Wrestling the Giant: Why I Deleted Instagram

By

I deleted Instagram from my phone earlier this summer. A few months before that I did the same with the Facebook app. Our family went on a pretty big adventure for a few weeks, and more than once my instinct was to share a photo of it on social media, but when I realized the app wasn’t on my phone I felt a flash of frustration followed by a sigh of relief—then I moved on, happy to be fully present where I was, when I was, how I was with those I love most.

Part of the reason I dropped the apps from my phone was that the previous year had been so packed with stuff I needed to tell people about: the Wingfeather film and Kickstarter campaign, the Rich Mullins show at the Ryman, the Christmas tour, the Resurrection Letters release and tour. It would have been irresponsible of me to refuse to share that stuff online because other people (the label, management, concert promoters, etc.) were counting on it. If nobody knows about these things, nobody shows up; if nobody shows up, the people investing time and money in them don’t get paid; if that happens, the next time we try and put something into the world, I won’t have much help.

Like it or not, we look to social media for news about what matters to us. It would be silly not to take advantage of it. In fact, twenty five years ago when I started doing this music thing, I remember feeling frustrated that there wasn’t an easier way to let people know what I was up to—or on the other side of the coin, I was frustrated when I only found out after the fact that an artist I loved had been in town. Not long after that, when our community of songwriters banded together as the Square Peg Alliance, we talked about how sad it was that we couldn’t afford to make records without a label or a benefactor. “If only there was a platform that would allow our small but wonderful fanbase to help us pay for the project,” we lamented. Enter Kickstarter, which changed the game for many of us. These are good things. But here’s the problem: now social media asks more from me than I’m able to give. And if I play by its rules, it becomes a spiritual issue. Here’s what I mean.

Our family adventure this summer was a time of reconnection and retreat for Team Peterson. We were tired, worn down by school and work, by more-intense-than-usual creative demands (which always brings with it an increase in travel, which always brings an increase in weariness and stress). Don’t get me wrong—I love my job. Truly. I couldn’t be more grateful that the Lord has allowed me to serve him in this way. But in my old age I’ve gotten more and more private with personal stuff, and have felt more conviction about what’s appropriate to share on social media. Not only does it snap me out of the moment I’m in, as if it’s not enough to be in a beautiful place with my family unless I show everyone else where we are, it also leads to envy. Some people actually write “envious” or “jealous” in the comments. I know, because I’ve done it myself. We all know about the tendency on social media to make our lives look like they’re better than they really are. I’ve considered seeing what would happen if I posted a picture of myself with bloodshot eyes after a tearful argument, or a quick video clip of me grumbling about something that didn’t go right, or (the horror!) me with my shirt off to show why I’m trying to get more exercise. That’s not to mention the hellish tendency to put too much stake in how many likes or follows we got today. Comparison is the thief of joy, said Teddy Roosevelt, and social media is foundationally comparative. It’s comparison on steroids.

Social media asks more of me than I'm able to give.

Andrew Peterson

Here’s the rub: I’m a touring songwriter and author. The way I pay my bills is, in a very real sense, tied to social media. It’s not a stretch to imagine that in the board meeting where a publisher or label is discussing whether or not to offer someone a deal, the amount of followers one has on Facebook or Instagram actually matters. More followers equals more influence and advertising, equals more sales, equals more profit, equals a contract and the possibility of putting something good and helpful into the world. As a member of the Rabbit Room board I can attest to the fact that an organization needs income in order to survive. If we didn’t have help from our Rabbit Room members (thank you for joining by clicking here, seriously), and if this amazing community didn’t actually support our artists and authors by purchasing products, the Rabbit Room would fizzle and go away. Social media is often how you guys find out about this stuff. Even if the Rabbit Room were just a website, we’d need to pay someone for hosting, design, and maintenance, not to mention content. Commerce isn’t an evil, however evil commerce can become if it isn’t done with righteousness.

Okay, so social media is, in this day and age, a necessary component of an artist’s career. Why not just post tour dates and album releases? Because, the social media gods tells us, people will stop listening to you if there’s no personal connection, no ongoing interaction, or if there’s only sporadic activity. People will start to think you’re greedy or self-serving if the only time you post on Instagram is when you want them to buy your books or albums. And, sadly, there’s some truth to that. We already get enough advertisements from everything else in the world—why would we bother to follow an artist just to get more ads? But isn’t there something icky about sharing intimate moments of my family’s summer vacation when even a fraction of my motive is to build up enough trust to tell you about my new record when the time comes? The answer is YES. It’s more than icky. And that’s when social media demands more than I’m willing to give. My heart is at stake. Yours is, too. You, friends, are not commodities. You are not merely means to an end. You are not mere vehicles for commerce. You are vast souls, invaluable and intricate. The murmur of the Holy Spirit in my heart has grown over the years into a clear voice: don’t thoughtlessly share pictures of yourself or your loved ones with people you don’t really know. Don’t play a game that inevitably leads to envy or dissatisfaction, for you or anyone else. Don’t manipulate children of God for your own purposes. Don’t compare your own gifts to what God has given to others. Be content with what you have. Pay attention to where you are. Be present.

