My Ten-Day Social Media Fast
At the recent October General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Nelson, our church leader, challenged the sisters (because he was speaking in the women's session) to fast from social media for ten days. Here's what he said:
"I invite you to participate in a 10-day fast from social media and from any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind. Pray to know which influences to remove during your fast. The effect of your 10-day fast may surprise you. What do you notice after taking a break from perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit? Is there a change in where you now want to spend your time and energy? Have any of your priorities shifted—even just a little? I urge you to record and follow through with each impression."
Now, I didn't see this conference session, and although I began my social media fast on 8th October, I did so because other women reported to me (on social media, ironically) what President Nelson had said. I hadn't heard his exact words, so I didn't pray about what exactly to give up. However, I knew that I spent far too much time on Facebook (I also use Twitter and LinkedIn, but only for work) and that sometimes things I saw there troubled, annoyed or upset me. It seemed to be a useful exercise to reassess my use of social media anyway, so I deleted the Facebook app from my phone and decided to spend time I'd normally waste on Facebook reading the scriptures instead, in line with another challenge the prophet issued.
The ten days is over. What did I notice? What has changed? Have my priorities shifted?
It's interesting that my Facebook fast coincided with the update to iOS which included screen time monitoring. So I was able to see exactly what happened when I no longer spent hours scrolling through Facebook. And here's what I found with regard to how I was using my phone.
- My most used app (at just over two hours) over the five days in the middle of my fast was indeed the gospel library - hurrah! - as I read all the way through 1 and 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon. So that part of the social media fast was a success - I really did spend more time in the scriptures.
- The next most used app was Rightmove (1 hour 47 minutes) and Amazon (59 minutes). I also played some games (Dropwords, Freecell) that I hadn't previously played for months. What do I take from this? That I like to faff. That if I'm not pointlessly wasting time catching up on what people I barely know had for breakfast, I'll pointlessly waste time finding out what the most expensive house in Ffestiniog is (it's this one; I want it more than I can express) despite the fact that I have zero intention of moving in the near future. The Amazon thing is worrying, too. I can't tell you how often I added something totally random to my basket, only to think better of it and delete it again. Basically when I'm bored I fiddle with my phone, and if it's not social media, it's buying something very expensive that I don't need. Or wishing I could.
The good bits:
- It was indeed quite nice not to have everyone's challenging political views and arguments assail me, and not being drawn into them. I have Essex Police on my Facebook feed, and whenever they put up a picture of a criminal they're looking for, it seems every comment is about how that person is "defiantly (sic) a foreigner" as though British people are totally incapable of committing crime. I can't abide this sort of casual racism, and often end up getting drawn in. Pretty sure that counts as a negative influence I can do without in my life.
- It made me assess my use of time. I did spend a lot of time on Facebook before this, and I did find it a distraction. It was easier to concentrate on what I was doing without it.
- It was also good not to see an endless stream of hoaxes and appeals to find kids/dogs who were found years ago. I find those so frustrating and annoying. Please, please, everyone, I beg you, check before you post. All those missing children posts which say "takes two seconds to share"? Well, it also only takes two seconds to click on the actual post and see that the first word is "Found". And it only takes ten seconds to go to a site like Hoax Slayer or Snopes and find out whether the thing you're about to tell all your friends about is actually true. I take the general view that nothing I see on Facebook is true. I'm usually right.
The bad bits:
- A friend tagged me in something I needed to know about, and I missed it.
- I wanted to ask our local area group for a recommendation, and couldn't.
- I did some interesting stuff (went to Somerset, saw newborn puppies, saw ELO live) and couldn't post the pictures for others to see. I use Facebook as a journal/photo storage, so that was frustrating.
- I wanted to keep up with what's going on in my friends' lives. Is Suzy's kitchen finished yet? How did the CPJ runners get on at parkrun? What's the next book for bookclub?
- I couldn't keep up with the general news and chatter - mostly, the aftermath of General Conference, and the Royal pregnancy. (Apparently, every other Latter-day Saint woman was off Facebook too though, so I didn't miss any post-conference discussion)
- Facebook is where my friends are, and I missed them. Yes, I know I could pick up a phone, but Facebook makes it easy to keep up with what everyone is up to, and comment encouragement, or congratulations, or whatever is needed.
I need to be on Facebook. Facebook is what you make it, and I've mostly made it quite a nice place to be. I've long had a policy of unfriending (or unfollowing) anyone who swears or posts anything offensive, and I don't really have any friends who do "look how amazing my life is" posts. Most of the posts I see are uplifting, or funny, or informative, or friendly.
However, I do need to be stricter about the time I spend, and more ruthless in unfriending, unfollowing, and leaving, the parts that really are negative media. Essex Police, sadly that probably has to include you.