How To Best Love Those On A Social Media Break

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Lent is such an interesting time of year and I’m not just saying that because Snickers are shaped like eggs until Easter–which is awesome and the best way to eat a Snickers. Whether especially religious or not, a lot of people see Lent as an opportunity to give up some of their comforts, treats or time-suckers in an effort to understand the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross(or, ya know, to lose weight or add new momentum to New Year’s Resolutions). Whatever the reason, Lent is a season where a lot of us are setting something down for forty whole days.

One of the most common things I’ve seen this year is people giving up social media. That can be a HUGE thing for some people–especially those that are really reliant on it for their validation, inclusion and encouragement. Taking a break from social media for any duration of time is so healthy, but sometimes it can lead our fasting friends to feeling insecure and isolated. So here are some tips for those of us still posting, commenting and double-tapping through Easter to best love our social media-break-taking friends.

1. Send spontaneous texts of affirmation. Being on social media is often a factor in people feeling self-conscious or jealous of other people. Interestingly enough though, when someone who is usually an active SM user takes a break, the void left by not getting that “{Insert name here} likes this” notification can make someone feel really down and as if no one really likes them. It’s silly that we feel validated by those alerts to begin with, I KNOW, but! It’s the time we live in, folks. Try to send your friend a random text reminding them of some of their best traits, how God views them or how grateful you are for them. It will mean WAY more than a double-tap ever did and will help them be reminded that they are loved and for specific reasons by a good friend.

2. Don’t let them feel like they’re missing out on things…and things. Taking mindless scrolling out of our day-to-day lives can sometimes have the negative effect commonly called FOMO(fear of missing out). Suddenly we don’t know what our casual acquaintances, ex-classmates and uncles are up to and it feels weird and what if they’re all together having the best time and eating sweet potato fries and establishing inside jokes and our best friends are there too and Mindy Kaling showed up with slurpees for everyone and we would have gone if only we’d known and we would have known if only we were on social media! Seems kind of ridiculous, I know. And sometimes actually seeing whatever those we’re close to are up to fosters worse FOMO than not seeing it! But there’s a weird level of isolation and exclusion that comes along with not being able to see what everyone we know is doing at any given moment by a simple finger swipe. Keep your friends in the loop! Invite them out for phone-free coffee, a movie or shoot! A slurpee sounds good right about now. They’ll be way less worried about what they’re missing out on online if they feel like the directly-in-front of them is a place worth being.

3. Put down your phone. One of the most frustrating things that can happen during a social media break is the tendency to mindlessly unlock our phones and stare at a social-media-app-less home screen. It can make someone feel dissatisfied, discouraged and kinda dumb. Try not to rub your plentiful apps or social media presence in your friends faces when you’re with them. If they can go 40 days, you can go the duration of a meal. They don’t get to see the snaps and tweets of what’s going in your life right now–take the opportunity to be present with them and catch someone up on your life who is guaranteed to not respond with “yeah, I know, I saw your post.”

4. Suggest other apps. Do I think someone fasting from social media should replace that time by tinkering with other things on their phones? Not really. But I do think that sometimes you’re by yourself waiting to get your eyebrows waxed and you want to just kill a little time and you have no interest in reading about a Kardashian in the People magazine provided. I’m a real big fan of Flipboard and the Pocket app, but there are other great apps out there for those of us with a tendency to have our phones glued to our hands. Suggest some to your friend, or even throwback to 2012 and both download Draw Something. That app ruled and will be a treat for you both, TRUST ME.

5. Establish a need-to-know-basis deal. Your friend doesn’t need to know 99% of what’s happening online during the next 40 days. Literally none of us do. But they do need to feel like if something BIG happens that they’ll be told. Make sure they know that if any exes gain weight, loved ones get jobs or ice bucket challenges return(save us all) that you’ll give them a heads-up. Some of that FOMO will disappear if they have someone they trust giving them the actual useful information the internet can contain.

6. Be an encouragement to what they’re doing, not a hindrance. People don’t give up social media because it’s easy and something they have a casual relationship with. Oftentimes the people that give up social media are the ones that feel they have an unhealthy obsession with it and they want to address that. Is a social media addiction as damaging as alcoholism? Nope. But your friend is taking their sabbatical for a reason that’s important to them, so show some respect and don’t tempt them or make them feel silly. Be encouraging and understanding and affirmative. Just be a real-life, in-the-flesh, supportive friend who goes beyond the digital embrace of a re-tweet and into the depths of an actual relationship.

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