Beyond the Symptoms: From decluttering to mindful social media consumption

It is time for some deep-cleaning.  Last week, I was an irritable mess.  My house was a mess.  I felt overwhelmed.  “Don’t ever buy anything ever again!”  I almost yelled at my husband.

“No milk?  No eggs?” he replied.

“You know what I mean.”  I snapped.

I threatened to throw everything in the house away.  (I’m starting to get Jesus’ use of hyperbole.  Just cut it off.  Throw it away. I get that.)

Somehow, in spite of my cranky self, I heard a whisper: “Jess, pay attention.  What is this really about?  Something needs to go.”

Be careful what you pray for.   We have all heard that, right?  You might get what you ask for.

In this season of Lent, I’ve been asking God “What needs to go?”  I’ve been asking “What is taking up unnecessary room, preventing my heart from opening fully?”  There are some big things.

I am realizing that I don’t need to be perfect.  But I also know that I need healing.

After a while, I realized that while I do need to de-clutter my house, I also have another problem.  On the surface it is not a big deal.  But I think there might be more to it.

I am someone who likes to know, and I like to know now.  If I am blow-drying my hair and I wonder “what is the deal with scarlet fever?”  I’ll stop what I’m doing, run down stairs, and look it up on the computer just because I can.  Then I’ll probably check my email, and then I’ll check Facebook.  Now that I have this blog, I’ll probably check out what is happening (or not happening) here.  What was I doing?  Oh, yeah.  I need to finish drying my hair!

I keep finding myself trying to remember what life was like before cell phones and smart phones and social media.  The first year that I owned a cell phone, I never bothered learning how to check my voice mail.  Why should people need to leave me a message where ever I am?  I can check my answering machine at home and get back to them later.  In fact, I never even turned on my cell phone unless I needed to make a phone call.  Why should people need to call me anywhere and anytime?  I’ll call them when I have time to talk.

What happened?  What happened to me?

I got into the habit of checking my email on my phone every time I entered my car.  Just because I could.  (Before I started the car!)  Is it time to put the kids to bed?  Let me check my phone and see if anyone sent me an email or a message somewhere.   It’s been 30 minutes.  What if someone is trying to say something to me now?

This is embarrassing.

The result of this mindless consumption is a fuzzy, buzzy feeling in my head.  I’m probably missing out on some of the things that are going on right in front of me and with the people that are most important to me.  It’s probably messing with my soul.

I realized this past week that this is part of the clutter that needs to go.   I need help.

Do I really need to know about scarlet fever right exactly now?  No.  I can finish drying my hair.  Even after my hair is dry, I probably don’t need to learn about scarlet fever.

I am not a particularly disciplined person.  I’ve been more go-with-the-flow.  This isn’t all bad.  But it isn’t all good.  The not-so-good part of go-with-the-flow is the failure to be mindful about what I am doing, like with this internet-consumption problem that I have.

 “We must stop eating!” cried Toad as he ate another.*   (I get you Toad.)

I didn’t think that there was anything I could do about it.  It’s just how I am.  But then I remembered the olden days with my old cell phone.  Nope, that’s not how I am.  This needing to be “available” all of the time is just a bad habit I’ve fallen into.

I didn’t think that I’d be able to change this habit.  But then I remembered that I’ve been flossing my teeth every day for two years now.  I used to make my hygienist cry.  But I got tired of feeling guilty every time I went to the dentist office.  Plus I wanted to take care of myself.  I can form new habits.

So I prayed: Help, God. Please, help me.

You know what?  I think he is.

I’m not quitting cold turkey.  That probably isn’t realistic in 2015.  We communicate so much online today.  And that is okay.  But I can set healthy boundaries for myself.

I don’t need to check my email because it is a habit.  I can set aside a few times a day to check my accounts and see if I should respond to anything.  I can be flexible about it.  But I want to be mindful about it.  What am I doing?  What am I not doing while I am online?  Are my priorities as they should be?  The number of people who respond to a facebook post will not change if I check more often.   The number of people who like or look at a blog post does not reflect on my worth as a person.  Ahh, that’s probably the deep-soul stuff that needs some attending to.

It’s just been a few days of mindful internet consumption.  It is already making a difference.  My brain is less fuzzy.  My heart feels less anxious.   I know that I have had some help.

Like my desperate need to declutter, this internet habit points to something deeper.  I am hopeful that following this mindful approach creates space for God to do God’s thing.  New and better things will follow.


*My favorite Frog and Toad story “Cookies” is in Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad TogetherImage Source

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