It’s Time to Hide My Hashtags

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leslie verner -time to hide my hashtags-3

Where does the time go? Mostly, my smartphone steals mine. Months ago, I downloaded a simple app to put limits on the time I spend on my phone. I used it for a week, and then gave up. What I didn’t realize was that the app continued tracking my phone usage—for months. When I finally opened it again and saw the stats, I felt queasy.

I unlock my screen 100-150 times a day. On average, I spend two hours a day on my phone. That’s 14 hours a week, 56 hours a month, and 672 hours a year. That is 28 full days of life, or 40 days if you factor in sleeping 7 hours a night.

I surrender 40 days a year to my smartphone.

As an extrovert, I used to feel if I didn’t tell someone about a thought or experience I had, it was as if it never happened. Now, if it is not documented electronically, it’s as if it didn’t happen.

Some jobs—like being a writer—require us to “build a platform.” But is this a pitfall? Maybe it’s not as much of a win as it seems—like the checkout clerk who tells you, “You saved $30 today!” when you have to spend $150 if you want to “save.” What is the cost of social media and smartphone use? We forfeit time alone, time with friends and family, time to observe life, and time with God, just to gain three followers, 40 likes, and 6 comments.

What if in my frenzy to post small slips of joy, wonder or beauty, I’m actually missing them?

Sometimes I hide in the bathroom, pretending to shower, when really I’m posting on Instagram. I squander minutes checking my email, scrolling through Facebook, tapping in and out of Facebook groups, feasting on Instagram eye candy, and clicking on links listed on Twitter. I document every book read, every sweet moment with my children, every inky black tree silhouetted on a salmon sky.

I try not to make my life look too perfect, too beautiful or too interesting. I don’t take pictures of my food. Ninety-nine percent of the images on my phone never meet a stranger on the internet. I tell myself I’m not addicted. I can quit. I could not check my phone all day—if I wanted to.

But the other day I had to volunteer in my son’s class and leave my phone in the closet for two hours and I felt genuine anxiety. Like a junkie. If there were such a thing as smartphone rehab, I would check myself in immediately. I’m writing from the middle of my story, but if I’m describing you, too, then pull up a chair and let’s brainstorm treatment together.

Personally, I need boundaries on what I post, when I post, and why I post.

Rumi is attributed with the following quote about speaking, but it can also be applied to posting online:

Before you speak [post], let your words [image/status update/tweet] pass through three gates.
At the first gate, ask yourself. Is it true?
At the second gate ask. Is it necessary?
At the third gate ask. Is it kind?

Is my social media post true, necessary, and kind? Honestly, most of mine aren’t necessary. For those of us pursuing the upside-down-life of faith in Jesus, there’s another layer to the discussion. Are we willing to be unseen? Unknown? Uncelebrated?

Do we fear raw life, void of fanfare, fans or “friending”? If I’m honest, I’m scared no one will see me, no one will know, or worse, no one will care.

Hiddenness terrifies me. Though technically I know God sees me, if God’s are the only eyes on my life, will I still feel seen?

Like the old adage of the tree falling in the forest with no one around, can we experience life without the whole world knowing about it? Like the mother of Jesus, can we have a transcendent experience and simply “ponder it in our heart”? Can we bravely venture into the wilderness to encounter the God of the runaway, abused Hagar, and trust the name El Roi—“The God Who Sees Me”?

If we post, do we receive our reward? Is posting a way of “letting our right hand know what our left hand is doing”? Is it like standing on the street corner praying loudly, “Thank God I’m not like that boring person over there!” when we should be pouring out our treasures quietly in our secret rooms?

Perhaps I will take the 40 days of Lent to do a phone detox and take back the time lost to my smartphone. 40 days for 40 days. I need to do less inviting people into my life via screens and more inviting people into my actual, face-to-face, flesh-and-blood life. I need to do less broadcasting and more whispered prayers of gratitude; less of my life on display and more of my soul hidden in the ground like a seed.

Perhaps some experiences should be squandered just for Jesus. Like Mary Magdalene, who dashed her precious alabaster jar of perfume to anoint Jesus and wipe his feet with her hair, much of our lives should be “wasted” for him and him alone. Maybe in 2018, “dying to ourselves” begins with not posting every moment of joy, sadness or hilarity on social media.

Consider this my confession of addiction. For Lent, I’m praying for busted shackles and freedom to hide myself in the God who sees me.

What about you? What boundaries do you have in place to protect from Smartphone addiction? Which internal filters do you use before posting on social media?

 

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Leslie Verner
I am a goer who is learning how to stay. I’ve traveled all over the world and lived in northwest China for five years before God U-turned my life and brought me back to the U.S. to get married to an actor in Chicago. I’m a former middle school teacher, mama to three little ones and like American cuisine the least. I currently live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and write regularly about faith, justice, family and cross-cultural issues at Scraping Raisins.
Leslie Verner
Leslie Verner

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Comments

  1. Cath Conradie says:

    Hi Leslie,

    It has been great reading this – a confirmation of sorts for a decision I have recently made, so thanks.

    I ofter hear myself complaining that since I’ve become a wife and a Mother I just don’t have time for a quiet time with the Lord. BUT – I always have time to read my messages and emails and comments and browse social media. YIKES.

    And so I am trying something that I hope will become a lifetime habit. Every night when I go to bed, I put my phone on airplane mode, and my resolve is that I cannot remove it in the morning until I have spent time reading my Bible and taking a moment to listen to the Lord. That way there are no tempting notifications flashing at me, vying for my attention, and jumping into the first place in my life.

    So far it’s been great, and I am hoping that it continues to work for me.
    Thanks for your honesty and transparency of your struggles. I think you spoke spoke so well for so many of us, definitely for me.