What I’m describing, of course, is a worst-case scenario. I’m not at all implying that everyone on social media has the same conflict I do. Indeed, most of the time I’ve posted stuff online that wasn’t directly career-related was done so for fun, or because it really can be helpful, even joyful, to share our lives with each other. But we’re all flawed. Our hearts aren’t impervious to this temptation. Mine isn’t, at least.

The murmur of the Holy Spirit in my heart has grown over the years into a clear voice: don't thoughtlessly share pictures of yourself or your loved ones with people you don't really know. Don't play a game that inevitably leads to envy or dissatisfaction, for you or anyone else.

Andrew Peterson

That leads me to where I am now, which feels like an impasse. How do I reconcile all this with the fact that I’ve come to know some of you well because of interactions on social media? How can I discount the massive encouragement I’ve received from some of you via Facebook or Instagram? How do I deny the fact that I have been blessed and shaped by albums and books and films and concerts and articles I wouldn’t have discovered any other way? How do I maintain a healthy relationship with people who actually do care about me and mine, who actually want to know what’s going on in my life, though I’ve never once had dinner or coffee with them? This culture is so weird, right? It’s weird in ways no one could have predicted when the first computer was constructed.

I don’t know the answers to these questions. It would be arrogant for me to assume you’ve noticed that I’ve been more absent than usual from social media, but if you have, it’s not your imagination. I’m fighting my way through this just like you are. But while I’ve been “gone,” I’ve actually been more “here” than I have in a long time. I’ve harvested this year’s honey, laughed with my family, watched some great movies, and read several great books. I’ve seen beautiful things and thanked God for them with a lessening impulse to grab my phone to tell everyone else about it. I’ve become more aware than ever of my broken need for approval and my habit to envy. Life was rich long before social media showed up, and it’s been nice to remember that. And yet, I really do want to share things with my friends and acquaintances and even those I don’t yet know. How can you see a beautiful tree and not want to say, “Isn’t that something?”

I guess I’m saying I don’t yet know how to navigate these waters. For now, at least, here are a couple of principles I’m trying to abide by:

1. Don’t post about myself unless I have to. Use social media to draw attention to other people’s work more than my own. If we all agreed to this, we could avoid the icky stuff and just as many people would know what we’re making.

2. Keep it off my phone. I don’t miss the Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook apps. Nowadays I post stuff from my computer. That way it’s a bit more trouble to share things, and I’m not tempted to do it in the moment. We all know there are better ways to spend our time at traffic lights and airport terminals than thumbing our way through a zillion pictures and memes.

3. Don’t post anything that might cause my brothers and sisters to stumble. If I’m posting something that is meant, even a little bit, to make my life look awesome, then I shouldn’t. Yes, our lives are full of beauty and goodness and delightful moments. No, I’m not meant to construct a false world for others to see or, worse, to boast. This one is really tricky, because it’s actually wonderful to be able to share good news and gratitude. Pray for discernment. Listen to the Spirit.

4. Be present. After our vacation I found some fun pictures and posted them, then I moved on. No offense, but when I was with my family, I didn’t want to be with the rest of Facebook. It reminds me of something Wendell Berry said about poetry: “You can’t think about the fact that you’re writing a poem. As soon as that thought shows up, you’ve stopped writing a poem. You’re doing something else.” In that spirit, I’d say this: “When you’re experiencing something beautiful, you can’t stop and take a picture of it to share with everybody else. As soon as that happens, you’re not experiencing something beautiful. You’re doing something else.”

I’d love to hear how you’re wrestling with these things. I don’t pretend to have the answers, and I’m sure I’ll post stuff online that’ll make you roll your eyes and say, “Oh, Mr. I-Hate-Instagram doesn’t have a hard time now, does he?” All I know is, it’s been nice not fussing with it for the last few months. On the other hand, maybe it’s just part of the culture now and the answer is to find a way to redeem it. In the meantime I want to keep wrestling the giant. I’ll let you know how it goes. Probably on Facebook.

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


51 Comments

  1. Bethany

    My husband and I went to Niagara Falls this summer for vacation. As we rode the boat to the bottom of the Falls and watched the nightly fireworks (twice), I put my phone away. So many of our fellow visitors only watched these things through their phones. We wanted to remember what we saw and be present. It doesn’t make up for all the time I waste scrolling through Facebook, but it’s a start at trying to be present.

