For the past few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about distractions. Specifically, I’ve been pondering what distracts me from my primary goals. When I hone in on exactly what I’m doing here, it all boils down to two main goals:
- I want to live my life in such a way as to honor, obey, and glorify God.
- I want to raise my kids to do #1.
That might sound really lofty and all, but the fact is that life still happens each and every day. Sometimes I am feeling down, or sick, or cranky, or bored, or just plain distracted. There are dozens of things/people/activities that vie for my attention all day long, and I tend to lose focus of those goals a lot. [And have I mentioned that my brain is totally ADD? Seriously, sometimes all it takes is the breeze carrying a certain song to my ears, and before I know it I’ve Googled the song lyrics, which led me to YouTube and it’s related content… yada yada yada 20 minutes later I somehow find myself putting a Richard Simmons exercise video into my Amazon cart (don’t ask).]
YouTube and Amazon aside, plenty of those distractions are pretty important, which often leaves me wondering how to figure it all out. How do we live for Christ without neglecting all of the other daily — albeit worldly — obligations? Or, as Christians have asked for generations: How do we live in this world but not be of it?
I have way more questions than answers, especially when it comes to handling all those things that divert my focus, but I’m working on it. To that end, a few weeks ago I downloaded an extension for my web browser, to prevent me from wasting my day away on something that has become a significant distraction for me: social media. That’s right: I couldn’t manage my free time well enough on my own and had to essentially hire an electronic babysitter.
Leechblock bills itself as a simple productivity tool. Enable it in Firefox, set a few parameters, and then go about your business. If you’re like me, before you know it you’ll find yourself meandering into social media quicksand without even intending to. When I set it up, I gave myself 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon to read how many people have caught the flu and see what everyone’s having for dinner. And then, all of the sudden, I see this:
More than once over the past two months, I found myself cursing the computer when that screen popped up. Never fear, I’d think, I’ll just switch to one of the other two browsers I have installed! OH WAIT, I expected myself to do that and installed similar extensions — with similar restrictions — in Chrome and Safari as well. “How about Twitter?” my oh-so-supportive husband suggested after I lamented my momentary boredom one day. “Oh yeah, I could tweet!” I initially responded. “But no, I blocked that too.” 🙁
Uggg… my pre-planning really sucks sometimes.
You’d think an hour a day would be fine for social media, right? It’s not like I don’t have plenty of other things to do, yet I find myself gravitating toward mindless Facebook trolling anytime I need to mentally check out. And I’ve enjoyed that escape more often then I’d like to admit.
Hey now, social media isn’t all bad! No, it’s not. But, as a friend once shared me: “When you choose to add something in your life, something else will suffer.” I find this to be especially true for my distraction-prone brain. That same friend decided to try a one-month fast from social media, in order to gauge how it had affected her life. Here’s what she said at the end of the fast:
“For me what suffered most was my time management, my mental focus, my home, and my family. It affected far more than I was aware. Those lost minutes and little distractions add up. After being off for a month, Facebook has now become a bit like candy to me… when you eat good, nutritious food for a while, the candy becomes less tempting and you remember how you felt like crap after you ate it. That is exactly how I felt when I logged in for the first time last night. My ten minutes of Facebook perusing easily became thirty as my kids were waiting around for me to play a game with them. I lost track of the minutes. Do I really want to introduce that back in my life?”
Living so far away from most of my family and friends, I’m not ready to give it up completely, and nor do I see the need for me to do so. Over the past year I’ve found out some pretty important news through social media. For example, a friend had her first grandchild… one of my soccer players got a full scholarship to Harvard… a favorite teacher died. As I recall these events, I keep thinking I’ll miss stuff due to my now less-frequent Facebook check-ins and lack of Twitter scrolls. We had some family here visiting this week and already I’ve felt a bit out of the loop when someone said, “Hey, did you see what so-and-so did last night?”
No, I didn’t, actually…
But before I could worry about what I missed, I was given a play-by-play explanation. That’s the funny thing about social media: enough of us are active in social media so that the most important updates (and sometimes the other stuff too) are talked about both online and off. Sure, I may not catch what you had for dinner or that you wore two different shoes to work on accident (you know who you are), but I definitely will catch the big stuff. And, I’m a ton more focused in the process! 🙂
[This was originally posted at wendywillard.com on January 11, 2014.]
How about you? Anyone else feeling the need to pull back a bit to avoid the social media quicksand? How are you juggling it all?
One final note for anyone who, like me, uses Facebook messages more than email for social contact: I downloaded an app (on my laptop) specifically for Facebook Messenger. It does not provide access to my Facebook timeline, only messages. Now I can send and respond to messages without actually opening Facebook (which used to be open pretty much anytime I was on my computer).