
There I was, hovering over my phone, thumb endlessly scrolling as my friend David's words from behind hit me like a freight train. The train was a familiar sound to me due to it's timely appearance as it passed by daily while working at my favorite coffee shop in downtown Opelika, Alabama. Today it wasn't the freight train that was deafening, it was the piercing convictions and words that dug so deep into my core that I couldn't even hear myself think. I was staring down at the one thing that was stealing my time, holding my value & robbing me of the joy and ministry that Jesus lay bare on a cross for me to live.
I've wrestled with the Lord for months about this topic, and it wasn't until I recently stepped back that I grasped the full effect it was having on my life. Like a breakup, I wanted nothing more than to keep this between myself, Jesus and maybe close friends here and there. Trust me. Can I confess something? I wrote this in April, but I haven't even come close to conquering it and felt insecure about writing about insecurity ( RIDDLE ME THAT ). However, here I am, because I figured there are over 700 million monthly users on Instagram so maybe there is someone else out there who will resonate with this often overlooked and unspoken battle.
The designer in me loves a perfectly curated Instagram feed. I think there is something stunning about beautiful content and aesthetic. The last thing I'm going to do is tell you that Instagram is wrong or that you shouldn't use it. I believe it has directly affected the way that I create in the most incredible ways and has inspired me endlessly as I'm able to view work from creatives that I admire greatly. Instagram has been a tool that has created amazing friendships and opportunity. It all comes down to the heart and intention behind it.
Almost six months ago, I turned my social media from a fun way to share the happenings of my life to a brand and blog. My brand. I was transitioning from designing full-time for a company to freelancing full-time for myself. Therefore, this little not so significant Instagram became a means of work for me. I was getting 98% of my business from this platform, and I am so grateful! What I wasn't expecting as I was making all of these changes was the overwhelming sense of responsibility and pressure to make sure I was depicting my life and brand a certain way. While I was in the midst of building this business, I was falling deep into a hole of destructive comparison, affirmation and anxiety over an app. AN APP. It's hard even typing that because it seems so silly! What is and can be such a blessing to share our lives with our family and friends and connect with people all over the world was starting to dictate my life. I was noticing I couldn't be present with anyone anywhere because I was always looking for the next beautiful thing to capture or moment to display instead of being fully intentional and present with those around me.
It was my friend David's piercing words in that coffee shop that Jesus used to start uprooting all of these things in me. This wasn't a topic that we had not already discussed. I had spent many days leaning over the counter spilling my heart out to my wise barista friend. However, this day he wasn't talking to me. I listened from afar as I was deep in a rabbit hole of scrolling. My back was turned to the conversation. In fact, I couldn't even tell you who he was conversing with when I heard him speak so vulnerably about these squares we spend hours looking at everyday. He was talking about the affirmation we receive when others are viewing our social media and how the enemy has taken something that can appear good and is using it to destroy us. He profoundly stated that often we will turn to Instagram on a lonely day just to make sure people know we're still here. We spend our days showing off our lives through a screen, giving true meaning to the phrase "pics or it didn't happen." This was my first major heart check.
I was listening to someone reveal darkness in me that I didn't even know existed. He was describing me. My heart. My sin. I was taking something that was meant for good in the right context and subconsciously or consciously at times using it to show off me and my life. I was gaining self-esteem and affirmation from every follow, like and comment. My heart was leaping at the sight of a red bubble. I am the chief of sinners and I had fallen for the enemy's crafty schemes. Social media has a funny way of making us think everyone else has it all together. I'm here to tell you, THIS IS NOT THE CASE! It finally hit me that Jesus didn't die on the cross for me to spend hours scrolling on my phone. He didn't die for me to post a veneer of my life even if there is beauty in it.
When I first started freelancing full-time, I realized that while I was by myself all day every day, I would catch myself constantly turning my phone over to aimlessly scroll at others lives and idolize and covet what wasn't mine. I've always heard, "an idol is anything you can't walk away from for a time, season or ultimately forever." Since Instagram became a way I earned a living, I was honestly terrified of what would happen to my brand if I stepped away from social media. I had a dear friend tell me that I couldn't put God in a box. She explained that if He was asking me to surrender this in my life, then He would provide ( D U H, He's never failed me yet) and she was dead on.
So I broke up with it.
After watching a Netflix episode of Black Mirror about a social media world, I woke up completely disgusted, wanting to rid myself of any false reality I was presenting and impure intentions of my heart. With the click of an X I felt freedom. It sounds crazy, and I had no idea how much I was turning to this idol factory in my hands, but I was free. The last 6 months have been some of the richest of my life. I feel as though I'm living with a new perspective. I'm not worried about what others are doing and what I am or am not doing. I finally found and exposed the root issue. Gaining affirmation from social media was just a symptom of something much deeper. What was the driving force? Why did I feel the need to post about every last activity and friendship? Why did I want others to view my design and my life through a grid?
My idolatry and insecurities were rooted in pride. I cared more about what others thought about me than what God thought about me, and man, was that hard to come to terms with. These words from a leader in our church resonated deeply. " Once you are below an idol you are crushed until God alone crushes the idol in your life and out of your life." I chose to idolize the thoughts of man rather than the thoughts of God, who loved me enough to send His son to die on a cross to pay in full for my broken ways. I needed to focus back on the Gospel. If I know all sin leads to death, then I knew I needed to limit this, or cut it off indefinitely.
Is social media a sin? Of course not. For me, it was a tool that symptoms of a deeper rooted sin struggle arose from. One of my pastor's preached over the "real-estate" of our hearts recently and it stirred a greater passion in me about this topic. Our heart acts out of what we are feeding it. He said, "Something good, can become something evil when it becomes something ultimate."
What do you do when it becomes ultimate? You cut it off, break up with it, delete it. Scripture tells us, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful" John 15:1-2. If it's not bearing fruit we are to rid ourselves from it. I don't want my ultimate to be anything other than Jesus, and if it competes with Him, then it has to go. Have I walked away from social media forever? The answer is no. I walked away for a season and have set strict boundaries moving forward. I view it differently and have a new perspective. I'm not an expert and will battle this in all areas of life, not just social media, but I will fight. Whether it's Instagram, a relationship, or dead-ends, sometimes you have to cut it off.