For some time now, I knew I had a problem. I didn’t want to acknowledge it but I felt it deep inside me. My freedom had been sold. I had a master of sorts. I was addicted to social media. Compared with other addictions people face this might seem trite or rather laughable. But for me, I knew it was a problem.
The Opportune Time
When President Russell M. Nelson spoke to the youth earlier this year and challenged them to a 7 day social media fast I thought it was a good idea. I knew I needed to take the challenge as well. But since he spoke to the youth I didn’t move it up on my priority level. “Someday” I’d take that challenge. I had many excuses to put it off the main one being this little blog. I use Facebook and Twitter to post my accounts. If I wasn’t on them I wouldn’t reach my daily view goal. Surely, I needed to wait for the opportune time so that my struggling little blog wouldn’t suffer. Besides, his challenge was directed to the youth, not to me. I could wait until I could fit the fast into my mold and do it my way.
Then He Looked In My Direction
Then he spoke during the Women’s Session at conference in October. This time he issued the challenge directly to me. He asked for a ten day social media fast. Crud. His invitation landed right on my to-do list. There was no circumnavigating it this time. I was either going to do it or not. Since I have been struggling I decided to do it as a test of sorts. To “experiment upon the word” and take note of the results. In order for it to be a successful test, I needed to resist the temptation to mold it into my framework. I had to trust and do it as he asked.
To conduct a successful test I needed to know the parameters or exactly what I was expected to do. In other words, what exactly fits the social media bill that I was to do without for ten days? This might seem like an attempt to do the minimum and thus molding the challenge into my own boundaries. But I saw it more as an attempt to understand what the boundaries were so that I could be successful. I Googled “Social Media Formats” and found a few that I use regularly: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Snapchat. What was not listed is personal blogs. With my list in mind, I made plans on how to accomplish my experiment.
The following day after his invitation, I made a brief status post on Facebook and Twitter explaining my absence. More for myself than for anyone else. It was similar to taking a couple of deep breaths before going under water. I deactivated my Facebook account (there is a temporary setting that it was stuck on and it automatically reactivated my account in 7 days despite repeated attempts to take the temporary setting off). I then deleted my Facebook and Twitter apps from my iPhone so that I wouldn’t click on them automatically without thinking. I turned off my iPad completely because I was afraid like Pavlov’s dogs I’d log on if I used my iPad because that’s just what I do.
Sunday evening I was logged off my social media formats and looking down a long ten day tunnel without social media. I wanted to be successful and knew that I couldn’t do it on my own so I prayed for help and that I wouldn’t “accidentally” log on and fail the experiment. This was my first inclination that I have a problem and have given my freedom over to an addiction. That hidden fear I buried deep was beginning to see the light.
When I went to bed Sunday evening I felt so alone. For whatever reason, I felt I was the only one not participating on social media. I mentioned that in my prayer that night.
Monday I discovered I was not alone. My family members had, in fact, also accepted the challenge and were conducting their own fast. My niece, Nic, sent a family text and mentioned she was also fasting. That little encouragement bolstered me and gave me confidence. I could do this. I could succeed. I could go without social media for ten days.
Here’s what I learned from my ten day fast. I have never been good at the whole social scene. Social media has filled a void in that it gives me a false sense of being social in a healthy way. I feel as if I’m making connections when in fact I am only in search of fleeting validation with status likes and views. I have also, somehow along the way, become conditioned to keep a vigilant eye on social media even if it has nothing to offer. I scroll and search mindlessly searching for something to entertain or catch my eye. Why I feel a constant need to waste time is beyond me. But I also noticed I am persistent. If I couldn’t waste time scrolling through social media I found other nonproductive ways to spend my time. Another observation I discovered is I thought I would be a little happier for ten days. If I’m not comparing my weakness to others shared strengths then surely I wouldn’t be so bitter, right? Turns out this is another thing I’m insistent about. I found other outlets to let the bitterness seep in. I didn’t miss a beat about feeling inadequate or incapable compared to other people. For the record, my concern about missing my daily blog view quota was unfounded. I met or exceeded my goal the whole time I was off Facebook and Twitter.
It was a long ten days because all I could focus on was the fact I wasn’t on social media. On my mission, I helped with smoking cessation classes. During those classes we discussed the physical nature of addiction and how the body will crave nicotine when the level drops. With my addiction though, there is no physical aspect to it. It is all psychological and behavioral. I wondered how long it would take before I stopped my automatic behaviors of wanting to log on and scroll. I knew there was nothing I was missing but my learned behavior made me feel like I was missing out on something.
In the end, I went one night longer and logged on the morning of the eleventh day. I felt a certain dread as I logged onto Facebook first and then to Twitter. Of course, no one knew I had been gone. Life goes on and life goes on at a quick clip on social media. Even though I am back on now I’m trying not to get in the same boat as I was in before. I’ve made certain rules for myself like frequent temporary one day fasts. I may not have healthy social skills yet but I want to make sure I don’t substitute them for unhealthy social media use.
If you have fasted or gone without social media what was your experience or thoughts?