I wasn’t one of THOSE people. I didn’t really need to take a break from social media. That’s what I thought when I heard President Russell M. Nelson’s Social Media Challenge to the youth of the world to take a “seven-day break from fake.”
I understood the reasoning behind it. As he said in his talk to the youth, “Much of what appears in your various social media feeds is distorted.” While he acknowledged that there are positives about social media, he also stressed, “But if you are paying more attention to feeds from social media than you are to the Spirit, then you are putting yourself at spiritual risk, as well as the risk of experiencing intense loneliness and depression.”
But I already had my personal rules to make sure Facebook and Instagram weren’t taking over my life. See! That’s just two platforms too. I wasn’t even actively using my Twitter account. I limited the number of posts I made daily and would only do them when I wasn’t needed immediately by my family. If they had to wait while I wrapped up a post, it wasn’t the end of the world, right? I had a 3-Post rule too when it came to scrolling; I could look at the 3 most recent posts that popped up in my feed. Other than that, I just looked at my notifications and shared my own uplifting posts and photos with friends and family, which was a GOOD thing!
So why did I need a break?
Well, for starters the living prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked all people from ages 12-18 to take a week fast from social media. (You can watch the entire lecture and that of his wife, Wendy Nelson, and the Social Media Challenge invitation by clicking here.) He thought it was worth trying. He wanted them to ask themselves what they missed about it and what they didn’t miss. It was kind of an experiment. Since he wasn’t asking parents, I didn’t feel forced to join in on the break, but when I saw many other parents supporting their own kids’ fasts from social media, I decided to do it also. My daughter is 12, and though she isn’t on social media yet, I could be a good example by also not being on there for a week.
That first week things didn’t feel very different. (Huh?) There were a couple times I wanted to take a photo and share a sentimental or clever caption to go with it (Okay, a couple times each day), but since I knew I was taking a break I didn’t allow myself to take the photos and save the posts for later. Instead of stopping and taking the photo, I kept walking. Instead of living for the post, I stayed present with my kids.
So, I didn’t feel much of a sacrifice after one week. Life was a little more lonely as far as mom-friends go, but I was still a busy mom and wife so life didn’t feel very different. To be honest, I didn’t like that. I’m pretty good at pushing myself, so I chalked it up to my high tolerance for challenges. I knew if I wanted to notice the effect missing social media would have on me, I would need to up the ante. I decided to avoid it for 2 weeks.
That was when I started feeling the difference, but not for the better. See, social media had become a crutch for me or, to put it nicely, a life preserver. It was a place I counted my blessings and reminded myself how good I had it. Whenever things weren’t going so well at home I would share something positive, along with a dose of healthy reality, and give that pep talk to myself and the world. Then I’d soon get the support of friends “Liking” in agreement, patting me on the back for my positivity and reminding me I could push onward. Whether through comments or emoji reactions, that validation helped fill my sails again.
One week of a social media fast meant I still had some gas in the emotional tank. But after two weeks of not having the positive feedback and connection of other mothers…WOW. I missed it! Since I couldn’t use my usual platform to vent, process, or recharge my batteries, I had to look elsewhere for those connections. Here’s what I discovered.
First, I called people on the phone. Really. It’s a thing! I didn’t just text or Facebook message. I actually made phone calls! Pretty cool, right? Talking to people. Laughing together. You should try it. You’ll feel like the junior high version of yourself again, minus the acne and awkwardness. Okay, it might be a little awkward at first, but it’s totally worth it. Over the last month, since I had more free time from not being on social media, I spoke with two grandparents and four friends on the phone that I don’t usually communicate with that way. I don’t even remember the last time I chatted with my grandparents. For me, the fast was worth it for that reason alone.
Second, when I couldn’t go to my online support system it forced me to turn to much better (no offense!) alternatives-my scriptures and Heavenly Father. I prayed more. I poured my heart out to Him instead of to a screen. At least three times I took to my knees in the kitchen or living room as my frightened, frustrated soul sought answers. I didn’t post a general “Pray for me” status. I didn’t postpone that heavenly communication with something as silly as scrolling. Why numb the pain when you can call on heaven for strength? While I think sharing what we are going through with others is essential and asking for prayers is powerful, it’s important we connect with the direct source of hope too.
I spent more time listening to General Conference talks and reading my scriptures because I had given myself more free time to put toward it. I might have missed out on what was going in the life of my friends, family, and the world (and I did miss that), but I also got to connect deeper with my God. He knows me. He loves me. I had forgotten how much, but I feel like I understand it at a deeper, richer level now than I did a month ago when I still had the distractions of social media.
Oh, yeah, and third, I learned that two weeks wasn’t long enough of a break because once I learned how to reach out in faith to God and my scriptures, instead of looking to someone else’s status to distract me from my pain, I decided I wanted my social media vacation to go longer. And yes, I intentionally called it a vacation because that’s what it’s felt like.
It’s been six weeks now. SIX WEEKS! During this time, I’ve still had to get on Facebook for some of my responsibilities as a homeschooling/theater mom and member of my church where the groups I’m part of use Facebook for their announcements. But besides that, and one quick old photo share about Fathers on Father’s Day (so people would know I’m not mad at my husband LOL), I’ve been off social media. I haven’t posted a sentence, photo, or status. Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram have been deleted from my phone for six weeks. This is from a woman who’s life literally had revolved around the social media.
I wanted to use it for good, to share scriptures, uplifting thoughts, and hope. I still want to do that, but I think I have a healthier perspective now on how much I do and don’t need to be on there. I don’t have to care so much that I get every picture I want to take just so I can share it. I can keep a better balance of my content. Sometimes, even if it would be a great shot, I can just keep wanting.
I also know how overwhelming those reeeeally happy posts can be now that I’ve taken a step away from it. When we’re seeing it every day it’s like the frog slowly being boiled to death- you don’t realize how you’re being affected. You don’t see how focused on yourself you are and how perfect you’re making your life look. Though I know people have been helped by some of my positive posts and I like seeing theirs, I want to be more careful about how I share the blessings in my life and keep a balanced, accurate output of reality. Yes, it really is a good life, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing shared on social media.
Most of all, I see now how much I was posting was just about ME. My life, my thoughts, my hope. To be honest, that’s not what I want to leave behind. I want my life to be about so, so much more than just me. I want to speak of Christ and preach of Christ. I want to bear testimony of the gifts of charity and forgiveness. I want to be a warrior for faith, families, and wholesome fun. I want to be MORE than my face and smile. I want to shine the light of Christ! This break gave me the perspective to help me see I can be doing more in those areas.
I’m so thankful for this Social Media Challenge, as challenging as it was. There were many times I wanted to share happy news, or ask a question, or vent, or just see what friends and family were up to, but we all know that sometimes it’s good to unplug and take a step back. I’m grateful for the examples of other dedicated parents who motivated me to take the break. I’m eternally grateful for a living prophet who speaks for God and helps us see how to live life in ways that will bring the greatest peace and joy to our families.
Social Media can be a powerful force for good or bad. It’s up to us which it will be in our own lives and homes. Hopefully, I can choose to use it for good.