A few years ago, I lay on the couch, trying to read a book.
Strangely enough, it felt… hard.
My attention kept wandering away from the page, and I had to force it back to the words. I read the same paragraph several times without taking it in. My brain flitted like a butterfly, looking for somewhere to land, unable to rest on a single thought for more than a second or two.
Reflexively, I picked up my phone and began scrolling social media, my thumb swiping in short repetitive arcs. Snippets of information flashed up on the glowing screen, and disappeared just as quickly. A sentence here. A picture there. Emojis. GIFs.
It all felt so easy to digest. A shiny, lightweight distraction that required nothing from me. No effort. Zero mental energy.
Except after half an hour of this, I began to feel bored. There was nothing new here. Nothing I truly cared about. I wanted to stop scrolling.
But I found that I couldn’t.
I needed just one more swipe. Then just one more. Perhaps something interesting was about to pop up…
Time vanished down a murky sinkhole, and I looked up much later with a guilty start. I felt dreadful. My back ached from lying in the same petrified position. My eyes were burning. My brain buzzed and flickered like a broken fluorescent lightbulb, but I didn’t feel energized.
I felt depleted. Exhausted. Depressed, even. It was similar to the feeling I’d had as a kid when I binged on junk food at a party until I felt sick. Except this junk diet was a disorienting concoction of angry rants, controversial opinions, and perfect highlight reels that had me swinging between irritation, anxiety, and jealousy.
Tears stung my eyes. Yet again, I’d wasted an entire evening doing nothing. I was scrolling my life away, and worse… I wasn’t even enjoying it.
I was just as addicted as the hunched old lady sitting at a slot machine, pulling a lever over and over again, glowing fruits and dollar signs flashing on her glasses. Just one more. Just one more…
With brain imaging technology, scientists can now see exactly what happens inside our brains when we use social media. It’s been shown that when we receive online ‘likes,’ the reward center of the brain lights up. Over time this trains the brain to release rewarding chemicals such as dopamine. This is the same chemical reaction that occurs in addictions to drugs and gambling.
In fact, brain imaging research shows that our brain’s frontal cortex is affected in the same way by screen technologies as it is by cocaine.
Of course, not everybody is addicted to social media, the way I was. But even if we think our phone use is not having an affect on us, social media use is changing our brains.
I looked at the book lying on the floor where it had fallen, hours before. I’d always been a voracious reader. Even between the time-suck of work and kids, it was normal for me to read between fifty and sixty books a year. And yet in that moment it occurred to me that months had passed without me reading a single title. I would pick a book up, then restlessly put it down when I couldn’t focus on it.
This response is typical of people with high levels of internet use. In his Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, The Shallows – What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr writes that even as adults, “our brains adapt at the cellular level to whatever we happen to be doing.” When we spend our time surfing, and skimming, and scanning, in his words, we enter a state of “chronic distraction.”
Ooof. It occurred to me that social media was robbing me of the greatest passions and interests of my life. Reading. Writing. Spending time in the spiritual disciplines that were truly important to me – Bible reading and prayer. I’d lost my capacity for focus and contemplation.
As a mum of littles, I was desperate for rest, but I was settling for mindless distraction. And the “easy” escape of scrolling social media proved to be a mirage that brought no true restoration or peace.
The good news? All those years ago, God took me on a journey of detoxing from social media, learning new boundaries, and prioritising the true rest that would feed and restore my soul – daily time in his Word.
I would love to help other women find this freedom and soul-deep restoration for themselves. That’s why I’m speaking at the upcoming 2020 Christian Women’s Self Care Conference on the topic, “Stop the Scroll and Feed your Soul: How to break social media addiction and find rest in God’s presence.”
I’ll be taking you to the lowest point I reached in the throes of my social media addiction, what I learnt about its insidious affects in many areas of our lives, and most importantly, the exact set of steps I used to break free – and stay free, for the past five years and counting!
This online conference begins on the 9th November, and until then, you can hold your seat for FREE!
It features 55 anointed Christian bloggers, authors and speakers, on a variety of topics related to self-care. The free pass will give you access to each day’s speakers on the day of their release only. (I’m on Day One! Can you spot me?)
You also have the option to grab an all-access pass that will give you lifetime, unlimited access to all the speaker videos + downloadable workbooks that come with each session.
Until conference begins on the 9th November, you can get your all-access pass for $19. (After conference starts, these tickets will cost $29!) Oh, and there is also $200 worth of bonus printables and resources included with your all-access pass!
Meanwhile, I want to share a cute little DIY I made to help me interrupt my habit of picking up my phone.
Addictions are hard to break, guys. Even after years of having nothing more on my phone than utility and messaging apps, I still find myself picking up my phone when I’m bored and flipping from screen to screen, just in case I’ve received a new message.
One great strategy to use is a physical barrier.
I’ve started literally putting my phone in a box, with a set of Scripture cards on top. I can still hear it if it rings, but it helps me not pick it up mindlessly. Before I dig the phone out from underneath, I’m forging a new habit of first picking up a Scripture card and trying to memorise it. This simple pattern-interrupt really helps me to stay mindful and intentional about what I’m doing.
I specifically chose Scriptures to fight social media addiction – 50 powerful verses about self-control, mindset, victory in Christ, and putting God first.
Even better – I’ve included this pretty set of printable Scripture cards as part of the downloadable workbook included with my conference session! Make sure you claim yours by registering here!
DIY PHONE BOX
You will need:
A wooden craft box (available from most craft or hardware stores)
A sheet of patterned paper
Mod Podge for paper
Paint if desired
Optional: a second cardboard box to fit inside the first. The box your phone came in works well!
How to make it:
Place the wooden box on a sheet of patterned paper and trace around it. Cut out.
Brush a thin layer of Mod Podge over the back side of the patterned paper, using a paintbrush. Apply the paper onto the lid of the box, and smooth out any air bubbles. Leave to dry.
Paint the rim of the box in a contrasting color. (I used two coats of Pascol “Pink Princess” that I had leftover from something else.)
Brush a layer of Mod Podge over the top of the patterned paper to seal it. When it’s dry (about 15-20 minutes), repeat with another layer.
Print and cut out your Scripture cards. If desired, place them in a little box that fits inside the larger wooden box. (I used the box my phone came in for this! It fits perfectly.)
Place your phone at the bottom of the wooden box, with the Scripture card box sitting on top. Before picking up your phone, challenge yourself to pick up and memorise a Scripture card instead.
I hope you find this helpful!
In the comments, I’d love to hear your stories.
Have you ever struggled with social media addiction? Why do you think we’ve become so attached to our phones? If you’ve tried anything that’s worked for you, I would love to hear about it.
Until next time, wishing you a house full of sunshine!