End of Social Media Free February

Happy Leap Day! Today ends my social media exile. A few thoughts:

  1. I have not been perfectly social media-free because while I deleted the apps from my phone, I left the apps installed on my iPad and laptop so occasionally I would peek at them.
  2. Honestly, I’m not sure what it is, but I found using them on my laptop in particular to be extremely un-compelling compared to my phone. I would scroll for a few minutes and get bored and do something else. On my phone I could easily scroll and scroll and scroll…
  3. Part of it may be that I kept myself from posting anything during this month. I occasionally liked or hearted things if they were especially momentous (such as seeing some friends who welcomed their new baby into the world) but otherwise I passively scrolled until I was bored, which came pretty quickly.
  4. Because of that, I accomplished my main goal which is to re-claim my time from the black hole of social media use. More on that in a moment.
  5. I think going forward I will continue to occasionally use Threads, Facebook, Nextdoor, Linkedin from my laptop/iPad only. I will re-install the Instagram app on my phone for a couple of reasons. One, it is the app that the majority of my friends use. (hello millennial friends!) and two, mostly we use and share stories which I still enjoy posting to keep in touch and you really can’t (certainly can’t easily) post these anywhere except through the mobile app.

Instagram is still my “refrigerator” app — the app I open most often when I am bored and have nothing else to do, like checking the refrigerator not because I’m hungry. So there’s still a bit of concern that I will spend too much time on Instagram, but this little mini-vacation is enough to convince me to keep it on a tight leash.

One of the best ways to break a habit is to replace it with a better habit, so what are some things I am doing instead?

  1. My 15 year old decided he didn’t want his Switch OLED anymore which he only got a few months ago. I bought it off of him, and have been using it to play some quick matches with my oldest son on Fortnite.
  2. Many evenings, I have been re-watching some episodes of the Americans while playing Minecraft with my 15yo. Quality bonding time —if you fast forward through the sex scenes. 🙈
  3. I’m back on the scripture reading and praying wagon. I have often done the 5 day reading plan but have been struggling lately. So I switched gears this years and am just reading a single Psalm a day. It has been — wonderful.
  4. More walks as the sun has come out and we’ve had some of the most beautiful weather for February ever.

You might be like — you replaced one bad habit (social media) with two different bad habits (video games and tv) and I think that’s fair. However — with a pretty full schedule, my TV/video game consumption has been near zero for probably close to 10 years. Not actually zero — I’m not against either, obviously — but small enough that occasionally I would fit a show in here and there amongst many other things.

With a slightly freer schedule, I am catching up on some TV shows I have really wanted to see. And I’m rewatching some series (The Americans in particular) that I’ve really enjoyed, and doing so while playing video games with my kids.

And for me, video games have been almost entirely relational. A good way to find common ground with my kids. I like Minecraft but I only play it as much as I do to connect with my kiddo. Same with Fortnite with my other kid.

A few things I like about my community

Some of these are hyper-specific to my neighborhood or town, others are more general to my state (Colorado) and country (USA).

  • That we know many of our neighbors, right next door and across the street
  • Our neighborhood is full of people from every life stage — from retirees to young professionals to families with young kids
  • We live in a remarkably walkable area. The library is an 8 minute walk, the rec center is 10, a grocery store only about 15 minutes. Within just a few blocks are numerous parks and open spaces.
  • Our neighborhood is full of houses with lots of large windows and hardwood floors.
  • Our town has a goal of something like 40% open space.
  • Colorado has stepped up to really help people. From free school lunches for all, to free college for foster kids. I am proud to be a Coloradan.
  • I love all the state parks, mountains and hiking options less than one hour from my house. An embarrassment of riches, truly.
  • I live in an older neighborhood full of so many huge trees of all kinds of different varieties.
  • Denver International is one of the biggest airports in the country — I can get almost anywhere in North America with a direct flight.
  • We have a wonderful culture of being active and being outside. 300 days of sunshine a year!

Rich Mullins

I am not sure if it’s the nostalgia (I grew up listening to his music), the beautiful and epic nature of the musical score, or the moving lyrics — but I am continually going back to Rich Mullins’ songs in hard times.

