I’ve been online, in some capacity, for more than two decades. I played games on dial-up in the 90’s, I started blogging in 2003, and I’ve loved social media since its inception. After babies, though, I realized how easy it was to use the internet as an escape. I could numbly scroll through news headlines or cloth diaper sales pages (it’s real) and forget about how much money we didn’t have or how many hours I’d have to work the next day or whether or not I’d be able to pump enough milk.
I have learned so much from being online. So much. I’ve always been a voracious reader, but having articles and blogs and think pieces at my fingertips has just taken me to a next level. Drake released a new album. Do we think he’s really talking about XXXTentacion in that one track? Ominous blurbs about China and Canada filter through my car radio. What actually is a trade war, and are we in one? A patient swears she doesn’t use cocaine and thinks her marijuana might have been laced when her drug screen comes back positive. Is that possible? Beth Moore writes a powerful open letter to her brothers in Christ, calling them out and up. Historically, what is the Southern Baptist Convention’s track record with their treatment of women?
Skincare. Fashion. Theology. Parenting. Medicine. Google is one of my best friends. And if you come at me with some outlandish headline, I will definitely Snopes it on the go.
And don’t even get me started about social media! I learn more, laugh more, grow more, and love more than I ever could have imagined, just from connecting with others through platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Old friends stay close and best friends point me to Jesus, every single time I open those apps.
But along the way, it became apparent that I’d need to build some boundaries. My parents had obviously grown up without the internet, and my friends were on the front lines next to me. How much time is too much time? Where to keep my phone at night? When to delete apps and take a break? Who to follow and unfollow? How to talk about my kids online? How do I want to feel when I get on and then hop off again?
The weekend break was, and still is, a great idea. I try to delete social media apps from my phone for at least a day or two each week. Turning off all (ALL) of my notifications helped, too. I still stick to that one. Whatever it is, I’ll find out about it when I sign on. Lastly, being intentional about who to follow and what to click became a priority. I try to only consume that which is life-giving, whether online or off. But even with all of these safeguards, anxiety crept in now and again. A general, unsettled feeling settled upon me as soon as I posted something, or when I anticipated checking in again.
So I started taking real breaks. One month last summer. Christmas Break. Special trips or adventures. Another month this summer. And I got hooked. Whenever I go dark, I go all in. I leave my phone behind, forget the world, get lost in the moment. It’s an incredible feeling. Intoxicating, almost. I once told someone it felt like being the only sober person at a party on a yacht at sunset, when everyone else was partying too hard to soak up the vibe.
But there’s a dark side to going dark, and this is something I rarely mention. I ignore the news. I miss a friend’s birthday. I don’t return texts on time. It’s sort of like getting a scary bill in the mail and quietly placing it, unopened, in a drawer. I base each day off of how I’m feeling, how I want to feel. Is there a thing as being too self-aware? Because getting caught up in one’s feelings and thoughts is certainly real.
I think what I’m saying is, I make my internet breaks all about me. I get away for the right reasons, but I want to stay away for the wrong ones.
I do not have an answer for this dilemma. I do not think I can find it on Google. Here is what I do know. I know that the Bible has answers to everything, answers that never go out of style. That book has taught me so much about work and rest and people and life management and how to keep my soul healthy. And so, I know that I will continue to stay online and stay on guard. I know that there is no such thing as balance. I know that the internet is incredibly useful and most likely here for my forever. I know that I lean towards introverted selfishness when left to my own fleshly devices.
I know that rest is important, and that pausing to check my heart and soul and mind is crucial to my lifelong mission of making Jesus known. But I know that too much navel-gazing makes me dizzy. It leads me straight into walls, or onto my head. I also know that when Jesus pulled away to rest, he was always interrupted. He rolled with it, and it changed the world.