I have so many reasons to be on my phone. Don’t you? Emails and texts to answer, photos to like on Instagram, news stories and updates and friends to follow. I’m on my phone so much that sometimes I don’t even realize how often I reach for it instinctively—not just when I need to, but just … because.
Then one of my high school-aged friends made a comment that brought me up short. She said she often went on Instagram when she was bored, but lately, she’d been noticing that she felt down and self-critical after scrolling through her feed. Still, she kept doing it, because she felt like she needed to “stay connected.”
Stay connected. Those words got me thinking. When we log on to social media, what are we connecting to? Our friends, sure. Maybe the world outside our own neighborhood or community. But as I thought about it further, I realized that jumping on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat also connects me to some things that aren’t the greatest. Being on social media connects me to negativity, sets me up to compare myself to others, and often (unwittingly) catches me in a current of news stories that make me feel helpless, overwhelmed, or afraid.
Now before you stop reading, this isn’t an article about how we should all get off social media and go back to living in caves. This is about how I woke up to a different way of staying connected that has improved my life, like, majorly, and has even helped me approach social media with more poise and discernment.
Stay connected. Those were the words that woke me up, and those were the words that also offered a solution. I started asking myself: What do I really want to connect to? The answer was obvious. I wanted to connect to something that would show me that I really am loved, that I am innately good and have the ability to do what’s right. I wanted to connect to God.
Connect might sound like a weird word choice, since our relationship to God is one of constant, unbreakable connection. I love the way Mary Baker Eddy describes it in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures when she writes, “As a drop of water is one with the ocean, a ray of light one with the sun, even so God and man, Father and son, are one in being” (p. 361). We are truly one with God at all times. But in my own life at least, I find that I need to consciously tune in to that, acknowledge it, and spend some quiet time feeling close to God each day.
I started asking myself: What do I really want to connect to?
I’ve felt that closeness, that oneness, with God when I’ve loved a friend with a pure, unselfish love, or responded to a difficult situation with grace instead of anger. But the thing that helps me feel connected to God most consistently is prayer. This means taking some uninterrupted time to talk with God each day and, more important, to listen to what He’s saying about His entirely good, pure nature as divine Love, and the entirely good, pure, spiritual nature of His creation, including me.
These moments of feeling that connection are holy. They illuminate my days with insights I couldn’t have come to on my own, free me from misconceptions I’ve been carrying around, and heal me, too. Listening to God with a heart wide open to His love has also helped me when I’ve been feeling down and lonely.
Those lonely moments were often the times when I found myself reaching for my phone without even thinking, but lately, I’ve been making a conscious effort to connect with God instead. When the impulse comes to hop on social media, I turn away from my phone and toward God. When I did that recently, the thought came so reassuringly that I could never be alone, because I live in God, divine Mind, in the presence of an infinite number of ideas. I felt a genuine sense of companionship as I caught a little glimpse of living in what Mrs. Eddy calls “the teeming universe of Mind” (Science and Health, p. 513).
And when I do go on social media now? I feel different. When I know I’m connected to God and am really listening for His healing messages, I’m prepared to face down thoughts of envy, fear, disappointment—whatever the news stories and updates I’m seeing would provoke.
These days, my phone is still close at hand. But my thought? More and more often, it’s close to God.
Originally appeared online in the teen column: UpFront - August 9, 2016
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