He died in a car accident in the late 90s so the catalog is not large but unlike most other music of the period — it feels timeless.

If you’ve never heard any of his songs, a few of my favorites: Sometimes By Step, Creed, If I Stand, Boy Like Me / Man Like You and Hold Me Jesus.

Side Quests

I recently put together a guide in Apple Maps of all the local coffeeshops in my area, which got me thinking about a few other categories. So I made a guide with all the local/non-chain restaurants in my town (a woefully short list), some of my favorite hiking spots nearby, and my favorite spots to hang in basically the entire state.

One thing lead to another, and I made it a goal to drink a chai in every local coffeeshop on my list. (sorry, Starbucks. Don’t really care about you and other huge chains) Which got me to thinking — what other side quests can I accomplish?

Here’s my list, so far:

  • Chai from every local coffeeshop
  • Check off Long’s Peak off my 14ers list
  • Eat at every local restaurant in town
  • Walk or bike every (off-road) trail in town
  • Take a photo of a wild bald eagle
  • Rewatch The Americans. (season 1 is already done as of last night!)
  • Bike to/from Boulder
  • Hike Bear Peak
  • Visit every park in my town

What side quests are you working on? Would love to hear!

Simple Pleasures

  • A walk in the woods
  • Hanging in a hammock
  • Paddle boarding on the lake
  • Campfire
  • Hot chocolate
  • A nap in the sunshine
  • A hot, steamy shower
  • A few minutes in the hot tub
  • A long drive with great music
  • Petting the kitty
  • Walking the dog
  • A clean house

Deconstructing

Much has been made in Christian-circles (is that a thing?) about how people are leaving Christianity through a process that somewhere along the way picked up the name deconstruction.

I have a number of good friends I know who have undergone their own deconstruction. Most started out with fairly classical fundamentalist views and many of them are now fully out on faith completely, still-believing-but-very-much-not-fundamentalist-anymore (need a catchier title for that one), or they have just abandoned discussing faith entirely so who really knows what they are?

I was having coffee with a pastor friend of mine and we got to talking about this and he said he appreciated and really respected my approach. First of all, I felt like that was one of the highest compliments I could ever receive. (2 months later he proved it wrong and called me a great father—now THAT is a compliment that lifts one’s spirits) And secondly, what deconstruction?

As I look back over the past ~15 years, I do have to admit that my faith has changed. How I experience and think about God has changed. What I share, and what I find important has changed. But honestly, all these changes are either entirely expected, or somewhat on the periphery. I still fundamentally believe much of the same things now as I did before. And I think there’s a few key reasons for that.

First, I find Jesus endlessly appealing. Always have. He hangs out with sinners. He has incredible one-liners and comebacks when the bad guys question him. He knows how to have a good time and was accused of partying and drinking too much. He loves people no one else loves. He gives up his life for those he loves. He is exactly who I want to be. Always have. No matter what you think about all the God stuff — Jesus as a person is exactly who we all innately wish we were. Or, at least, we wish we had a best friend exactly like this. We know this because people who were nothing like Jesus loved being around him.

Second, I find Jesus endlessly challenging. I do. I don’t think Jesus was being metaphorical when he said sell everything you have and follow me. I don’t think Jesus was being metaphorical when he said that anyone who is not willing to abandon your mother and father, your wife, your kids, your siblings — is not worthy of me. I think Jesus was entirely serious when he said to take up your cross and follow me. I take the teachings of Jesus seriously. That doesn’t mean I follow them. That doesn’t even mean I understand them. But I think Jesus said what he said for a reason. And I don’t think you get attractive Jesus without challenging Jesus. You’ve got to follow the challenges, as best as you can and as best as you understand them, to be rewarded with sweet-Jesus.

