Best Lent Ever: No Social Media
On Ash Wednesday I deactivated my only social media account, Facebook. 1 week ago from today was the anticipated return. Within minutes of my return I received an important work related message, read through a party related group thread, registered for a fertility conference, and saw a few friend pictures I would have otherwise missed. Yet, after those initial “catching up” minutes were over, I was very much unimpressed. The appeal was gone. The 40 day detox had kicked the early morning/late night scrolling habit, and allowed me to assess some more important things. I’m still the same sinful, selfish person I was before, but learning how to deal with myself with one less distraction has honestly made this the best lent ever. Thank you, as always, to our brilliant Church and her unwavering liturgical year offering us these opportunities. If you have not recently evaluated or fasted from your social media use, I am here to speak truth, do it!
I knew I needed a break. As Lent approached, friend after friend declared social media their choice of abstinence. I had been discerning my social media presence for the past few months, reading Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (check out from the library & just read Chapter 10: Quit Social Media), listening to Dr. Newport’s popular Ted Talk Quitting Social Media, reading a friend’s experience about her Life Without Social Media, and following Hands Free Revolution. Social media an interesting beast. It really is fun to share birthday’s, pregnancies, weddings, shout out to our best friends, keep up with family, connect with fellow moms, vent on our favorite private groups, advertise businesses ETC! How did we ever keep up with things before? Who do you know that doesn't have a social media account? Is the first thing you do when meeting someone or connecting with them search for their social media account? Have you not gained goodness and beauty through your social media accounts? My friends & I asked similar questions. And I am glad that we did. Anything taking up our precious time and energy these days, absolutely requires prudence, prayer and reflection.
The first 48 hours off social media were honestly the most freeing. I was so busy with my own children and daily duties I thought, thank God I am off of that, I don’t have time! As the week progressed, I found myself faced with the few quiet moments that SM tends to steal. Oh, this picture would be so cute to post on my wall! Oh, this is a great question for that Facebook group! Instead, I sent the picture directly to who would appreciate it (close family & friends), I sought out the answer another way, (yes, FB groups do not have all the answers). All without the distraction of seeing what another mom might be doing, or wasting time reading an unnecessary article. And all with the opportunity to take my current question, joy or success to God first, and leave the moment feeling more refreshed or thankful than before!
I stayed strong 40 straight days not logging onto my accounts once. There were a few times I asked my husband to check so and so’s Instagram, did she have the baby? Did she tag me? (oh, how trivial!) Overall, I was more focused, more intentional with my time, more aware of my own nosiness, and more prayerful! In the words of a trusted friend, going back on just wasn’t a big deal anymore. It was an eye opening reset. Holidays and birthdays still happen if you don’t post about them on social media.
If you are letting an SM scroll to happen in your bed, I would say your’e in the red zone for an overdue fast. There are more important things to wake up and fall asleep to. Do your own research about the depressing effects of SM, particularly for women, the giant SM developers who intentionally create addictive feedback patterns to our brains such as the ‘notification’ gratifications to keep us on, and the false notion that people are waiting around to see what you are going to post next. In the very least, do a 40 day fast. It’s too hard to gauge the effect on your life by only limiting to 10 minutes a day or a few times a week. It requires more time for a complete analysis. Dr. Newport suggests going off cold turkey without telling others to see who even notices (a bit harsh). Or do what I did and strategically plan the fast and announce it to those who might care. In the end, allow SM to be a simple tool you use for your life, not a time sucker and mood changer that uses you.
Those who are living off the social media grid (yes, they exist!), report deeper relationships and better focus. They are not stressing over FOMO, living in isolation or severing ties from a loving family. I personally want to learn from them! As much as I am still tempted to cheer on my tribe in the SM world, am currently pressuring my introverted husband to become an Instagram-Catholic-story-sharing-power-couple (laugh out loud!), and following my beloved groups for legitimately good ideas; I am already planning my next fast. And I honestly think everyone can benefit. I know the argument for those who make a living through social media exists, and this post may or may not be able to address all of those particular concerns. I would recommend reading Deep Work for some excellent recommendations for those situations.
The last nugget of advice I will leave you with is to discern the any-benefit rule. Experts advise to be wary of allowing things in your life just for any-benefit. It is a slippery slope. There are many things in life that will offer you some benefit, (as I argue social media has to mine - ex: the real life friends I met through Facebook, the real life fertility clients I’ve taught, the Facebook book list recommendations I’ve loved, the business opportunities for our family) but we simply cannot meet every person, read every book, learn every language, play every sport or do everything! Our circle of influence is only so big. Our time is limited. Social media may provide some benefit to my life, but is it overall worth it more than not? Let me know what you think after your detox.
ps. funny enough today is Divine Mercy Sunday! & exactly 9 years ago that my husband & I first met, as Facebook kindly reminded me ;)