Anytime I hear the word distraction; for me, comes with an angry connotation. I have this memory, I hold close to my heart of two of my spiritual mothers praying with me when I was a babe in Christ. One of the biggest things they talked about and prayed over me was to be aware of distraction. I remember thinking in my heart that they must have been referring to sin. I sort of laughed inside because I thought to myself that I was somehow in the clear because I was so in love with Jesus, I couldn’t fathom allowing myself to “sin” again… Well; news flash to me seven years later, is that distraction from God isn’t always (sin)! Distraction is many things, money, hobbies, relationships and modern technology. Think about it in the last five decades media went from a few news channels, a handful of family shows to a plethora of mediums now functioning on our home television, our phone, and now our car. It all happened so fast.
Without the “help” of all these mediums; while trying to accomplish daily tasks we would in our human brains be carving out brand new neural pathways, actually processing and memorizing new information. Now the simplicity of things exhausts almost zero brain function; so little that when the person on the other line answers we can’t even remember why we called them.
All it takes to see that technology is a distraction is hanging out in a coffee shop, restaurant or grocery store line; it seems that everyone is present in the natural but not emotionally. Recently for a split second, I found myself flipping through my phone, feeling annoyed with the fact that my wrist hurt; I couldn’t figure out why I was holding my phone in my hand, and aimlessly flipping through Instagram for no reason not even realizing I was doing it, I then looked up at the wall in my room and saw some paintings that I had painted a year ago and then glanced down at my bookshelf full of journals and books I once enjoyed during my down time. That was the moment I realized that the device in my hand was standing in between me and my time with the Lord. When I really thought about it; nothing I was spending so much time looking at on social media held any real value in my life.
In, Amusing Ourselves to Death, By Neil Postman, Henry David Thoreau, was quoted stating that, “The telegraph made a three pronged attack on typographys definition of discourse, introducing on a large scale, irrelevance,impotence, and incoherence.” I was able to relate to this because the soulful satisfaction I was getting from writing in my journal was sort of replaced by my addiction to social media. In the introduction of Amusing Ourselves to Death , Andrew Postman explains this tragedy perfectly, “……overwhelmed by information glut until what is truly meaningful is lost and we no longer care what we’ve lost as long as we’re being amused…”
For a little over a year I felt a tug from the Holy Spirit, to rid of the distraction’s but I justified them sort of responding to Him that I was using it as a tool to reach people, be a light and share inspirations and encouragements; when really I knew inside I was just making excuses to stay in the loop of things. I was reminded that when the disciples made the choice to follow Jesus, they left EVERYTHING behind and followed Him. (Luke 5:10-11) It was then I made the decision to delete my social media and immediately felt a heavy weight lifted. Some psychologists argue that using the word (addiction) to describe social media issues is wrong. According to an article written by Mark Fabbri, the director of the Psychology degree program for South University, “Addiction is a word that should not be used lightly to describe a set of behaviors,” “Addiction is related to a compulsion to something or engage in a set of behaviors to the point that it significantly interferes with a person’s life.” “Any addiction can become addictive if it has a negative significant impact on a person’s life, but I would caution using the term addiction outside of its intended definition.” I however, disagree with him because the same chemical reaction that takes place in the human brain when a person is an alcoholic or drug addict, takes place when being addicted to media. According to recent research from Mountainside Detox CT/NY State Of The Art Medical Center; When you have a cell phone and your receive a notification alert, your brain then releases dopamine transmitters that regulates pressure, giving the user feelings of reward and increasing the desire to continue using the phone for long periods of time; this to me constitutes addiction. People actually get separation anxiety from their phones. In the 2016 study done by Mountainside Medical Center, 44% of survey respondents said they couldn’t go a day without their phones, 23% said no more than a few minutes without checking their phone and 3% actually admitted falling asleep clutching their device. Wow! Can you remember moments when you realized your were too attached to your social media or job or friends or hobbies?
This bewildering behavior is called “Paraprosexia” meaning constant distraction! I can honestly admit that in those moments I could actually hear the Holy Spirit whisper in my heart, “Unplug”…… Yet I continued even after repeatedly reading scripture telling me to, “keep my focus above” (Colossians 3:1-2) “Look to the goal” (Proverbs 4:25-27) “Be alert at all times” (1 Peter 5:8-11).
