Escape Artist: On Email, Social Media, and the Hope of Something Better

Every semester my students and I discuss social media at least once, no matter what the course topic might be. It is always interesting to observe their conflicting points of view regarding the use of social media by themselves and their peers. They know they have bad habits, but can’t seem to shake them. In this, we are the same.

My major dysfunctional social media habit stems from my major dysfunctional life habit: worry. And when I worry, I check my email and social media accounts frantically, hoping that some message from someone will miraculously make me feel better, will take away my current feeling of anxiety or dread or sadness. This is despite the fact that email and social media almost always lead to more problems and greater frustration.

In this season of my life, I am practicing awareness of my actions and feelings as I search for a less aggressive and competitive, a far kinder and gentler way of living. Part of this means stepping away rather than ramping up, getting still rather than running faster.

One the ways I am doing this is through prayer, both practicing and asking for it. Most of the time I can do little more than think, “Help, please,” remembering the encouraging¬†words of writer Anne Lamott that “help” and “thank you” are the two essentials. Perhaps what is most encouraging is the certainty of answered prayer: I can feel greater ease and lightness despite life’s uncertainties, and I know that God has answered my prayers, the prayers of others for me, or both.

So, when I am feeling anxious about tomorrow or next semester or next year, I am trying to turn away from email and social media and toward the God who answers prayers, both mine and those who I am blessed to call brothers and sisters in Christ. I am in no way perfect–in fact, I often find myself checking my email despite knowing it is the wrong thing to do, and then asking for prayer after I’ve tried everything else. This, in turn, leads me to whisper the second essential prayer, “thank you,” thank You for Mercy, Grace, and a Love that soothes anxieties and replaces frantic desperation with abiding peace.

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