  2. Leslie E. Thompson

    As I do my work in marketing for these few years, I’ve made active decisions to move away from being in control of social media for clients and work to inform them instead. This change was intentionally made as I changed the way I use it myself after working with an artist couple who struggled deeply with this as well. The numbers inform so much – but we know that God couldn’t care less about numbers. In fact, he defys them. So in my own feeds, I’ve made conscious decisions to share meaningful nuggets with realistic life experiences. I rarely share mountaintop experiences as I almost cringe to think of an outside observer that comes across the post – do the assume this is normal for me? Are they envious? Do they start to question their own life choices? That’s not my place, and I commend you for taking this step at a time when many might tell you to be more active than ever on socials. How we use these tools IS important – lest we think otherwise!

  3. Mark Collins

    As a youth Pastor I wrestle with social media. I see what it does to students and I get angry. Then I turn the mirror on myself and I see what it does to me. I get angry. I delet apps for a while. Then I download them again under the guise of “I will use them for ministry.” And I do. I use Instagram all the time to publicize events or to let students know what is happening. Then I find myself being sucked in again and the battle continues. Then I read posts like yours above and I realize the fight is worth it. I will keep wrestling too and I pray that I never get to a point where I stop wrestling. Thanks for sharing your heart. It’s encouraging.

  4. Josh Bishop

    @joshbishop

    A few months ago, I ditched the smartphone altogether and bought an old-school flip phone (inspired by this post by Challies). I realized I was addicted — not just to social media, but to Feedly and Pocket and podcasts and news and push notifications and using the phone without reason or purpose or goal. I got sick of hearing my kids say, “Dad, put your phone down.” I got sick of not having even 10 seconds to myself without finding my phone in my hand. So I dumped it, and I’ve never felt more free to experience the world around me, to be with my family, to sink into beauty and love and life without distraction.

    There are really only two things that give me pause: 1) Turn-by-turn navigation was really helpful, and 2) Concerns about “platform” and “audience” and “social marketing” that everyone says are so important nowadays. I don’t have anything to market to my teeny-tiny audience, of course, but when I do, will I regret not spending so much time building my platform? I somehow think not.

  5. Gillian Bronte Adams

    Thank you for sharing! I’ve been wrestling with this a lot lately, actually, so this post came at a great time. I find myself using social media less and less personally while maintaining it for my author account. I don’t know if that makes my social media accounts less real and authentic (gasp!) but it’s one of the ways I am trying to unplug from it. I love what you said about being present! I am starting to put my phone away during special moments or events. I may snag a picture or two (if I remember), but I try to avoid posting then so that I can be in the moment, not distracted by the social media monster. Recently during the weekends, I have been purposefully setting my phone aside and trying to avoid social media as much as possible. I think my soul needs that time to rest and reset. Because it is SO easy to get sucked into the need for others’ approval and the reward of those blinking notifications. Those are the steps I’m taking now, but I am also continuing to wrestle with it. And I love what you said about just being aware of how what you post can affect others.

  6. Court Wilson

    Thank you for putting into words, and so eloquently at that, feelings and thoughts I often have about social media. It is nice to know there are others in the same boat.

  7. Sarah Hohner

    This is a very timely article! This last year I’ve wrestled with wanting to delete all my social media accounts and be less in the world and more in the moment, yet I also want to share my writing with the world and can’t think of how to do that, and stay well-connected with a larger community, outside of the murky sphere of social media. More to ponder, thanks to your reflections and insights- I agree with all your points! I try to make sure my primary audience with anything I write or post is God; that helps to safeguard my own glory-hound sin nature against rearing it’s ugly head.

    thank you for this article!

  8. andrew

    I have no answers, but the words of Saint Ramirez

    It’s hard to find a balance When I don’t believe in one When you mix art with business

    You’re just shooting an empty Gun

     

    And these songs will only take me as far as the people will go If I can’t make them happy, well they won’t come to my shows Mayby that’s what’s killed All the great voices in the world Always bleeding for every line but no one was bleeding in return

  9. David

    A strange adaptation of this phenomena of “being present” of what you described with social media I am also recognizing in other aspects of life.  For example, the practice of listening to music and also the enjoyment of it has changed so much –  the streaming of music and lack of physical media, at least for me, has taken away from its beauty and importance in my life.  When streaming, I find that I am always listening while doing something else… It is an adjunct activity rather than the sole activity that I can get enraptured in.  When listening to a record (more so) or even a CD, I find myself sitting and focusing and getting lost in the music.  It forces you to sit down and listen.    I love the convenience and portability of music, as I do of finding out news and events and sports updates and many other facets, but it has taken away the beauty of so many practices of life.  Those who have grown up in both generations (I graduated from high school in the late 90s when internet and email was just getting started), I still remember clearly life before the technology takeover and now being immersed by it.  It’s a strange relationship, trying to dissociate it’s importance in my life.

