I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In a speech given at a womens' conference a couple weeks ago, the prophet of my faith, President Russell M. Nelson, invited the women to participate in a 10-day social media fast, and to free ourselves from any negativity that taints our minds. I was actually just thinking about how I could benefit from less compulsive Facebook scrolling and email checking, the night before I heard this speech. So I knew I had to do it. I needed it--and not just a little break in general, but a plan after that to monitor and cut back on my usage of social media. And to spend less time on my phone and lap-top as well.
I want to try to be more present in my life, manage my time more wisely, and work on developing more positive thinking patterns. It is easy to scroll through our news feeds and get down on ourselves. We compare to the lives of our family and friends--our weaknesses and poor circumstances to another's highlight reel. Why can't we just be happy that someone else is happy--and not be jealous? Easier said than done, I know. The reality is, that everyone is struggling with something.
They're so lucky they got to go on that vacation. I wish we had enough money to go....Her life seems so perfect, and I have to deal with all this. It's not fair.... Do you catch yourself having those thoughts? Yea, me neither....Ha.
Okay, so I am totally guilty of all this on a regular basis--even without the influence of social media. Just in my regular interaction with others. And I think this is a big problem in our society today. Overusing social media can lead to low self-esteems, depression, and social anxiety. We're engaging less in person and missing out on more intimate interpersonal connection.
The other issue is that the internet, as wonderful as it is, consumes us. It can all be pretty addicting if we're not careful. This includes video games. With social media, we get a dopamine hit from all the "likes," comments, and attention we receive. Screen time in general gives us the stimulation we crave (which my ADHD brain especially loves). And with my low self-esteem--seeking validation and praise satisfies the basic human need of love and acceptance. The love language, "words of affirmation," has a big impact on how I view myself. When we don't love ourselves or find happiness within, (something I have always struggled with), we may tend to look to outward sources to fill the void. We depend on other people or things to satisfy our needs.
Social media has allowed me to stay connected long-distance, with all my friends and family. And most of my hobbies revolve around digital media. But there should be moderation in all things. It's a matter of finding a balance and making sure our priorities are in order. So I am working on that.
I only lasted about 4.5 days with the 10-day social media fast (because I still wanted to post my weekly blog article on Facebook). It was a little hard at first. My brain went on auto-pilot and I wanted to click on the app on my phone, as I ate breakfast, like I usually do. But I stopped myself (and moving my app to a less accessible spot on my phone, and logging out of it on my desktop helped). But then I ended up giving in to the temptation to check all my notifications. I did not, however, scroll through my newsfeed. And actually, since then, I haven't had much of a desire to now. I haven't been checking it nearly as much as I used to. I've also been very busy though these past couple of months, because I am rehearsing for a play that opens a week from today! And being busy doing that feels so much better. I'm getting out of the house, doing something I love, and interacting with people in person (which gives me anxiety, but I know I need it). And spending less time on my lap top meant that I got more chores done around the house. I gave my kids more attention. I was more present. Even though my fast was just a few days, I felt like my mind literally eliminated some toxins. A much-needed cleanse.
Almost 10 years ago, for a music appreciation class in college (wow, I feel old), my professor had us do a 24-hr music fast. I absolutely love music and enjoy singing more than anything. I will listen to music simply to listen to it; however, most of my listening is background, or passive listening. I’ll have music going when I’m getting ready for the day. When I’m cleaning or dancing—loud, fun music has to be playing. Whenever I'm driving, there must be music. This part of the challenge wasn’t so hard for me, however—because at the time, I was in class or at work almost non-stop, and therefore couldn't listen to music.
So I added an additional challenge for myself--which was to not sing the entire day either. This was the real challenge. I love breaking out into song all the time. I sing in the shower and I sing around the house. This was difficult because I sing sometimes not even realizing—it’s just a natural occurrence of subconscious thinking. My roommates helped me with this. I would accidentally start a couple notes and they would catch me. It was quite frustrating actually, because I wanted to sing so badly. I would start to sing or hum and not even realize it. Thankfully, I was involved in a musical at the time—so I had to sing, because we had rehearsal every night. So that was my exception. I'm glad the music fast was only 24 hrs. I can't imagine not being able to sing or listen to music for 10 days.
So what about music did I miss the most? I missed just the way it allows me to feel—how passionate I am about it in the way that I can express myself. It allows me to elicit certain emotions by either amplifying them or changing my mood. I missed not being able to sing. What I learned though, is that "silence is music". How do we keep perspective if we constantly have noise in our lives? When I was in the car with my boyfriend at the time, it was nice being able to just talk—no radio. It’s nice to have some peace and quiet every now and then—in contrast to the noisy, chaotic world that we live in.
Both the social media fast and music fast were insightful; they allowed me to ponder and reflect. To step out of my routine and analyze how I manage my time--which is so precious. It helped me remember the things that matter most to me. When you make a sacrifice and go without something you love for a little while, it makes you appreciate what you have. For instance, I have been apart from my husband a lot in our marriage, due to his career--including a 1-year deployment overseas with the Army. It was so tough, but I grew a lot from that experience. If we don't taste the bitter, how can we appreciate the sweet?
What would be more difficult for you--a 10-day social media fast or a 10-day music fast? Challenge yourself. Take a break. Discover a new perspective. Think of all the things you are grateful for. We are so blessed you guys!