Could a Social Media Fast Help?

Every five seconds it seems like a notification alert sounds on my phone.  Breaking news is always happening somewhere in the world, and my device is sure to notify me.  A friend sent me a message, a picture has been posted, or a video has been shared.  But how does all this information take a toll on my attitude and focus? To see what I would learn, I decided to take a seven day fast from all social media.

After the fast I felt refreshed, but it did make me feel like I missed something. I didn’t look at Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram.  My go to app is Twitter.  It’s where I find my news and up-to-date information about what’s happening in the world.  I like it a lot.  The inauguration occurred right in the middle of my fast, and I felt like I was missing out. Like I was the only kid at school who didn’t get invited to the party.  However, the reality is I didn’t miss anything that I actually needed.

Here’s what I learned from my social media fast:

  • I found myself reaching for my phone out of habit and sometimes just pure temptation:
  • I found myself always reaching for my phone when stopped at a traffic light.  Are you kidding me?  What am I supposed to do, just sit here?
  • I tweeted something about our new president right before I began the fast.  During the fast, my tweet started getting lots of retweets, likes, and replies. Notifications started flooding my screen, and I was dying to follow up and be a part of the conversation.  Before I caved, I silenced all my notifications.
  • It was annoying not being able to interact with friends and even more frustrating not being able to communicate to my church.

On the plus side:

  • I avoided the negative emotions I often experience from social media. Whether it’s a post that’s annoying, upsetting, passive-aggressive, or someone just ranting, social media can bring out negative emotions in me.  I might walk away angry, jealous, or frustrated, and that emotion can follow me throughout the day.  Fasting helped me focus on the day and keep my attitude in check.
  • My focus seemed to be sharper.  The notification alert is an addicting little sound. The sound generates dopamine in your brain giving you the sense of pleasure.  Every time we see a like or a comment, we want to see who it is and what they said.  With fewer distractions, I was able to stay on task much easier.
  • It felt like I was “in the moment” more than usual.  My wife and I can be in a conversation and slowly, I’ll pick up my phone and look at Twitter.  She’ll say, “What are you doing?” I’ll say, “I’m listening, keep going.”  Whether I can listen and read at the same time is not the issue.  The issue is my wife deserves my undivided attention.  During the fast I felt like my wife and my kids were able to have more of my attention.

Here’s what I’m going to do moving forward:

  • Take a social media fast at least 4 times a year.
  • Turn off all notifications from apps on my phone. Well, except the NBA app.
  • Delete the Facebook app from my phone.

Here’s why:

The fast really helped my stress level and kept me focused.  Since the fast ended I’m not as concerned with what’s being said or posted online.  My hope is that future fasts will continue to help me monitor the time I’m investing into social media. Notifications only distract me and can lead to negative emotions. I end up wasting time and decreasing my productivity at work.Taking time later in the day to view social media is a better option for me.  Taking Facebook off my phone removes the temptation to look.

I think there are some great things about social media that, when used appropriately, can add value to my life. However, it can become an addictive distraction in my life that I always want to keep in check.

How is social media affecting your life? How would a social media fast benefit you?