  10. Jennifer Hildebrand

    @jennibrand

    This subject has been on my heart a lot lately.  Some days I would love to just completely unplug, but since pretty much the whole of society has shifted to this one means of communicating, I’m pretty sure that’s not even possible any more. There have been times when I’ve tried to step away for a while, but then a close friend will ask why I didn’t know about this or that with their kid or their job because “well I shared it on Facebook”.  We just seldom think to connect as directly anymore, and that’s a tough path to navigate while still keeping your soul sane.  Thank you for bringing up the topic. I think it’s just a constant struggle from here on out, and we will all need a good dose of holy discernment.

  11. Leslie Bustard

    I have been working on lessening all the voices and images that come into my head through fb, instagram, and even reading (which I love), to somehow hear and desire God’s voice more. Recently I have cut down on all the people I follow on Instagram and facebook. I am plan to deactivate FB for a while so that I can actually stop jumping on to it (I deleted the app but can still get it to it through Safari…). My heard has been weary of either the discontentment and the quick judgment calls. I appreciate your thoughts and words.

  12. Emma

    Sometimes I feel like I’m the last person in the world who doesn’t have a smart phone. It’s heartening to hear that others are recognizing the issues and scaling back.

  13. Kara

    @karajanechase

    I find rest in the fortress of these truths from the Word:

    “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?” Prov. 20:6

    “Let us not become conceited, provoking envying each other” Galatians 5:26

    “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

    I found this post today via facebook. Praise God. BUT today I also read a post from a Sister in Christ who shared that she no longer has a puffy face and has gone down six dress sizes.

    How much of my mental and spiritual energy will be spent on trying to take thoughts of discouragement & disappointment captive??? When I could have been writing a poem…without thinking “I am writing a poem”, whilst writing it:)

  14. Leslie G

    A small exercise some may consider is a Sabboth rest from social media-or screens altogether-each Sunday.

  15. Rebecca Sandstrom

    Andrew, I wrestle with the same things when it comes to social media. I’m not on Twitter or Instagram but Facebook can can really be a time waster for me. I hated the feelings of envy that I felt. Seeing all the “perfect” families and homeschooling moms doing it all. The constant desire to check my phone felt like an addiction, which I believe it was. So this last spring I decided to give up social media for 40 days and just be present with my family. Making that decision improved my attitude and really made me aware of how often those around me are on their phones, not enjoying being in the moment. I was also was drawn closer to God and his creation during all those quiet moments in my day, that normally would have been filled with mindless scrolling. I deleted the app and took it off my computer and after a couple days I noticed a change in my heart. I think a break from social media every once in awhile is most definitely good for the soul.

  16. Benjamin Daniel

    Thanks for this, Andrew.

    This really has me thinking. I’m wrestling hard with this myself as I get my own songwriting career going. I had put off putting my songs out there for a long time because the idea of self-promotion is so hard. How do I promote my stuff on social media without being driven by pride? Even if the Lord uses it to bless others, there’s that tinge in my chest that maybe I’m doing it all to look cool. I feel this way about subtler things too. The other day I came across a quote by Richard Baxter which blessed me significantly. I figured it would be a blessing to others if I shared it on social media, but then I found myself checking Facebook and Twitter to see if the post had likes. I don’t even know my own motives. Was I checking social media to see who it blessed? Did that bring me joy? Or was I just checking to see who might consider me a deeply spiritual person because I’d posted something so profound? The latter scenario is enough to make me never touch social media again for fear of pride.

    And yet, I also know I can’t let bad motives paralyze me from doing good. There are some things that simply need to be shared. There are some people who have come up to me at church and say, “Thank you so much for what you share on Facebook. It blesses me significantly.” I don’t regret that even if my motives were imperfect. Paul says in Philippians 1:18 that he rejoices that Christ is proclaimed either way. I also know we need to redeem the culture of social media where we can and if God is using me to expand His kingdom through the imperfect means of Facebook or Twitter, then so be it. It’s just hard to know where the line is sometimes. Granted, you weren’t even talking about not sharing other people’s work. You were encouraging that. But I’m saying I can even promote other people’s work as a means of building on my own sense of identity. That’s how deep pride goes for me. But should I let my fear of pride keep me from promoting others and building people up? Should I keep it from letting me share the Gospel? Of course not.

    I think the key is surrounding myself with godlier, wiser people who are keeping me in check. That’s pretty easy at 25. There’s a lot of men around me who are much wiser. The issue is that I don’t often go to them for counsel in these difficult places. Social media is such an automatic thing now that I don’t even think to address it as an issue sometimes. But if others are keeping me accountable in not investing too much time and identity in Facebook and Twitter, I think I’d be able to use both platforms more freely. That might mean posting less. Or it might mean posting more. I have no idea. I guess I’ll just have to see.

  17. JulieWitmer

    @juliewitmer

    Thanks for sharing Andrew & also for taking a break when you need it to refill yourself!

    I’m reminded of this quote (which I keep posted on my mirror for many reasons) by Elizabeth Elliot:

    “You would like a simple formula, wouldn’t you, for sorting out the priorities? We all would, and no one is going to give us one… Every task requires faith. All must be recognized and accepted or rejected by faith, believing that the God who orders all things can order and direct your life so that it is not a selfish one lived ‘in a flowery beds of ease,’ nor one so cluttered and hectic that the peace of God cannot rule.”

