Last Sunday, President Russell M. Nelson challenged youth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to (among several other things) do a week-long "fast" from social media. The devotional where that challenge was issued is summarized in this video -
Here's President Nelson's full quote from his talk (the entire text of which can be read here) -
So, my first invitation to you today is to disengage from a constant reliance on social media by holding a seven-day fast from social media. I acknowledge that there are positives about social media. But if you are paying more attention to feeds from social media than you are to the whisperings of the Spirit, then you are putting yourself at spiritual risk—as well as the risk of experiencing intense loneliness and depression. You and I both know youth who have been influenced through social media to do and say things that they never would do or say in person. Bullying is one example.Now, if hundreds of thousands of 12-18 year olds can be challenged to give up Facebook and Twitter, there's no reason that I - a 30+ adult who did not grow up on the internet - couldn't do it too. When I heard of this challenge from President Nelson, I'd already been thinking of trying to find a way to scale back my social media usage.
Another downside of social media is that it creates a false reality. Everyone posts their most fun, adventurous, and exciting pictures, which create the erroneous impression that everyone except you is leading a fun, adventurous, and exciting life. Much of what appears in your various social media feeds is distorted, if not fake. So give yourself a seven-day break from fake!
Choose seven consecutive days and go for it! See if you notice any difference in how you feel and what you think, and even how you think, during those seven days. After seven days, notice if there are some things you want to stop doing and some things you now want to start doing.
This social media fast can be just between you and the Lord. It will be your sign to Him that you are willing to step away from the world[...]
Since Tiny was born 10 months ago (and since I was fired from COTR), I have taken the internet equivalent of a machete to my social media feeds - particularly Facebook and Twitter. But even with the mass unfollowing/unfriending of pages and people that just flat-out pissed me off, irritating crap still managed to get put up on my feeds. Even from people who are usually quite positive. Political talk is the worst offender, but it's also the idiotic click-bait stuff is a huge problem.
So, seven days. Could I do it?
One of my techniques was to move my Facebook and Twitter apps on my phone. I didn't delete them, but I just put them somewhere else. Not seeing them in their usual spot reminded me that I was working toward a goal. It was actually quite easy to remember to stay off Facebook and Twitter. Even when I was wondered what someone in my family was doing, I would just call or text them.
And I read a lot more, too. I'd use Kindle or Libby or Audible to read (or listen to) a book instead of finding the latest outrage hit being pushed by my Facebook feed. It was so much more calming.
The one night I had a hard time with it was Thursday night. I've also been fighting off a cold this past week and Thursday night is when it hit me the worst. I just wanted something mindless to distract me from being sick. Instead, I turned on Perfect Strangers reruns on Hulu (Tiny likes watching that show. Trust me - I tried to get him interested in a kids' show that night and he was not having it. But watching Larry and Balki's antics? Yep. That did the trick. Sometimes, I can't explain my child at all).
The best reflection I could come up with happened when I was checking Facebook and Twitter in the wee hours of the morning when I was up with Tiny (around 4:30, I think). I hadn’t been back on five minutes when I saw something that made me want to throttle somebody. That contrast, more than anything else, told me everything I needed to know about my relationship with social media.
All week, I didn't get mad about anything I couldn't control. I don't have regular TV, so I didn't watch the news. No headlines crafted to incite the anger junkies and keep them addicted to the click-bait sites and their insane pop-up ads. I was more present in my own life. I spent more time focused on my family and their needs. My mental health was so much better. More than anything, that was worth the effort.
Also - and this may lose me some librarian cred, but I don't care - being informed is hardly the virtue that it's made out to be anymore. Even if I kept up with all the current events in the world - what am I going to be able to do about it? All I'm going to do is sit and stew about it and lose sleep over it. And here's a dirty little secret I've gleaned from working in news (both recently and years ago) - but the news isn't about telling people what's going on. Even professional news outlets try to find the most outrageous and sensational gossip and maddening things they can report on. It gets hits and clicks and eyeballs and makes tons of money. There could be something worthwhile in that pile of garbage, but my motivation to find it has been completely shattered.
Sturgeon's Law is a thing for a reason, peeps.
Anyway, life without social media is lovely. I’m not beholden to some dopey curly-headed robot parading around as a college kid who thinks all his money entitles him to dictate the things I read and see in my feeds. My time is my own again. I’m more present for others. I’m not bound by the shallow scaremonger headlines and clickbait quizzes and inane crap that people think is a matter of Life and Death.
If I want to know something, I look it up specifically and get what I need. Pinterest - for all it’s froofy weirdness - is actually a handy organizational tool. Saving things on Facebook doesn’t work. But if I find a recipe (for example) that I want to try, I save it to my Pinterest board and I’ve actually tried a bunch of things there. I actually feel more personally enriched when I specifically look for a piece of information, than if I just sit back and let an arbitrary feed dump it into my brain.