A Step Back from Social Media

(This was originally a guest post that I wrote for my friend Ally’s blog...but I wanted to share on my own website too because I think this is at least somewhat of a relevant topic to many people who have social media accounts these days):

Hi I’m Janie for any newbies out there! Few things about me before I get to the good juicy stuff below:

1.    I’m a 22 year old nutrition student and aspiring wannabe food blogger.

2.    I can do the worm with my eyebrows.

3.    I’m the baby in a family of 5.

4.    I enjoy walks outside, bookstores, eating yummy food, and visiting cute coffee shops.

5.    I really love Jesus but I want to love him more than I do.

When Ally asked me to write something on what God’s been teaching me recently, I didn’t know what to share at first, and that lasted for a couple weeks honestly. I get asked often by family and friends what God’s teaching me. It seems so simple, but most of the time I’m really challenged with awareness of what God’s putting on my heart. Anyone else struggle with that? Yes? No? Maybe? 

After pondering for awhile and trying to just be still one day as I sat outside on my porch, something dawned on me. WOOHOO FINALLY! So having a food/lifestyle blog typically means using social media often to keep up with it and trying to get people to see your stuff amongst the billions of other food bloggers out there. I can take this post in lots of different directions or complain about how hard it is (yadda yadda yadda), but that’s not the point. 

I started @livehealthyandfree on Instagram when I was 17 years old right before my senior year in high school, which was about 5 years ago.  A couple years later I started a website/blog called www.janiesgotachicken.com (no you did not read that wrong - I know it’s a strange name). The first few years of doing this blogging was so fun and lighthearted for me. It steadily grew without me even trying very hard because I seriously had no idea what I was doing and no big goals at the time besides simply sharing delicious healthy(er) meals, healthy lifestyle tips, and opening up about my own story and struggles with health in hopes that it could encourage anyone who decided to read or listen. I’ve SO enjoyed connecting with like-minded people on social media who have similar stories, struggles, and interests in the health and wellness world, and I’m so thankful I started it because I’ve gotten to learn from every single person I follow since every single person has something to bring to the table no matter how big or small his/her following is. 

However, as Instagram has changed and TONS more food bloggers have popped up over the past couple years, competition became a thing all of a sudden, making my mind start creeping to unhealthy places trying to keep up with my own health & wellness blog and make myself seen or known in the large sea of foodies. 

Red flag red flag red flag.

My following and number of likes on photos plummeted over the past year, and this summer especially it really started getting to me. I could not open up Instagram anymore without comparing to other people who have better pictures/recipes/thinner bodies and hating myself and getting angry, and all my posts just seemed so forced and unnatural to me. I became lost with my own food blogging, and I am not kidding you, I stressed out SO crazy much about the numbers that there were probably 50 nights this summer that I either could not go to sleep or I woke up in the middle of the night for hours stressing and full of anxiety over my Instagram account, frustrated as all get out that mine wasn’t doing as well as it used to do and not nearly as well as most of the bloggers I was following. Something so fleeting like Instagram started consuming me to my core and I couldn’t shake it off. 

I finally began praying and asking God to do with my account whatever he wants. It wasn’t until then that I slowly began releasing the angry grip I had on my social media and letting God grip it in his hands. 

No I’m not deleting my account or anything, but instead of trying so hard to make myself seen and known and popular in the Instagram community, a weight has lifted off my shoulders as I feel like God’s redirected me in a new and healthier way to use my blog. I finally came to terms like a month ago with how damaging social media was becoming to my mental health. I was idolizing it and craving being noticed and liked above anything else. My quiet times with God went kerplunk because this stuff was always on my mind!! But God totally used these past several months to open my eyes to see what I was doing and the sin it was firing up in my heart and to finally desire a change.  

This life is not all about sharing recipes, it’s not all about health, it’s not all about mindful eating, it’s not all about essential oils and coconut oil (although all these things are great in and of themselves!). Life is also not all about likes and followers and number of comments and making it onto the “explore” page. And it SURE AS HELL isn’t all about making myself known. And I’m sorry I got to that place mentally. 

God’s been using all these social media struggles and hiccups and sleepless nights to whisper in my ear conclusions and new motivations for @livehealthyandfree. If what it takes to become a popular or “known” blogger in the IG health & wellness community is being on Instagram 2-5 hours a day, liking everyone’s photos, being pressured to post daily, and commenting on ALLLL my friends’ and non-friends’ photos to “support” one other (AKA usually just trying to get your own name out there to be seen, followed, and have your own photos liked and commented on by them), then it ain’t worth it to me to keep competing. With Instagram’s algorithm, it has become way too much for me to do and keep up with without getting consumed by it and idolizing the numbers game. 

Instead of doing all these things to be seen and popular and liked, I felt God telling me just to breath, relax, be free and have fun with it again like I used to, post when I can, don’t post if I don’t want to, comment on people’s pictures if I truly have something to say instead of just BS-ing it, be my quirky self again, and above all use it to glorify God and be a light in a social media world of craziness and sometimes darkness.  

I’m sick of trying so hard to pull myself up onto a pedestal instead of living my life proclaiming the name and glorious love and news of Jesus. THIS is my goal in life. THIS is what I want my blog and job someday to ultimately point towards. I pray that God will continue to use me as a light for his kingdom and rid me of my selfishness. I pray he will continue to teach me that my worth is not in numbers (whether that’s in followers, photo likes, weight on a scale, number of real-life friends, body fat percentage, etc.). My worth is in knowing that I am a daughter of a King who loves me more than I can comprehend, and one day I’ll get to be in his presence for all of eternity. Lord let my whole life be pointed to this truth each day. 

My pastor asked this question a few weeks ago, and it’s something I keep coming back to because it’s an awesome way to check my heart and remember what the motivation should be behind everything I do and say (even on social media): When is the last time you did or said something simply because you love Jesus?