closed circuit (noun, Electricity). “a circuit without interruption, providing a continuous path through which a current can flow.” (dictionary.com)
When it comes to modern technology, a closed circuit is an incredibly useful thing. Closed circuits allow electricity to flow through the appliances we use every day, giving us light, heat/air conditioning, the wonders of washing machines, etc. But we don’t always want power pulsing through these appliances, burning out our lightbulbs, and raising our bills. So, we have off switches and power buttons. We have ways to open the circuits and give the electricity a rest–to manage the precious resource of energy.
In a similar way, social media allows ideas to flow from one person to another. It can become a closed circuit, connecting us as writers to our audiences without interruption. Social media provides a highway through which we can send encouragement and receive it in return; a pathway for us to share news and hear what others have to say; an ever-moving current of communication that can be incredibly useful. But if we neglect to turn it off, it can also burn us out and sap our resources. If we aren’t careful, our closed circuits can do us more harm than good.
Managing Our Social Media Habits:
As writers, we face a lot of pressure to build our social media presence consistently. We want to grow meaningful followings and make ourselves available to others. We also want to get our message out in an effective way. In order to achieve these goals, we might be tempted to spend hours and hours online. Slowly, we can fall into believing that a consistent online presence requires constant online activity.
The problem is that too much of anything is harmful, and this is especially true of social media. Allowing an uninterrupted flow of media turns a useful tool into a destructive mechanism that wears down the soul. Social media can become addicting, it can harm relationships, and it can damage our perception of ourselves and others. A continuous intake of other people’s opinions, controversy, and funny cat videos impacts the way we think even after we step away from the screen.
In order to use social media effectively, we have to find a balance between engaging and purposefully disconnecting. So how do we know where to draw the line and set our boundaries? How do we know when it’s time to turn off the switch and cut the current?
Here are three red flags I’ve found recently which warn me that I need to reevaluate my social media habits:
1: When my presence in the digital world prevents my engagement with daily realities.
After spending the summer trying to build my media platforms, I’ve noticed myself replacing day-to-day engagement with social media communication. I find myself instinctively reaching for my phone first thing in the morning or when I sit down to eat. Or wasting half an hour at a time scrolling through posts I don’t even fully process.
While I’m engaging in social media purely out of habit (or as a procrastination method), I lose hours of my day. I end up cutting out activities like reading or art, because I’ve simply run out of time. I miss moments with my family because I feel I have to comment on posts or reply to messages.
When these things start to occur regularly, rather than just once in a while, I know it’s time to cut back. One thing I’m trying to do is to limit myself to only checking social media in 5 minutes chunks, preferably at times when I can’t really do much else (such as standing in a long line at the grocery store). That, or I limit myself to only checking it once or twice a day.
The biggest reminder I give myself is that social media is just a footnote to life, not the other way around. While building relationships online can help us show love to people we’ll never meet in person, those relationships can’t take the place of the ones right here, right now. While we can use social media to help make a difference, that impact can’t replace the influence we have in person. Our day-to-day realities have to come first.
2: When the current I’m taking in changes my output from positive to negative.
When my social media habits become more time-consuming, I find myself getting stressed by everything I’m absorbing from media. Arguments, controversies, and the fears of others lay heavy on my shoulders and make me worried about things beyond my control. I find myself bothered by my inability to impact world events, and I feel like I’m not doing enough to help with all the various causes I see others advocating for daily.
And when I put away the phone, the worries persist. I begin to see negativity everywhere and forget to see beauty for all my pondering of the trials facing our society.
While it’s good to be aware of the problems around us, we shouldn’t let that become all we see. We can’t carry the weight of the world alone. If we’re trying to take in and take on every problem we see others facing on social media, we lose our ability to help in the ways we’re capable of.
Instead, we need to be actively engaged in our daily, present activities. Being tuned in to our daily lives first lets us bring a more authentic voice to our media platforms. Living in the present, rather than the digital world, gives us the perspective we need to be discerning in our intake of the messages bombarding us online. It helps us to find encouragement and kindness to share on days when our social media only sends us negativity.
3: When the closed circuit of media becomes a short circuit, cutting out of my path the things that recharge me.
I’m blessed to have many sources of wholesome messages on my media feeds. I follow people who consistently share content filled with hope, joy, and reminders of God’s love and holiness. Even so, my Facebook and Instagram feeds are also filled with content that’s negative, or even good but distracting. (Adorable dog videos anyone?)
When my social media habits replace the activities that recharge me, not even the good content is enough to justify the time I’m spending online. Taking pictures of nature to share on Instagram shouldn’t keep me from enjoying the beauty of God’s creation myself. Reading a friend’s perspective on a Bible verse is wonderful; however, it shouldn’t replace my personal Bible study.
Every moment of quiet doesn’t need to be filled with the noise of other’s thoughts, and if we fill all our quiet time with social media, we rob ourselves of the chance for rest.
Opening the Social Media Circuit:
At the end of the day, the most important part of managing our social media habits is being willing to turn it off and walk away. To disconnect totally and leave the issues we’re dealing with on media on our media. Just as turning off lights in rooms we’re not in helps conserve energy, purposefully disconnecting from social media helps us manage our resources of time and energy well. While we do need to connect with our audiences and be aware of events in the world, we don’t need a continuous, uninterrupted flow of digital input.
So shut down the app. Turn off the notifications. Give yourself permission to make your audience wait a day for another reply.
And finally, rather than letting our minds be ruled by social media, may we always be intentional about where we let our thoughts dwell.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.” –Philippians 4:8
Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both. (You can connect with her on Instagram @karleyconklin )