Third, I find Jesus’ constant challenges to the religious quite sobering. There was a lot of “settled theology” in Jesus’ day that he upended over and over again. He fought with Biblical students who were very thoughtful, methodical, and studious. Today most Christians will sneer at the Pharisees and Sadducees like they’re dumb. They were not dumb. They had understandings about their faith that went back hundreds of years. They had Bible verses for their positions. And Jesus showed them that they were dead wrong! I find that quite sobering. Today we only know they were wrong because Jesus came on to the scene and showed us how wrong they were. What beliefs are I holding on to that Jesus will one day say is dead wrong? Conviction is a good thing. But so is the sobering humility that all of the conviction in the world won’t do a lick of good if Jesus says you’re wrong. So be open minded. Maybe something you believe with all your heart today you will need to abandon tomorrow because it’s getting in your way of following Jesus.

Fourth, God loves people more than I love people. I know so many Christian parents who are so worried about their kids because they want their kids to go to church. Or to stop smoking weed. Or to not “be gay”. They trot out that they don’t want their kids to go to hell. And I don’t either, but I can’t remember Jesus worrying about active adultery leading someone to go to hell. I can’t remember Jesus pleading with someone to go listen to his sermons else they rot in hell (literally). You aren’t going to scare people into a good relationship with God. If I’ve deconstructed anything, it might be this idea that selling anti-hell cards is what we do. (I don’t think I have ever seriously believed this to begin with)

No. Every person you love? God loved them first. And he loves them most.

Yep even your kids.

Oh. And he loves the people you hate, too.

And to be more like Jesus you gotta try to love them too.

And you know what?

That is probably the hardest thing of all to do. Which is why so few of us try.

Social Media Break

How ironic that a couple years into this site — which I created to get off social media and which I named the anti-social — I’m still on social media. lol

I saw a post on Instagram the other day that said something like, “Instagram is the new refrigerator. Am I going there and taking a look because I need something, or because I’m bored?”

And I think that’s the main fault I have with social media. I actually really like Instagram. And since leaving Twitter and joining Threads, I really very much like Threads, too. I legitimately laugh and learn new things from both sites. I have aggressively curated who I follow and quickly unfollow people who are not posting things that add to my enjoyment of the site.

Yet, I often enjoy the snacks and candy and sodas I get out of the refrigerator, too. But sometimes I need to quit looking in the fridge and cook dinner.

Okay I’ve probably stretched that metaphor well past its breaking point. But I’m going to try to take February off of Threads & Instagram. Not because I think there’s anything wrong with those places, or because I don’t enjoy it, but because I’m just spending too much time.

I want to get back to writing more on this blog. Get back to keeping up with my feed reader which is full of really great, interesting and very diverse content. I want to pull my phone out and work on scripture memorization. And honestly, I want to spend more time cooking. And cycling. And hiking.

And you don’t have time to do any of that if you keep checking the fridge every five minutes.

Au revoir. See you on social media in March. Until then, find me right here.

The Small Web

Kagi, the paid search engine that has been getting a lot of attention lately, has a really cool tribute to the Small Web.

I’ve already added several new personal blogs to my feed reader. Really loving how many people are blogging and the diversity of interesting posts in my reader every day!

Test Driving Beluga

Just read about the Beluga app from another blogger and I immediately went to download it.

It’s a micro-blogging app that you host yourself. You set up an S3 bucket with static hosting and everything runs off your phone.

It even has a built in feed reader for a social element for other Beluga users. It’s basically a static site generator that runs on your phone with a built in simple social element.

I immediately installed it and was very excited as this mirrors an idea I had long ago to do something very similar. I love WordPress and all, but I really just want an Instagram replacement that makes it simple to have a very simple photo blog. So far I like the app. I only wish it had a setting for adjusting photo quality — I do appreciate it down samples by default but the lower quality is too low in my opinion.

In any event, I’ll be test driving it over the next little bit. Give me a follow!

How I Journal

I got Day One 11 years ago. My first entries were random, with pictures. I was just trying the app out shortly after my birthday. Within a day or two of getting Day One, Sandy Hook happened and I journaled a very short piece about how horrific it was to hear on the news of an elementary school shooting. Because of that, every time December rolls around, Day One reminds me of “11 years ago today” and I read that entry about Sandy Hook and I’m instantly transported to my desk at an office in downtown Denver when I read on the news about this horrific shooting.