Recently, researchers have associated online social networking with several mental health problems. I know that personally my perception of something I saw on my Facebook news feed would sometimes hurt my feelings or make me sad, for example, seeing an invitation pop up for people to attend a party that I wasn’t invited to or seeing pictures of my friends meeting someplace and I didn’t know about it. As much as I didn’t want to make assumptions, the pain lingered and I’m sure after time took it’s toll on me mentally. According to an article published on the Cyberpsychology Behavior Social Network, Titled, Online Social Networking and Mental Health by Igor Pantic, MD,PhD, “Due to the popularity of these online services in the general population, any future confirmed connection between them and psychiatric diseases would pose a serious health concern.” A few of the issues listed in this article were depressive symptoms, anxiety and low self-esteem. According to this same article, “In this search the authors found that increased time spent online is related to a decline in communication with family members, as well as the reduction of the Internet user’s social circle, which may further lead to increased feelings of depression and loneliness. This article also suggests that one of the reasons why time spent on social media may be associated with depressive symptoms is the fact that computer mediated communication may lead to the wrong impression and personality traits of other users. We were made for fellowship and togetherness. When you live a life dedicated to God this media dependency should not have this much power over you (Romans 12:1-2) .
I really missed just having a friend over for coffee, a nice chat with our shoes off on the sofa, lifting each other up and supporting each other in Christ.
Don’t be duped! Computer scientists have begun to fine tune how to make you addicted to your distractions. There are actually cyberpsychology experts whose main job is to make you feel like you can not live without your access to media by studying the human brain (scary).
Many people have a distorted image of their very own identity because of social media. People have taken this identity to extremes to get more likes and shares, somehow giving them sense of worth and value. People, discovering they can become “famous” without Hollywood are doing the extreme on Facebook live, leaving no space for comfort while committing murders, sexual acts and suicide. This is why 1st (John 2:15) is such an important scripture. We have to know who we are in Christ for the rest of this worldly approval not to matter.
My conclusion is that we can live without it. People who I have met who have never had a cell phone or social media account, are just as alive as you and me. Being free of social media has given me more time to think critically about the things going on in and around my life as well as do the things that I enjoy that make my life sweet.
According to Dr. Cal Newport, a professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, “ ‘Deep Work’ will make you better at what you do. You will achieve more in less time. And feel the sense of true fulfillment that comes from the mastery of a skill.” essentially what he is implying is that, if you can master an art that requires deep work and skill, you do not need social media (like’s) for consumers to be won over, they will recognize something good when they see it. This example can be likened to our walk with the Lord; The more time we spend with Him in a deep, intimate place while in worship, conversation or reading the Word; the fruit can be seen without any loud noises or bright colored flags. (Matthew 7:15-20).
Letting go of social media can be uncomfortable for some mimicking a substance withdrawal. I felt very anxious the few days up to deciding I was going to be obediant and delete it. The day I deleted it, there was this surge of anxiety that came over me as if I was standing at the edge of a cliff watching my control fall way way down. As the hours thereafter, I experienced some restlessness during my down times at lunch while at work or waiting in line at the store. While waiting for my doctor appointment to start, I noticed everyone around me were nose deep in their phones; it made me feel like I was a the only person who could see the giant elephant in the room. On my day off I sat on my couch with my coffee mug, looking around my house like I hadn’t seen it in a while and then boredom set in and I had to become familiar with that emotion again. It has become more and more clear to me how much beauty I was missing with the many distractions in my life, solidifying my decision to let it go. Being that I am now more aware of how the distractions affected my life; I feel like I am now in a position where I will be the one choosing when I want to expose myself, rather than feeling like I need to stay in the stream of things. I have noticed that with less distraction, I am able to think deeper and take more time making decisions about things I am doing or want to do. I am also more focused on my reality; instead of the “reality” of others and enjoy the little things in front of me that I can taste, feel and touch.
“Get up, my dear friend,
fair and beautiful lover—come to me!
Look around you: Winter is over;
the winter rains are over, gone!
Spring flowers are in blossom all over.
The whole world’s a choir—and singing!
Spring warblers are filling the forest
with sweet arpeggios.
Lilacs are exuberantly purple and perfumed,
and cherry trees fragrant with blossoms.
Oh, get up, dear friend,
my fair and beautiful lover—come to me!
Come, my shy and modest dove—
leave your seclusion, come out in the open.
Let me see your face,
let me hear your voice.
For your voice is soothing
and your face is ravishing.”
Song of Solomon 2:10-14