    It strikes me as I read this again, but in the context of social media, that social media is something that gets us on both ends of that continuum. It can come from our selfishness or it can come from our hectic-ness. Like any powerful tool for change, we need to be sober as we bring it before the Lord and pray his will to direct us.

  18. kyle5434

    @kyle5434

    I was feeling some of the same promptings, and in the past year ditched my smart phone altogether and went back to a dumb texting phone. I still have a Facebook account (for now) that I access from my computer. I still sometimes miss the convenience of posting a photo from my phone, but it makes me think twice before going to the trouble to do it with a pocket camera and computer.

    I’ve started using an A6 dot grid journal as a simple bullet journal to track my schedule and my time. Still working on the discipline to use that approach fully and well, but it’s coming along.

  19. Mandy L

    I’ve said more times than I can count that if I didn’t “need” Facebook for work (I maintain a page and group for my organization), or to keep up with family, I just might drop it entirely.  In my case, I feel the biggest issue is the amount of time it consumes in pointlessness.  I’ll “snap out of it” after a few minutes and realize I’ve been just mindlessly scrolling the newsfeed when I have all these other responsibilities and goals waiting to be fulfilled.  At the beginning of the year, I decided that I wanted to waste less time on social media, and as a result of that, I have a daily goal checklist that says “use Facebook only on computers.”  I deleted the app from my phone for a long time, until I realized there are some things you can only accomplish by using the app over the browser.  But just having that goal in mind has gone a long way.  As you say, it requires more effort, and perhaps dedication, to only access it on a computer.  I noticed my computer time increase just a bit because of this goal, and now I’m working on that as well.

    I’ve noticed that as social media has increased in “necessity,” I spend less time on the things I used to enjoy.  I’m missing those things, so I’m making little efforts here and there to swap one for the other.  Limiting myself on social media allows me more time to enjoy creating art or reading or writing.  I’m also noticing that, while keeping up with family is my major argument for using social media, even my family shares things that I really wouldn’t lament being unaware of.  Furthermore, I find myself noticing now and then that I seem to always be taking photos or video of things that 15 years ago I would have just experienced as every day life.  And while I enjoy looking back on what was going on last year at this time, my life wouldn’t be incomplete if that moment had gone forgotten.  In truth, I used to journal about things that I now simply photograph and caption.  Incomplete thoughts, hurried schedules, and the capacity to capture dozens of little moments with Instagram have taken the place of what used to be thoughtful reflection and exploration.  The fact that so many others feel the same ought to indicate something.  I, however, seem to be slow to adapt and in need of continual reminders.  I appreciate the perspective(s) I’ve found here, as well as the sincerity and genuineness behind everyone sharing this struggle.  I am looking for answers and balance along with you all.

  20. Shawn Psarris

    Thank you Andrew, and all commenting. This is such a thougtful, honest article.

    Related to this, a super interesting read, and an encouraging one The Revenge of Analog by David Sax.

    Also, Douglas Rushkin is sparks a lot of discussion about the economic and societal impact of tech industry: http://www.rushkoff.com/articles/  

    This is a vital discussion, personally, I have found myself on the side of “less is almost always better” when it comes to social media. Every generation has new questions to deal with, this one of them for ours. I’m a millennial, in the past few years I’ve left all social media platforms. I don’t miss them.

    The tension between the good aspects and negative aspects of social media is a big struggle, however, I think just about every time I hear of someone distancing themselves from social media, they express it gratitude, as a positive thing in their life. Websites like the Rabbit Room, The Gospel Coalition and many others seem to provide more meaningful interaction and less intrusion into the rest of life.

    Of course word of mouth still happens. My roommate listened to Andrew Peterson back in 2008, I’ve been on board every since, and bringing my friends to concerts and loaning them CDs, in the physical world.

    The tech backlash is a real thing, and I think mostly a good thing. It goes beyond social media and into a larger discussion about how we use digital technology. I think there are many people that grew up watching way too much TV who wish their parents had made better choices in that area. The next generation will be grateful if walk carefully in this area.

    Most of us agree, it’s not that “we should reject all digital technology” but that there should be a balance, and the scales have been tipped pretty far in the tech direction, it takes some effort to in the opposite direction to find the balance.

    Sorry about such a long comment. One last thing, I believe a large part of antidote is to engage in the local community. Geography matters, place matters. What is social media but a search for community? Supporting independent bookstores, buying from local farmers, joining community gardens, knowing your neighbors, having a regular restaurant you go to, local sports, Adopt-a-Highway, Rotary Club, all of these kinds of things allow us to engage with other people and make a difference to the people around us.