Not all of my entries are sad or horrible, but that to me is a reminder of the value of journaling. To remember where I was, and what I was feeling, and how life has progressed in the years since. This became especially important after I became a parent in 2019.

Daily Journals
I started my habit of journaling every single day after being introduced to Austin Kleon’s logbooks by way of my friend Cary. This was probably sometime around early 2015/late 2014. Both my friend Cary and Austin Kleon used physical notebooks, but I had already been using Day One very intermittently so I decided to just use Day One.

I was pretty good at times for using it daily, probably logging every other or third day on average for years. A lot of my initial logs are not very interesting, just saying I “chatted with Will for a bit” and that I “went to work. Looked at bikes.”

By mid-2015 I realized that these kinds of entries weren’t that interesting to me, and asking a bunch of questions only kept me from meaningful captures, so I simplified quite a bit. Having a more free-form entry asking “What happened today?” really opened up my journaling a lot more than most other changes.

This is about the time my consistency really started to pick up:

In January of 2019 we began our fostering journey and opened our home to a 14-year old boy named Noah. (spoiler alert, we adopted him in October of 2020 🎉) This is when I really endeavored to journal more, especially when we had some really intense and deep family therapy in the summer of 2019. I now have an unbroken streak since July 22, 2019, over 1,600 days ago.

Some of the tips for keeping a streak:

  1. Have a routine. I use an Apple shortcut I created and run it before I go to bed. This shortcut captures things like my calendar entries, and creates a minimal template with the date, calendar entries and a simple “What happened?” type prompt. I don’t edit this, and save the entry and go to sleep. The next morning on my computer, I’ll fill in the “what happened?” prompt. I’m usually a bit more verbose when I have a full keyboard in front of me, and 10 minutes to journal.
  2. Keep it simple. Most of my entries are just simple recaps of what happened for the day. I rarely explore my emotions or go deep into what happened. A quick and simple description is all that is there.
  3. Add a photo. I did this very intermittently in the past, and I’m trying to do better going forward. But it’s so fun to see photos from 10 years ago in my journal, and it adds so much extra context.
  4. Don’t go backfill. This was a tip from Desiring God that I read about journaling years and years ago — if you miss a day or a week or even a month — don’t backfill. Just start from where you are. When you feel like you need to fill in previous days, you create a backlog that grows and grows and feels hard to get over with. Just start with today and don’t worry about the past.
  5. Don’t really worry about the streak. Focus on the things that are valuable for you. For a long time I just journaled on the days I had something to say and if I got busy — I didn’t really worry about missing that day.

Longer form journaling
So that all covers the daily journals, but I really find value in long form journaling. I find that by keeping a daily journal, I’m really able when I need to focus on deeper emotions and deeper issues going on when I sit down to journal.

Before I kept a daily journal, I felt like I had to explain what was going on or the context of life when I wrote a journal. Now because I have the context already logged each and every day, I focus on how I’m feeling or the deeper patterns I’m noticing. Here’s a peak at my different journals.

My main journals are the Daily Logs entries, which I keep every day. And the Journal category which are when I sit down and write when I feel like I need to write. Many times I’ll write these longer entries when I feel like I need to process something. I often find that the process of writing things out helps clarify my thinking. Sometimes I just want to capture a moment. Here’s one of the shorter examples I don’t mind sharing:

I have 17 entries in this journal for 2023. None so far in December. They range from entries like the above, to an entry sharing my thoughts as we were about to meet our 14-yo foster son after a week in a behavioral treatment center for suicidal ideation and all my fears, hopes and — honestly — mostly just fears. Many of the entries are just random, or thoughts I have in my head that I need to get down on “paper”. When my nearly 20-yo cat died in 2022 I wrote down some of my favorite memories and photos in the middle of my grief.

Some additional structure
Probably in 2020 when everyone felt hopeless due to Covid, I created an entry I dated to Dec 31 with 50 memories I loved from the year. And another post on the same day with the books I read, and some of the movies and tv shows and other media I enjoyed. I have done that every year since — most years I just create an entry early on and date it to Dec 31 and keep it up to date throughout the year, but this year I have been slacking so this looks like something I need to take care of this week!