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It’s Time for a Social Media Fast
By: Wendy Speake
We all seem to be looking down these days. I wonder if that’s why many of us feel down too. We perpetually bow our heads, but not in prayer. While we might believe prayer works, we don’t have the time to get on our knees because we’re on our phones. Checking in online, responding to a text, watching a YouTube video—then looking up just in time to snap a picture of the sunset. As we post it to social media, we realize our neck aches and that we forgot to switch out the laundry.
We need a break. A holy hiatus. A social media sabbatical.
My name is Wendy, and I’m exhausted. Perhaps it has something to do with late nights spent streaming movies, or maybe it’s because I don’t have any quiet moments without a screen stimulating me. I’m all tweeted out. I need to unplug for a season so that I can plug in to the One who is my source and my strength. I’m as drained as the battery on my phone—and I know I’m not alone.
My smartphone, it turns out, may not be the smartest purchase I ever made. While I can’t imagine living without my mobile GPS, Amazon Music, and connection to all of my online friends, the truth is that it often distracts me from what matters most. Who matters most: God. And the real-life friends He’s surrounded me with come in a distant third.
In Matthew 22:36–39, an expert in the Levitical law asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” This man was really asking Him, “What matters most?”
“Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Nothing in my life has made loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind more difficult than my constant connection to my devices. The same is true when it comes to loving my real-life neighbors. Devices are divisive.
Ten years ago, I would wake up, stretch, and pick up my Bible from my bedside table. Well rested, I spent time with God at the start of each new day before seeing to the needs of my three young children. It was my morning routine. Today, however, the first thing I reach for is my phone. Though I promise myself, “I’m going to open my Bible app,” and often I do, my “quiet time” gets interrupted by noisy notifications from people I’m connected with online. Connecting online has made connecting with God nearly impossible.
Before I know it, I’m checking email, and then I hop over to find out who liked my Instagram post from the previous night. As my shower heats up, I interact with the virtual friend who left me a message as I slept. At the start of each new day I communicate with those I “like” more than I do the One whom I love most, which begs the question, Do I truly love Him most?
I believe in my heart that I do. I love God more than I love all the people in the world (and all the people on the World Wide Web), but the habitual way I turn to the world testifies to my priorities. That’s why The 40-Day Social Media Fast is my own personal journey back to what matters most—Who matters most.
C. S. Lewis wrote, “Human history [is] . . . the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” Today in this digital age, with our smartphones, tablets, watches, and laptops beeping at us constantly, we are desperately looking for happiness. In Jeremiah 2:13, the Lord calls out: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
If you find yourself constantly thirsty for more, never quite satisfied no matter how often you go back to draw from the well of social media or online streaming and shopping, then you’ve likely been drinking from a well that was never meant to satisfy you. Like It or not, we all tend to forsake the spring of living water and dig our own cisterns. They’re broken and, as a result, so are we. Still, we keep at it. And the more broken we become, the more fervent our search for happiness.
Each ping, buzz, and notification triggers a dopamine release in our brains, synthetically creating a short sensation of happiness. We’ve become chemically and emotionally addicted to these short-lived highs. That’s why I’ve decided to put my foot down by putting my phone down, so that I might pick up the joy-inducing presence of God instead.
I’d venture to say that you originally picked up your phone as a resource to enhance your life, not to consume it. However, the brilliant people who designed Facebook, Instagram, and countless other social media sites are masterminds at cultivating addiction. Our online world has not evolved accidentally; it’s been engineered intentionally. I feel it personally as I pick up my phone one hundred-plus times a day. I see it in my children as they play online games and send snarky memes to friends. I witness it as my husband sets his phone faceup on the table as we gather for dinner as a family.
We’re all struggling to live in the moment as a result. We struggle to interact with those we love, because we’re chasing after those we “like.” We forget to actually smell the roses we’re busy taking pictures of. What’s more, the pixelated glow of our screens does not cause us to shine in the world as Christ called us to shine.
Those are a couple of the reasons I decided to take my first social media sabbatical. I wanted more than a fleeting feeling of happiness; I wanted lasting joy. So I deleted the distractions and devoted myself to finding it. The first place I looked was up, and it turns out that looking up was the answer.
If you are ready to set down your phone for 40 days in order to lift up your eyes and experience the joy and peace available to you, let me invite you to go on this radical, counter-cultural, hope-inducing journey!
Find out more about The 40 Day Social Media Fast at 40daysocialmediafast.com