Having sat for a little over two hours yesterday doing a piece of work on a website that simply would not cooperate under any circumstances, while I got more and more furious with it, and as I contemplated smashing my laptop, I realised it was simply time to stop and walk away. It’s not my computer’s fault, it was more an incompatibility between what I wanted the website to be able to do and what it could actually do, what it had been programmed to do.
Two questions came to mind, why were my expectations so high? And why did I get so riled up by it, allowing it to get under my skin and frustrate me completely?
Expectations is easier to answer. My expectations are always high, I expect far more of people and myself than is possible the majority of the time. And because of that I often feel disappointed that reality did not match up to my expectations. The expectation that people will be all that God wants them to be, the perfect version of themselves. The expectation that they will know what I am thinking and act accordingly. The expectation that they will be genuine. The expectation that they have enough time to act in the most appropriate way. Obviously, I know that isn’t all possible, and certainly not all of the time, when I sit and think about it, but in the moment of disappointment it is not the first thought to go through my head. I should allow them, and myself, the grace to be a work in progress, to still be on the journey to becoming all that God wants but somehow, I rarely remember that, I rarely offer people the grace to make mistakes, to be having a bad day, to be rushing, to be themselves instead of what I think they ought to be.
In terms of the frustration, the work was not the root of the problem. There had been something nagging at me all day. It took some thought to pinpoint it. I had not achieved what I had planned to do. I had not lived up to the expectations I had for myself and my day.
I returned from my dog walk early, and knew I couldn’t go to work until late, so I thought it would be great to get an hour of writing and editing done on Moses, and to get an hour of work out of the way. Instead time disappeared, evaporated, vanished. I’d love to say it was in an alternate productive manner, but it wasn’t. I surfed Facebook and Instagram and opened an enormous Birthday parcel that had been delivered. And there you have it, that one word makes all the difference to my day, Facebook. Facebook is my personal poison, one I willingly and repeatedly ingest. After scrolling for a short while I feel worn out, exhausted, overwhelmed, depressed, inexplicably fed up, and I feel like something is crushing my chest. I need to escape it but am completely unable to leave. This is now the point where many people turn around, look at me blankly and decide I am out of my mind. It’s okay, I get that response a lot, I am used to it, and I know Facebook does not have this effect on most other people. The feeling is clearly not entirely physical, as I have not used enough muscles or brain power to suffer any of those symptoms. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that it is something else. I’ll come onto that!
Probably eighteen months ago I made the decision to change the way I used FB, initially I tried to just ignore it, then I hid the app and turned off all the notifications, but neither made any difference. So, I told my friends I wasn’t going to be on FB much and if they needed me to contact me directly, then I deleted the app from my phone. It was tough the first few days, but after that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was incredibly liberating. I was only checking in once every two months to read my notifications, and I refused to read the feed at all. The “I’ll just have a quick look and see what’s happening mentality” is finally being kept under control. But not this time. I ‘needed’ to check my Birthday messages for the forth time, only the quick look and only reading my wall and notifications rule no longer applied apparently and I read the feed. I probably only read twenty posts in the feed, but it was more than enough to bring on all the feelings, only because it had been a while I didn’t instantly recognise or acknowledge them. I logged out and flicked without even thinking about it onto Instagram, flicking in a manner that can only be described as mindless. Normally I only read or look at a few messages at a time, this was way beyond that.
By the time I got to work, had sat in my empty office for three lonely hours, I’d had enough of the world. All I wanted was to go and hide in bed.
So, what is it that makes social media so poisonous to me? I get sucked in, I then don’t know when to stop, I see things that encourage me to feel depressed about my own life, and I lose track of time. My time is sucking into a black hole and never returned to me – that is part of the annoyance with it. It always seems to take, and never give anything I want or need back. It takes my time, my joy, my energy, and in return offers unpleasant feelings, discouragement, rose tinted images of others’ lives, a view of all the things I don’t have, and on some days offers something I genuinely wish I had never seen. Rarely do I feel thankful and enriched by something I have seen or found.
Completely separately, and not on social media, I watched a video and took an online quiz about how you hear God. It was by Havilah Cunnington – if you don’t know her, she is an amazing Christian lady at Truth to Table, someone I discovered a few months ago. I thought it sounded interesting, and a bit of fun, and was surprised by the results, but then thought nothing of it. Now having processed through all the things of the day and why I felt the way I did, I am beginning to wonder if I’ve just overlooked something hugely important! The result was that I hear God through my feelings.
I wonder if the feelings I get when I sit on social media are God’s promptings, to make me get off it, to clue me into how detrimental it is to me, to point out how it is altering my focus and thinking in a way that is not what He intends. I can glance over Bible verses by the dozen on social media in my flicking, barely reading, let alone absorbing them before I launch onto the next post. The verse I’ve seen before rarely holds the same appeal as something new and interesting that I haven’t seen before. But it is only in reading or hearing, and then absorbing, chewing over, that it becomes knowledge, a part of who we are, something we can rely on and remember. Only in pausing and consciously taking something on board can the very fabric of my soul be changed. And the sad truth is that what we take on board most is often not the things of God! I’m still chewing this one over.
I would like to challenge you this week to consider: how much time you spend on social media, what you do on there, how it affects you, and whether you spend as much time absorbing God’s Word as you do the contents of those social media pages, images and videos.
I am contemplating if I need to take a break from Instagram as well for a while…
Edit: having typed this up a few days ago and mulled over what I wrote, I’m not sure I’ve explained adequately! I don’t particularly mean that God makes me depressed, I mean that God uses the feels I am naturally prone to as a way of speaking into my life. If you enjoy something you are more likely to repeat it, if you find something unpleasant you are more inclined not to do it again. Social media isn’t as cut and dry as that. God knows what I absorb and take on board, He knows where my thoughts lead. So, the quicker the uneasy feeling, the faster I stop. I simply wonder if He is trying to discourage me from staying there. I’m not sure my edit has really improved what I am saying… let’s perhaps deem this post as incomprehensible drivel for now!