    • Cath, I’ve been thinking about your habit of not getting on social media or your phone until after you read your Bible and pray, though I haven’t been able to do it yet! I’m off my phone, but it’s hard to stay off my computer first thing in the morning. But I’m going to try it this week! Thanks for reading, commenting and reflecting with me. 🙂

  2. Laesa Kim says:

    Ah, thank you for this. I think much of our world has this addiction.

    The part the spoke to me, as if I was saying it with you:

    “Are we willing to be unseen? Unknown? Uncelebrated?
    Do we fear raw life, void of fanfare, fans or “friending”? If I’m honest, I’m scared no one will see me, no one will know, or worse, no one will care.”

    Is our addiction driven by fear? Fear of being alone, unknown, uncared for? Funny how the more we “connect” with people online the more we crave connectedness, as if it is not really fulfilling the essence of connection.

    I’ve been challenged by this post. Thank you!

    • Glad this resonated with you.And isn’t that the essence of addiction–the more we indulge, the more we crave and need to feel that buzz again? It’s freeing to name it and call it out for what it is–addiction. Much harder to trust that God sees us and knows even when the whole world doesn’t. But we are seen and known.

  3. In the recovery program I help oversee we take their phones for their first 6 weeks. It’s still amazing how many produce a “dummy” phone while holding on to their main phone. Because much of my job and hobbies involve screen time, I started making a few things from scratch in the kitchen. It’s not my favorite room to be, but I needed to be away from the screen. Your question about being unseen, unknown and uncelebrated is the one that struck me. Thanks for your bringing something many of us hide to the forefront.

    • Thanks for contributing your voice to this discussion! I get the “dummy phone” thing…getting geared up to let it go in a little over 24 hours. And I like the way you’ve intentionally chosen to be in the kitchen just to be away from your screens. Sometimes I leave my phone at home when I go on runs and it feels SO WILD. Clearly, I need to step away for longer than 45 minutes…

  4. Lynn Morrissey says:

    Admittedly, Leslie, I was feeling pretty smug reading about your struggle, b/c I hate my cellphone (a Samsung) and rarely use it. It drives me crazy. I can’t imagine being addicted to it. Truly. But before I could remain precariously perched on my holier-than-thou high horse, it galloped away from under my hypocritical self and left me flailing in the dust of distraction. I may not gravitate to a phone, but I’m drawn to screens–television with its addictive news, Facebook, Internet headlines, and even my writing. All those things you could be doing if you weren’t glued to your phone, I could be doing if I weren’t glued to my screens (although I would miss powerful posts like this! 🙂 At any rate, I wish you well and hope you will post again here forty days from Valentine’s Day to let us know you fare, phoneless. I loved your double entendre here: “Though technically I know God sees me…” Yes, He sees you technically when you are on your device, and He sees you when you are not. I guess the thing you and I need to ask ourselves is, if we are so occupied with this world, do we see *Him*–I mean, really *see* Him? Lent is a good time to remove our distractions so we can take long looks at God. It will be great practice for eternity, huh? Again all my best! Great, provocative post.
    Lynn Morrissey

    • Lynn, thanks for your honesty! It’s funny, because my mom was giving me a hard time about my phone and in defense, I pointed out the hours she spent watching soap operas when we were little! If it wasn’t this, I’m sure it would be something else vying for my attention. I don’t think all these things are bad in and of themselves, and yet when we’re unable to walk away and just “be,” then I know I need to call it what it is–addiction:-( I’ll be sure and write a follow-up post. This accountability is good for me!

      • Lynn Morrissey says:

        Oh soap operas! Your mother and I must be of about the same vintage. I hear they are less popular, having now been replaced by the ubiquitous and equally as addictive reality shows. Lord, deliver us. God really convicted me about those soaps, not just for wasting life time, but because of their tawdry content. And of course, their saga is never-ending, and their cliffhangers are meant to enhance their addiction “quality.” After a long struggle, I finally buried The Young and the Restless!! 🙂 Honestly, you are speaking to me here. I have so longed struggled w/ TV news. Maybe your phone challenge is really mine in disguise (or whoever has an addiction can fill in theirs of choice). Can I do this through Lent? maybe I should come back not just to read about your success, but to share about my own! Accountability, anyone? Yikes!
        xoxo
        L

  5. Aah this speaks to me too Leslie! **monkey covering eyes emoji** I know what you mean about the withdrawal anxiety – I left mine in my locker the other day while studying and I felt weird without it. I’ve noticed too that the more time I spend aimlessly on my phone, the less I feel inclined to post anything at all (making it all the more pointless to be on my phone!) probably because deep down I know that what we are called to speak is only that which is ‘true, necessary and kind’ – and scrolling aimlessly feels like it depletes rather than fills my well from which I am able to speak true, necessary and kind things. I don’t know if you find that too? Suffice to say, I feel you – and am praying along with you today for wisdom and strength to be able to steward your (our) precious days well. Blessings to you xo

    • Thanks for understanding and feeling these things with me (and commenting!). I’m so looking forward to stepping away for a while. It’s going to be tough, though. And I do know what you mean that it’s so easy to numbly scroll through without actually interacting. Social media at it’s best connects us to others, at it’s worst, just perpetuates the feeling of disconnectedness.

  6. I’ve taken social media off my phone, which has been so freeing! I definitely miss out on tweets or whatever and because it’s a way of connecting with people, I usually let myself check my computer. But that’s a much more intentional check (and harder for me to scroll aimlessly.) I’m amazed at how much longer my battery life (literally and mentally) lasts when I do this. 😉

  7. This is some sobering math, Leslie. The older I get (and the older my kids get) the more urgently I want to steward my 30,000 days on this planet. These are good (and jolting) thoughts.

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