  21. Christie Purifoy

    Goodness, thank you. I’m grateful for this thoughtful perspective. You ask good, hard questions. While I certainly don’t have the answers, your post did prompt me to consider why I, as a fellow writer with books to sell, have never felt any of the ickines you describe when I share and interact on instagram. I’m certainly no social media saint or superhero; twitter and facebook make me feel awful, and I seriously limit the time I spend there. But instagram? What a gift it has been to me. It would take a whole followup blog post to count the ways, but here are just the first few that came to mind. I share them, not to disagree with your perspective, but simply in gratitude and wonder that humans are so diverse. It is obviously critical that we talk openly about these things in order to be better equipped to discern what is best in our own lives. Thank you for doing exactly that.

    In brief, I am grateful for instagram because:

    1. As a person prone to worry and even despair, instagram forces my eye to see and record daily moments of wonder and beauty. I am more grateful for my own ordinary life because of instagram.

    2. As someone who always dreamed of becoming an artist but never did have much talent for visual art, phone cameras and instagram filters have allowed me to create visual beauty and share it. Praise God for accessible, creative tools!

    3. Community! And not just any community, but a community of those hungry for beauty. I live in a semi-rural area and while nothing can or should replace face-to-face relationship, how glad I am for instagram friends who tell me about books I might never otherwise discover or new recipes to try or places worth visiting.

    4. Storytelling! I’m a better writer because of instagram. Instagram captions are so short, sweet, and (potentially) dense with meaning that–though I am not a poet–I have found something like the discipline of poetry writing in this online space. Every word counts, and I relish the challenge of saying in a sentence or two more than seems possible with so few words.

  22. Elisabeth

    Keep wrestling with this giant! I am praying we all find ways to redeem it as it is such a prevalent part of our culture. Abstaining for seasons and being vocal about the dangers can act as guard rails for our community who want to keep offering our lives as living sacrifices and yielding our hearts more fully to Christ. It’s a crazy world we live in. Modern inventions have often disrupted communities and threatened to consume attentions and affections. But they can also be redeemed by those who stay. Love this honesty. Thanks for writing!

  23. Mark Mohrlang

    Andy Crouch’s “The Tech-Wise Family” is good food for thought around many of these issues.  Practical without being “preachy” – I recommend it.

  24. Tess Cox

    @tesscox

    You know, this resonates with me.

    I gave up TV for a year one time to force myself to spend time with real people.

    I’m single. Hard working. Value my time with friends and family.

    But most of the time I’m alone.

    alone.

    And as tempted as I am to delete Facebook, I believe somehow that my loneliness would deepen if I let it go.

    It connects me to my spiritual and artistic community in ways I don’t have the time, energy, and resources to stay engaged with in any other way.

    I wish it weren’t so. But sometimes it’s simply a lifeline to other real humans. I’m a writer, a cook, a traveler, and a teacher. I love Jesus. But the fact remains

    I’m alone.

    AP, one of these days I’m going to make it to Hutchmoot and be a real girl. But for now, I still feel invisible except when I’m on Facebook. Thank you, brother for your honesty and wisdom.

  25. Kristin Kjorlaug

    @kristinkjorlaug

    “It asks more of me than I can give.” That is exactly what I’ve been feeling with social media. And it’s much harder to actually hear what God is asking me to give…It’s hard to hear God period. Distracted. I’m glad you shared.

  26. Ted Miller

    It’s hard to turn a master into a servant again, especially when it’s empowered by the deadly sins of envy and pride under the guise of righteous behavior. I wish Bunyan were alive to give creative names for some of these vices we all struggle with–he had a penchant for that.

  27. Theresa

    After I lost my husband to cancer three years ago, I ditched TV because it delivered news and “entertainment” that did not uplift or encourage. It seemed only to dull the mind. FB began as a free and wonderful means of staying connected with my children as they went off to college. And it was lovely to connect with friends from my past. But it morphed into a platform for the latest rant or political issue, and what someone chose to wear that day or what their gym workout consisted of. I disconnected from FB early this year. I could feel that TV and  FB were not healthy for me, and I knew I was wasting far too much precious time on them. I have tried hard to be more present in the moment. But in our society it is almost impossible to stay informed of even church and community activities without today’s social media. I struggle daily with how to balance. But I know I give less time to my Father with each moment I spend on social media and entertainment. Thank you for calling attention to this challenge we all face.

  28. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Wendell Berry’s comment on writing poetry is the same with times of true worship. The moment my focus goes from God to my own feelings, I’ve lost my grip on the worship. The moment I am Instagramming about this or that family scenario, I’m out of the family scene.

    This is why it is probably best to take photos quickly (if we take them at all) and post anything later after consideration.

    I read somewhere that the average person checks their phone 150 times a day. I kept track of myself the last few days and I’m at at about 6-7, which seems inordinate to me.

