Don’t read this blog post — No, I’m serious

I hopped on a stationary bike in the gym the other day, popped in my earbuds and started to listen to a really great podcast. Halfway through, a friend of mine jumped on the bike next to me so I took my earbuds out, excited for some company. We chatted for a minute, but as I asked him a few questions, I glanced over because he wasn’t responding. He was watching a video on his phone. A couple of minutes later, I asked a few more questions to no avail. Finally, I asked, “What are you watching?” and we watched a video of some random guy break-dancing. Then, he went back to his apps and I was left feeling a void in my chest. Reluctantly, I popped my earbuds back in and finished listening to my podcast.

(Okay, before I go on — I’ve totally been this person before, texting people at the dinner table while I’m with friends etc. My friend is a really great guy and roles could very easily have been reversed in another situation, but I’m using this story as an example. Okay, read on).

Tonight, I listened to part two of the really great podcast and learned that many of us have an actual addiction to our phones. When we receive social media notifications, our brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine that reacts with a D2 receptor in our brain. When researchers fed rats junk food, a study by the Scripps Research Institute found that the rats’ reward pathways had been overstimulated and created an addiction-like response, actually rewiring the rats’ brains. Similarly, as we check our phones and see “21 likes,” our reward pathways are overstimulated and we become addicted. Our brains are physically rewired. When we do not look at our phones for a day or have no notifications, we literally go through withdrawal.

Neuroscience aside, when you log-on to your favorite social media site and don’t have any notifications, isn’t there a small void in the pit of your stomach? And when that red circle with a number in it pops up, don’t you feel a surge of joy? I’ll admit I do.

I’m currently reading through the book of Jeremiah in the Bible. This morning, a verse popped out to me: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). I asked God, “What are the ancient paths?” Tonight as I listened to the podcast, I felt like God was lovingly telling me that He had something better in mind for me than dopamine-infested social media notifications.

And you will find rest for your souls. I sure don’t feel like my soul is at rest after scrolling through Facebook for an hour (or three). In ancient days, there was no social media. There was no electronic technology. There were no phone apps. Could God be leading me to put down my beloved phone?

In its place, I think God is also asking me to choose Him. At specific times in my life, occasionally certain Bible verses will come up over and over. Right now, it’s Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” In order to call to Him, to pour out my heart to Him, I have to make space to be with Him. When I have a free moment, though, what do I do? Grab my phone and start scrolling.

So, what do we do? Inspired by tonight’s podcast, I’m going to do a 31-Day Challenge and spend a day (or two) a week completely off social media. With that time, I plan to journal, to read, to pray, to seek God. I’m excited to see how He shows up (after I get over the withdrawal symptoms! Lord, please help me). I invite you to join me, too.

I’m sorry to have added to your social media scrolling with this post, but I pray it inspires you to make space in your own life. I pray that you experience God’s love for you in beautiful ways over these next 31 days. And together, I pray that we may encounter the ancient paths and find true rest for our souls.