It’s Time to Hide My Hashtags


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?