#struggles (and the monster within)

When I set out to read this book, I hoped I’d come away from it feeling enlightened, challenged, and refreshed. I have a love/hate relationship with technology, especially in the context of social media, and I was excited to hear what Craig Groeschel had to say on the topic. What I did not expect was to come away feeling validated, convicted, and encouraged to swim against the current. (Also, I basically never want to take a selfie ever again!)

Admittedly, this book was written by a Christian pastor, and this post will be written from the honest perspective of a Christian woman—but even if you don’t believe in God, don’t tune me out yet. At the end of the day, we’re all human, we all have #struggles, and one of them is the reality that we live in a selfie-centered world.

"What veils are you wearing? I mean it. What image are you trying to project in your life that doesn’t reflect the real you?"

A year ago, I would have told you I didn't wear a veil on social media. I would have told you what you saw was who I am, and I wasn't pretending to be someone I'm not. A year ago, I would have been lying to you; but even worse, I would have been lying to myself. Now, I can honestly admit that I had a collection of veils - each made up of eye-catching colors, beautiful patterns, and silky material that enabled me to slip in and out of them with ease.

When I was unbearably frustrated, I didn't want you to see it.
When I was disgruntled or disappointed, I didn't want you to see it.
When I was judgmental or rude, I didn't want you to know it.
When I was arrogant or prideful, I didn't want you to catch it.

I could justify my choice of veil depending on the situation. When my book sales were laughable and I felt invisible, when I had tried everything I could think of to make myself somehow relevant in the saturated market in which I have chosen to exist, I didn't want to be like that author who posted about how hard it was on my page; I didn't want to be like that author who talked about how much time and money had gone into a particular project and then turn around and blame this factor or that factor as to why I had to quit; I didn't want you to see my tears or know about my insecurities. I was sure no one followed me to hear me complain. Instead, I covered up how I felt and posted what I thought I should.

Alternatively, when I felt as though I had something to be proud of, I grasped at it, anxious to share it with my little world. Except, I didn't want you to think I was boasting, so I wrapped it in words of humility. I wanted to be the positive, uplifting voice that might encourage the people who felt as small as I did - only, underneath the veil, I was relieved that perhaps I wasn't as small as the people I thought I might inspire.

And therein lies my greatest vice - comparison.

"An unhealthy view of social media can cause us to feel either ungodly pride or an unhealthy sense of inadequacy." 

The thing about Facebook - at least for me - is that it's a breeding ground for comparison and competition. My feed was bad enough all on its own. Filled with talk of the same two or three books that might have been the highlight of any given week, I measured myself against that author's success. As a business woman, I picked apart everything from their marketing strategy to the content they were selling. Except, what might have started off as research with good intentions soon turned into a competition I felt like I was losing all the time.

On top of that, every author-support group I was in was just another breeding ground for mini wars waged against one another. It was as if we were all doing some sort of intricate dance through a minefield where, at any moment, an author at their breaking point would go off. While I won't say every post was meant for selfish gain, the vast majority of them seemed that way. Questions were posed as a sly way to perpetuate pride, and the comments that followed served as an opportunity for the jaded to one-up each other. And hear me when I say this - I'm not judging anyone as if I wasn't a participant; I'm merely stating my truth because I found myself playing along.

I was feeding the resentment and the bitterness that was the sustenance for the monster within.

I'd like to think we all have one. A monster within. I'd like to think I'm not alone, and we all have to fight against the thing when it's been awakened. Mine came to life slowly. In fact, it was so stealthy, I didn't realize it had taken over my subconscious until I looked at my virtual footprint and saw how ugly it was. You see, in my attempt to keep up the guise that I was fine, and I was going to overcome the challenges of being an indie author in an oversaturated market, and I was going to find success, I opened up a gate I never intended to open. And while I was covering up my insecurities with pretty veil after pretty veil, I found myself dancing in the minefield and hoping to find life when what I was really doing was enticing death.

Yeah. I know. That sounds dramatic...but that is my truth.

 A couple of months ago, I decided I didn’t want to use Facebook as a platform for my business anymore; and when I eliminated myself as R.C., Rosalyn all but disappeared, too. I've never really had a big interest in using it for personal reasons. Unfortunately, I bought into the lie that I needed to be present and active on as many social media platforms as possible in order to find success, and Facebook was noted as one of the top communities in which to engage my readers. But I became someone I'm not when I got lost in the indie-author community, and I cultivated an unhealthy relationship with the platform.

In the beginning, I saw it as a wonderland of readers and authors, support and encouragement, and books - so many books! But the longer I stayed, and the more time I spent scrolling, the easier it was for me to see beyond the glossy facade everyone wants you to see. At some point, I wasn't interested in trying to find the good, I was intent on finding  something that would make me mad, because I knew I could always find something. And for whatever reason, my righteous indignation would make me feel temporary validated. Validated as a struggling writer, an insecure author, or a hopeless dreamer. But it was a lie. It was all a lie. As cliché as it may sound, I was looking for love in all the wrong places. Stepping away from that world has been one of the best decisions I've made for myself in a long time.

In many ways, #struggles co-signed on that decision. A number of the issues Groeschel pointed out as symptoms of an unhealthy relationship with technology and social media sites were things that I had battled with. This book made me so glad that I had chosen to shut it down - even if it cost me some level of success as an author.

"When you occasionally (or often) unplug, you will find true rest for your soul. When you make pleasant boundaries, you will be making wise choices to keep your eyes, mind, and heart pure."

 One of the other things I appreciated about #struggles was the reminder that while technology is a great resource to connect people, we can't forget to invest in our relationships on a deeper level. I've talked on the phone and hung out with my friends and family more in the last month than I can remember doing in a long time. It was a conviction that turned into a huge blessing, and a wonderful reminder that there is a disconnect when your relationship with another person is purely technology based. No matter how hard you try, I believe you lose a bit of authenticity when your friendships don't exist outside of the phone you hold in your hand or the computer screen in front of which you sit. And perhaps you would argue otherwise, but here's what I've come to notice...

When I want to step away from my phone, when I want to unplug so as not to be that person who cannot live without the device - the friendships connected only to that device suffer and die.

"...as the gravitational pull to live online continues to grow, we must remind ourselves that the best relationships are not those that are limited to looking at a screen but those that involve loving a person in person."

At the risk of sounding dramatic (again,) I'm willing to admit that this book is kind of life changing. I didn't expect it to be, and yet I went into it with an open mind and an open heart and came out on the other side with a new perspective. I want to be a woman who lives intentionally and loves intentionally - in person - as often as possible. I want to embrace my limitations, know my boundaries, and choose to live in whatever way is the healthiest for me - even if that means going against the norm. And tomorrow - I'm turning my phone off. I have a little anxiety thinking about it, but one day - with a little practice - I won't, and I can't wait for that day.

What about you? Would you be able to go a day without your phone? Could you slow down, seek out the silence, and simply enjoy being unplugged? What about five minutes? Seriously. I'm curious. Have you thought about it? If you haven't, maybe you should. And honestly, regardless of your answer (or your beliefs) I think everyone should read #struggles. I would be surprised if it didn't challenge you. And you never know - it might change your life, too.