As a first-time author, I was a slave to Facebook and Instagram. I’d gotten the dream book deal, but now I craved the sales numbers and all her influencer glory. But in this modern age, glory isn’t fully yours until you reach those 10,000 social media followers. Yes, 10,000 followers is the number pushed these days. It marks success or failure depending on whether your platform falls to the left or right of this numerical pinnacle. For me, sitting at a measly 1500 followers, I began to lose sight of a dream come true. My book was a vulnerable, grace-filled story about my journey through loneliness. It was touching lives and changing hearts. Yet, it’s as if these people who were impacted weren’t enough. I still needed another 8500 followers to validate my book’s worth.
But, in truth, I needed those 8500 followers to validate my worth. After another year of signing up for author follow loops, following people just to get their follow back, I gained a solid 1200 followers. Still, that wasn’t 10,000. That wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough.
In a day and age when being a social media influencer is the ultimate career dream, is it fair to ask who we are away from the screen?
Let’s dive into 3 ways to recognize when the screen becomes who we are:
1. Screens are your “first touch.”
I played volleyball all four years of high school, and one crucial aspect of this sport is the first touch. Since your team only has three touches on the ball before it’s sent over the net to the opponent, the first point of contact is crucial because it sets the stage for how aggressive you can be with the third and final touch. If you dig the ball or receive the serve well–getting in front of the ball, angling your arms towards the setter, etc.–you’ve created an offensive attack. A healthy first touch means the setter has the opportunity to get the ball in perfect position for a middle or outside hitter to spike the ball rather than simply bump it over the net. A slow, steady bump over the net allows the opponent plenty of time to create a perfect first touch while a spike increases the chances of throwing off the other team’s chances of reaching the ball, period.
Just like volleyball, our first touch each day is crucial. Ask yourself: when I get out of bed, what’s the first thing I pick up? Is it my glass of water on the nightstand? My phone? My Bible? Sure, I understand most of us grab our phones to turn off the alarm, but what is it that first grabs your attention for the day? If it’s your phone, you’ve likely allowed your day and all it holds to be dictated by the emails you did or didn’t receive, the texts you don’t want to answer but should, or the social media likes that weren’t as many as you’d hoped.
I encourage your first touch to be a combination of three things: the warm aesthetic drink that perks you up, a daily vitamin, and God’s Word. When your first touch of the day feeds both body and soul with good things, it’s easier to withstand the subtle storms of doubt and self-consciousness social media can throw your way. After all, when the day is done and your social media followers are indulging in something else, you have to sit with who you are, and where your priorities lie, apart from the screen.
Choose your first touch wisely.
2. Screens hold all your attention.
I didn’t realize how much I was consumed by gaining social media followers and checking Amazon book reviews until my husband was chatting with me about his day and when silence arose because it was my turn to talk, I had no clue what to say. Why? Because I was disengaged from the human being in front of me, distracted and engrossed with a chipped, cracked electronic device.
Instead of giving my attention to the man who surprises me with Starbucks, sits with me as I binge watch Pearl Harbor, and has been my biggest supporter through all my writing endeavors, I chose the phone. Speaking candidly, it would have been one thing if I had truly cared about the people on the screen, if I was engaging in encouraging conversation, sending messages of hope and love, commenting on others’ posts when they need encouragement or chunks of confetti. But I didn’t view my social media followers as people. They were just numbers that were never enough. Meanwhile, my husband–a real, live human being who had never been just a number to me–couldn’t hold my attention for thirty seconds.
Can you relate? How often do you get so caught up in the fog of social media that you forget where you are, who you’re with, what you’re supposed to be saying and doing? What about those social media followers who are your true cheerleaders? I believe they deserve to take up space in our lives as names, not numbers, as faces, not followers. We become so disconnected from real life and yet we want to show up on our social media platform and push this shallow concept of “living our best life”. What life are we truly living apart from the screen? Who are we when the battery dies and we can’t find the charger? What matters when we can’t feed our brains the latest stats on our platforms?
Choose what holds your attention wisely.
3. Screens are #1 on your packing list.
When I speak of packing, I’m not talking about prepping for a weekend business trip or long vacation getaway. I’m talking about the list of things we always bring with us each time we leave the house. Since my husband is the forgetter in this relationship, I have a short checklist I rattle off to him before he heads out for work: Phone? Wallet? Keys? Check, check, check, and he’s out the door! How often do we walk out of the house with our phone, get in the car, then realize we don’t even have the keys to kickstart the ignition? I know I do this on a regular basis.
It’s crucial to process what’s on your packing list. What are the three things you feel you need all throughout the day, even when you’re away from home? Obviously, you need the keys to turn on the car. You need the wallet in case you need to make a purchase. And yes, you need the phone in case there’s an emergency. But is that why you need your phone? What kind of precedent have we set for the purpose of our phones? Is it to have it on us in case there’s a flat tire or because we want to have our daily chat with Mom while we’re out and about? Or is it because we just have to see how that post is doing at each red light?
While I don’t think it’s wise to leave the house without your phone for crucial matters, I have a small suggestion for you that was life-changing for me: when you’re out and about with friends and family and someone else has a phone for emergencies, leave yours at home. My husband and I love to do late-night dessert runs, whether we’re craving a slushie from Sonic or an ice cream from Chick-fil-A. Since I’m with him and he has his phone–and this is an excursion where I won’t ever be separated from him–I leave my phone at home. This is a simple, short practice that allows me to fully engage with my handsome best bud without my phone threatening to steal my attention.
Choose what’s on your packing list–and why it’s on your packing list–wisely.
Screens are unavoidable in today’s technological world, so I’m not asking that you divorce yourself from your phone or computer. Instead, I encourage you to assess the soul value you place on your screen and social media numbers. Discover simple ways to separate yourself from the lifeless hustle these platforms demand, and instead, allow the truth of God’s love and the warmth of your loved ones to fill up your day.
Photo Credit: ©Courtney Clayton/Unsplash
Peyton Garland is an author and coffee shop hopper who loves connecting people to a grace much bigger than expected. Her debut book, Not So by Myself, was promoted by Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino and Endorsed by TED Talk speaker and creator of the More Love Letters Movement, Hannah Brencher. She lives in Colorado with her husband, Josh, and their two gremlin dogs, Alfie and Daisy.