How to Live Quietly in a Noisy World by John Miller
How do you live quietly in a world full of noise?
The people I respect the most use social media the least. Unless it’s a part of their job, my friends who making the largest impacts on the world around them, rarely tweet, insta, or update their status. I, #tbh, can find myself clinging to social media like it’s my only time with other people. Confession: At times my Chrome browser has seven tabs open and four of them are Facebook. I get lost in the noise!
That’s what social media is, you know. It’s noise. It’s a lot of people you know saying a lot of things loudly. Whatever we think, we can post. That doesn’t mean we should post our thought trains, but we do. And we soak up the thoughts of others. And I think it's killing us.
Sit down with anyone who has push notification sent to their phones you'll never see their undivided attention. Coffee shop conversations include breaks for texts and checking new likes. Some relationships I've abandoned because I know that I'll never get eye-contact, unless I posted an eye-selfie on Instagram.
Noise, noise, noise.
There is an addicting whirlwind of activity online and we’re trading our real life, flesh and blood experiences for it. We’re selling our deep relationships for likes, favorites, and retweets. It’s not a good bargain, but nobody can stop us from doing it—except ourselves.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, in a world without the internet, and said, “…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
It’s time for us to “live quietly.” We may not all work with our hands, but we can all be present with the things physically around us. We can stop getting our self-worth from reactions to our online posts. I have a friend who deletes any of her Instagram posts if it doesn’t get 100 likes, ensuring only her best photos are on display long term. She’s worth so much more than that!
Let's reclaim ourselves. I recommend dampening the noise of social media, and here are a few ideas on how to do it:
Take a Social Media Fast
If you’re like me you’ve got apps for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I have apps that tell me when someone follows or unfollows me. Do you know how thought-consuming it is to be notified whenever someone unfollows you? Especially when it’s someone you know. It gets under my skin, like “Why don't they like me anymore? Don’t they think my babies are cute? Are they just jealous of me and can’t stand to see my life being so awesome?” Keeping up with the posts of others is no longer a hobby, it has become a way of life. Not being on social media feels like not breathing at times. It’s painful because I want to be where everyone is hanging out, and all my friends are together online without me.
In our ambition to live quietly, try a social media fast. Delete your apps for an extended period of time, like a week or a month, and don’t let yourself check them any other way. Many of my friends have taken twenty-one days away from Facebook and been freed from the addiction! The time away has helped them slow down their pace, be present where they are, and learn that the world doesn’t stop spinning without reading your friends favorite buzzfeed articles. You don’t need to read “21 totally hilarious fails with cats.” You’ll be fine.
Get some people around you and take a social media fast together. It’ll help your “Fear of Missing Out” if you know that other people will be hanging out in the real world with you and skipping the media party. I’ve rarely seen people stick to big commitments alone. Tell your spouse, significant other, best friends to support you in this. Better idea, ask them to join you in the purge.
Set up a Social Media Sabbath
When you’re not fasting (either you just finished or you knew it’d be too hard and you wouldn’t stick to it) set up a regular day when you don’t check social media. For instance, if your day off is on Saturdays, why not consider muting all media notifications and spending more time being quiet and present with those around you. Escape the noise of Facebook and read. Try writing. Watch a movie and actually understand what’s happening the whole time. Open yourself up regularly for deeper thinking and interactions.
Even if you can’t do a full day, or as a way of supplementing your full day off, try setting yourself hours when you are not going to check social media. Maybe your mornings stress you out because you log onto your phone and the world has been running full speed without you and you feel like you need to catch up. Make those mornings a sacred, quiet time and don’t open your apps until lunch. Or if you get home from work at 5:30 and your kids go to bed at 8:30, take a 3 hour mini-sabbath so you can focus on what’s most important right in front of you. Investing in those around you reaps more benefits than investing in your online profile. You don’t need to Instagram in real time. Post the picture of your dog cuddling your toddler when they go to sleep. We’ll all still be here.
Gut Check: I don’t want to teach my kids they only get to play with dad when he’s not looking at his phone. My kids should know they beat Facebook every time. They are more important than any tweet. They won’t learn that if I’m not intentional to leave my phone down and give them my attention. If you use social media for work, consider a service like HooteSuite or Crowdfire to schedule out your posts for that day so you can be more quiet.
If I'm going to learn how to live more simply this year, I need to learn to live quietly, too. The people who accomplish the most are often on social media the least. Our social media isn’t bad, as long as it isn’t our life. We cannot live in the noise all day long. If we want to win the respect of others, we have to be present with our work, invest in those around us, and spend more time in the quietness of now.
This is part 4 of a series on 1 Thessalonians.