By: Alyssa Spang
“What would you do if they developed houses on this land?” I recently asked my sister.
“I don’t know—have a protest or something.”
Beside my parents’ house, there is an innocuous patchwork of cornfields and a rugged central Pennsylvania farm path. In middle and high-school, I used to walk the path ruminating and reciting poetry—Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott.” Sometimes, I would pray. At night, when I was feeling particularly whimsical, I’d climb out the window onto the roof, scurry down a tree, and head to the cornfield as if I were absconding to some secret, undiscovered corner of nature.
Now, granted, I’m a romantic who will do the inconvenient thing (like climb a tree) in order to experience a bit more wonder. If you asked me what my childhood was like, I’d tell you I scampered around the countryside with tangled hair, bare feet, and scratches from climbing trees.
I have almost no memories of electronics from my childhood in the late 90’s.
To put this in perspective, I remember saving up points from cereal boxes to win a free computer game. For a while, some ridiculous Cap’n Crunch© game was the only computer game I played with my siblings, and I’m pretty sure we were only allowed to play it if the weather was miserable.
Now, I certainly don’t believe that technology is evil. I like the convenience of having an iPhone. On the other hand, I do notice I’ve acquired a certain attachment to my phone over the past few years.
There are thousands of insightful articles about phone addiction, fear of missing out, and the comparison culture. Even as I attempt to write this piece, the romantic in me demands, “Come up with something original to say.” Well, in the first place, is anything truly original? (Sorry, that’s a whole other conversation.) Secondly, despite zillions of witty pieces about excessive screen-time, I still observe people of all ages walking around with their corneas glued to their phones. Sometimes, I’m just as bad. They may as well start implanting computer chips into our brains.
The point is, I don’t believe we were intended to look at screens, particularly social media. In fact, I will go so far as to say that looking at social media or a phone screen too often is sinful. Now, before you get the town together and throw me in the stocks 1700’s style, let me explain.
Looking at social media is not unlike staring in a mirror. Please bear with me as I nerd out for a minute; I’m an English teacher. Nothing good comes from spending too much time in front of a mirror. Narcissus gazed at his own reflection so long he lost the will to live. The Evil Queen in Snow White attempted murder she was so wrapped up in her own image. Dorian Grey compromises morality and ethics to preserve his youthful good looks and literally rots from the inside out. Read these stories; they don’t pull any punches.
I don’t believe we were made to look at our own profiles—our own image or reflection of ourselves to the world—and weigh and value our place against our followers just like I don’t believe we were made to spend all our waking hours staring into the bathroom mirror. I have the sneaking suspicion that we were made for more.
So, spend a day, a week, or a month unplugged from social media. There truly is so much more to see than the small, shiny screen buzzing to life with endless notifications. We are more than our reflections.
Don’t tell people about your social media silence (or fast if you want the technical term). Don’t mention why you’re doing it. Of course, you can private message a few people who would panic if you didn’t answer right away. Use discernment. But don’t make you social media silence a big deal because the goal of this exercise is to turn your attention away from yourself.
We are in the middle of celebrating Easter, a time in the church calendar where we are meant to reflect on what Jesus gave up for us. Forgoing interacting with our online presence is a simple way to remember who Jesus is even as popular culture encourages us to focus inward.
Just log off.
While you’re logged off, find a piece of land you would have to protest if they developed it, your own ‘cornfield’ if you will. Climb a mountain, jump in a river, do whatever it is you crazy folks do these days that pushes you away from your own reflection and to something greater than yourself. Read a book. Get coffee with a friend and, shocker, leave your phone at home. Open your eyes to the wide world and thank God for the beauty all around you. That’s what we were created to do.
Photo Cred: Vladimir Kudinov
Alyssa Spang teaches English at Grace Prep High School in Pennsylvania. When she’s not hanging out with literary-minded high school students, she’s probably sitting at a coffee shop or wandering through the woods. Aside from her Creator, there are few things she loves more than freshly fallen snow. Her short story “Let me Tell You about Mount Vesuvius” was published in the collaborative novel Frozen by Fire. She hopes continue writing in the future.