    A steady diet of Instagram, Facebook, News is bad on many levels. 1. Short snippets of information – bad for long, slow, rational thought processes. 2. A nearly constant stream of negativity – bad for a God-trusting view of the world. 3. If Facebook gets into my consciousness before I read any Bible or anything spiritual, it’s does not usually bode well for my attitude.

    That said, I do like seeing beautiful pictures of people traveling in far-off places, especially if they are well done. I am dead sick of all political opinions, all faffing about the world ending because so-and-so was president, or that so-and-so is president.

  29. Matthew Cyr

    @matthewcyr

    Stay strong in that fight, Andrew! I briefly flirted with Facebook when it first became the- thing- to- do, and dropped it pretty quickly after. As you said, it demands more than I’m willing to give. It’s true that I miss out on things here and there, or am the last to know (am I right that the announcement that this year’s Hutchmoot sessions had been posted went out only via social media? Eh?) I’ve always felt what I’m getting back is far more than what I’m losing. Whenever I see someone drop out of a meaningful moment to record or even upload it, I have a gut reaction of disgust and pity. It renews my belief I was right to leave all that behind. And the comparison game is too easy to fall into as it is without “like” counting. I also put my phone on the counter when I get home, on vibrate, and for the most part I leave it there. Often I miss people’s calls; so far they’ve survived and so have I.
    It’s true that I don’t have people collaborating on projects that I’m responsible for promoting so they can be fairly compensated. I admit that I’d never considered that facet of social media before, the responsibility to take care of other people by getting the word out. Maybe someday enough of us will opt out of social media, and rely on other means of finding out about worthwhile art coming our way, that social media will no longer be a “have to” for promoting books and shows? I know it makes things easy, but we all did somehow find and enjoy music and books before Facebook came along. Didn’t we?

  30. Jonathan Rogers

    @jonathanrogers

    Inspired by this post, I deleted social media from my phone earlier this week. I’ve been sweating and shaking ever since. Just kidding. I’ve been doing fine. I’ve looked at Facebook while at my desk–still more than I ought to, but at least I’m not also looking at Facebook while waiting in line, or driving, or using a chainsaw. I believe it is good for me to be on social media less, and I believe it would be good for everybody else if they were on social media less…and yet I do depend on social media for my living. Matthew Cyr mentioned that we found music and books before social media came along. I know where I found music before social media: on Top 40 radio stations. My Wilderking books were published before social media was invented. Did people find them? Yes. About two dozen people found them. The books that were getting found by large numbers of people were the books that had all the marketing machinery of the publishing industry behind them. That’s still true, of course. Beyonce is still selling more records than AP (I think). But social media has made it possible for artists to find a viable audience even without the Beyonce-making machine. And I have very much enjoyed finding out about new music from people I know (I guess I should say “know”) rather than from the people who run the big machinery. I don’t want to sound naive. In many ways, social media is just a way of bringing the marketing machine to bear in frighteningly invasive ways.

    All that to say, like AP, I’m deeply ambivalent about social media. The less I’m on social media, the better for me. The less you’re on it, the better for you. But if everybody gets off social media, I’m probably looking for a new job.

  31. Terrence D

    @terrence

    We don’t serve a virtual Savior and we don’t have virtual friendships. There is a reason that Immanuel is the more than simply the last ditch effort of a desperate deity seeking the salvation of his creation; it is a recasting of creation itself, where creation becomes recursively embedded with God and God enters creation as creature. It is rightly the single most profound revelation of Christianity and occupied the thoughts and spirits of all Christendom for seven millennia. Sociological research suggests that social media creates the illusion of relationship by relying on human cognition to provide the framework and human emotion to provide the affective to give the similuation legs. Does anyone who puts on a VR headset really believe they are in Skyrim even when they are frightened and nauseated by the things their brain is processing? Or put another way, are we really willing to cede the doctrines of embodied spirits and inspirited bodies in favor of a Matrix creation?

    But here is a concrete example: Ironically, I met a young woman and here husband while playing an MMO and over a four year period became what would normally be described as a close friend; close enough to see them as children and them to see me as a father. Earlier this year, I flew them out to home and put them up at a nearby hotel because I wanted to actually meet them. We had a lovely visit and took a short excursion overnight to Sedona, a resort city nearby. THe morning of our departure from Sedona, it was misty on damp and as I loaded the car, the young woman come out with their luggage and I hugged her and she, me. It was at that moment that she realized she was precisely what I told her she was for years and I realized I was right to have told her. She was my daughter and I was her father. All the niggling doubts about what was real, right, and true were overwhelmed by the presence of the Presence that is the incarnate Christ. This only comes through the laying on of hands. I am not discounting the reality of long distance relationships, but I will suggest this; if you meet Christ for the first time at the white thron judgement, what a tragic waste of a life. Job says it best: previously I heard of you, but now I have seen you with my eyes.

