The first weekend of October, the leader of my faith tradition issued a challenge to women to abstain from social media for 10 days. You can hear the whole challenge here.
Anyone following my social media knows that I embarked on this challenge from a less than enthusiastic space. I don’t like to undertake any spiritual responsibility without due diligence, but the timing of the challenge combined with my need to publicize a book about faith meant I needed to engage the challenge immediately.
Many of my friends in other faith traditions criticized the move, calling out blind obedience and criticizing my faith for an ongoing silencing of women. I didn’t really have an answer for either of those criticisms. Without having had time to pray and fast, I had little testimony of the principle. It was an act of blind faith, something I don’t encourage anyone to undertake. We need the testament directly from Christ if we are to have the power of faith.
But here I’ve been. Obeying more out of social pressure than faith. I still don’t think that’s a good idea, but here’s what I learned during my 10-day fast from social media:
Social media is mostly a positive force in my life. I missed being able to support my friends and family. As lovely as it might be to make a phone call, few of us have time for that level of interaction. Phone calls and social visits also take away from my time with my children, which is already too brief. But I can be part of the lives of my friends and family and feel connected when I scroll through posts on Facebook and Instagram. I can see each triumph and take a moment to send love in times of trial. Over the past ten days, I didn’t replace social media with social visits - I simply lost connection.
Social media isn’t interfering with my ability to feel the spirit. In fact, for the reasons noted above, I actually felt less able to serve others. I was frustrated about what I missed and moments I might have shared when I scrolled back through the events of the last week.
Twitter is an unhealthy relationship for me. The only social media that I might ditch is Twitter. I was grateful that I didn’t have Twitter in my ear for the week following conference. I agree with most Twitter users that we need to discuss negative ideas in order to create societal change, but the negativity on Twitter is rarely motivating. After a single 10-minute scroll, I felt depressed, hopeless and frustrated. I’m not sure what I’ll do about that, though, because Twitter is a major platform for writers and not being on Twitter is risky.
Social media is not the majority of my screen time. Reducing social media only decreased my screen time by a small percentage. In general, I replaced social media easily with games and other media. My dislike of boredom is more an issue than social media’s influence on me.
Men are as guilty of phone addiction as women. My husband happily scrolled through sports scores and watched videos on YouTube every evening as we gathered together. Not asking men to do the challenge was completely sexist and I’m not going to pull punches about that.
Media is not the gateway to hell and “negative” is not the same as “evil.” Many of my friends immediately interpreted the President’s challenge to mean they couldn’t read or watch any media that wasn’t produced by the church with an official seal of approval. I have a lot to say about so-called “clean” works and why they aren’t as Christian as everyone claims, but mostly I think we need to remember that stories enhance empathy and Christ’s work demands empathy. Shoving your head in a box every time someone mentions anything perceived as sinful is no better than being distracted from the needs of others due to social media.
I found a lot more time to blog. As you can tell.
A Christian friend of mine in another tradition shared this lovely set of sermons with me that I think sums up what I learned over this week. We need to be available to Christ in every way. Certainly this means avoiding distractions, but it also means avoiding holing up like a turtle with you “positive” blinders snugly in place.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I I need to catch up on Instagram.