Just Say No: The Why and How of Surviving Your Social Media Fast
On Wednesday, December 20th, 2017, I began a 12-day social media sabbath.
I committed to my fast publicly, posting this photo and status update to all my accounts.
Then I logged off. Ten minutes in, I reached for my phone, stopping short of pulling up the apps.
How was I going to survive 12 days of this? I felt helpless, so I deleted the apps.
How would I cope with my boredom and nervous energy? How could I curb the habit of one-minute-check-in-turned-ten-minute-information-binge? What if I missed something important? What if folks missed me?
Those first 48-hours were an ego-driven, second-guessing frenzy met with constant dopamine cravings.
But by Friday evening, I felt free.
- I survived.
- I didn’t miss anything too catastrophic.
- I wasn’t really missed, and that’s OK.
Instead of reaching for my phone, I picked up a magazine. I wrote in my journal, colored Advent mandalas. Fred and I watched movies; we played card games, and I sang (terribly) as he played his recently re-strung guitar.
By day three without social media, my curiosity for life returned. I was hungry for the good kind of information; I wondered about big ideas—and I longed to connect deeply with those I love the most.
Then, five days in, celebrity podcaster and author Christian Piatt texted me:
“FYI although you are on a break from social media, I wanted to let you know that your interview went out today on the podcast.”
I’m a total Homebrewed CultureCast fangirl, so meeting Christian at the 2017 Wild Goose Festival, and subsequently being on his and Amy’s show was dream come true.
The FOMO began instantly.
My heart rate increased; my palms got sweaty.
Should I quick my social media sabbath to share the Homebrewed “Sabbathcast” episode? If I don’t share it immediately, am I letting Christian and Amy down? If I break the contemplative spell, how will I feel? Maybe I should log back into social media to share this podcast; I mean, Christian and Amy did go to all the trouble to have me on.
I stopped myself.
I sent Christian a thank you text and told him I would share it as soon as I was back online. Then, I settled back in for the long-haul.
If I were going to stay true to this sabbath and its benefits—I couldn’t expose myself to even a hint of the influx of social media—and especially for ego reasons like wanting to share the accomplishment of being featured on a popular podcast.
I knew I was missing out on some things—and I had to be OK with that.
This wrestling is precisely the heart of sabbath: to whom do we belong? To the world, or to God? Do we follow the world’s chaotic, 24-7, non-stop schedule, or do we number our days rightly?
I stayed unplugged.
I needed those twelve days to recharge my brain and body, to spend time in spiritual practice, to be in community with others, and to continue grieving my mother’s death,
Here’s what I learned: If you tell people what you’re doing—and why—and you hold yourself accountable publicly, folks will support you–some may even be inspired to join you!
And, guess what?
The world did not crumble because I wasn’t tweeting.
I’m not that important.
I’m just a writer, teacher, and minister.
But, I do have the privilege of time off—something many American low-wage workers cannot fathom. With that privilege comes responsibility: how will I use my time to embrace resting, turning inward, deepening my spirituality and relationships so that I can be of better service to the world? Sabbath equips us physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally to love God and serve others.
I’m already looking forward to 2018’s social media sabbath. I’ve marked my calendar, and hope you will, too: Friday, December 21st, to Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019.
Need resources on how to start your 2018 sabbath practice? Start here. Sign up for the Upper Room For Sabbath’s Sake eCourse!