  32. Matthew Cyr

    @matthewcyr

    @jonathanrogers I admit, I mostly found music from radio stations and marketing machinery too. But that was before the Rabbit Room as well as social media. In the last year (since about Hutchmoot I guess) I’ve become more involved in the RR than previously, and I’ve discovered – and purchased – more new music in that year than in the ten before it. It’s happening with books too, and its happening without my depending on social media. But then I suppose as one of the two dozen who found Wilderking in its day, I could be just an anomaly.

    I do want to make clear I wasn’t and am not condemning anyone for their struggles with social media – I’m not abstaining because I’m strangely impervious to the seduction of mobile technology. Just the opposite. I know that the technology is specifically engineered to take over my life in an unhealthy way, to NOT keep to its proper place and stay balanced. For instance, I have learned and relearned (over and over) that I cannot put a game of any kind on a mobile device I own. “I’m sick with the flu and need a distraction,” I tell myself, “it won’t become a problem this time.” And a couple months later I’m sucked in, and it’s undeniably a problem. Until I delete it, and get free, and can live in the real world again for a while.

    I guess that’s my beef with things like Instagram and Facebook – they’re maybe not inherently evil, but inherently dangerous – like a power saw that didn’t come with a protective guard. It’s useful, until the day your fingers are riding in a ziplock full of ice. These apps will be a continuous struggle as long as we use them because their creators intended and designed them to take a level of use in life that we’re trying to hold back from.

    I suppose I’m starting to think of the Rabbit Room as “social media done right.” You can connect with people, and find what’s out there that you want to find, but it doesn’t coerce you to check it every twenty seconds, or take your eyes off of a sunset or your daughter’s wedding to appease it.

  33. Lisa Gibson

    I struggle with this regularly! Not only are we not present with our families in these moments but you’re right about needing to share all the things we are up to seems kind of strange if you think about it. I am not in a career that social media helps me in any way but am still on it ALL the time. Sometimes, when we are on a family trip, I get upset with me husband who is busy scrolling through, and then an hour later, it’s me doing it. You wonder at times what we did before this! Were we bored? I dought it! We now just expect our families to hit the “pause” button while we share. And like you said, it does kill the moments.. This is a lot to consider!

  34. Meredith B.

    This is a very thoughtful article and it echoes a lot of my concerns too. The major thing I have seen in my soul is the temptation to self-marketing. We are actually curating an image of ourselves and I think it can really be damaging to our relationship with God.

  35. Marcia

    Excellent article. After having a Facebook account in order to generate traffic to my website, APearlofGreatValue.org, I finally was compelled to delete it due to privacy concerns and the time it stole from me. I have not regretted the decision, but it’s difficult to bring in readers to my website with no social media accounts. Word of mouth has been helpful and I remain thankful for the audience the Lord has given me–it may be small, but it’s my sphere of influence and there’s nothing wrong with that. Thank you for sharing from your heart.

  36. Allison Burkhard

    Thank you for this wonderful post. Very thought-provoking. I recently went on a road trip with my dad and I was about to take pictures at one place to post them on Facebook later. But I started realizing that it would take me out of the moment because I would then be concerned about getting the picture just right, what I should say about it on Facebook, etc. For me, journaling is an excellent way to remember and process through experiences. Whether it’s a scene in nature or a interaction with a person, writing it out helps me to think through what exactly it was that affected me during that experience. When I’m on vacation, I can relish the joy and freedom of being in the present and store up memories so that I can describe them later in my journal. And aftewards, I can relate them to other people more deeply through conversations instead of a quick, less personal post on Facebook. I think this way of recording experiences also has the potential to strengthen the use of imagination since I end up picturing the experience as I write and later on, the person I describe it to has to also picture it in their mind.

  37. Michelle Laird

    I’ve been wrestling through the same and so appreciate your thoughts and 4 points about it, especially this – In that spirit, I’d say this: “When you’re experiencing something beautiful, you can’t stop and take a picture of it to share with everybody else. As soon as that happens, you’re not experiencing something beautiful. You’re doing something else.” Yes! Yes! Yes! I think even the act of delaying the post of a photo until another day is wise and a way to stay present.

  38. Melody Lynne

    I’m so thankful for this article. I’ve been struggling with a Facebook addiction for 10 years and these thoughts convinced me to delete the app off my phone and only get on once a month on my computer to post an update. Now I have more time to read the books on my shelf and spend time with my family. I have been having real, focused conversations with friends and enjoying being in the present. I am not saying everyone should do what I have done, but for myself it has been a huge victory.

  39. Jeff

    You should give Cal Newport’s tedTalk a listen. It echoes what you are saying. His blog is also worth a read. I’ve been convicted of this lately, of always being connected & it’s unhealthy nature. Thanks for the article.

    https://youtu.be/3E7hkPZ-HTk

  40. Jade

    Andrew, thanks for writing from your heart. I learn from you constantly, my friend. I guess I’ll have to ask your girls to show me pictures from your European adventure! ☺️

If you have a Rabbit Room account, log in here to comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.