No Facebook for seven days? I’ll take the challenge! Details later this week about why.
Sunday (Day 0) evening: I’ll admit it, even though I never expected this to happen: I’m a Facebook addict. No, I don’t have it as bad as some, but checking Facebook has been one of the first things I do nearly every day, even before getting out of bed.
When it was the trendy thing to do, I resisted signing up for Facebook because, well, it was the trendy thing to do. When I did sign up, it was because it was expected as part of my freelance writing contract, and it was a good way to promote my work. I even signed up with (and still use) my business email address rather than my personal one.
My Facebook use has changed over the years. At the start, it was almost all about promoting my website. Later it became a great way to keep in touch with my extended family and a few virtual friends that I had met elsewhere on the Internet, although that use has waned as some of my relatives and virtual friends have drifted to other platforms or lost interest. These days, most of my activity is in groups tied to subjects of personal interest, politics and religion in particular.
I’m not much into passing around memes, although I do “like” them and occasionally post articles from the Washington Post and other reputable outlets. I share my political, social and religious views, although usually to select friends rather than my entire friends list. My book reviews on Goodreads and my posts on this blog I usually share with everybody. And, of course, I share the mandatory photos of family and personal activities, although usually not more than once or twice a month. I think I’ve posted not more than two or three selfies, ever, although I sometimes post pictures that others have taken of me.
Ah, but those groups. That’s where my Facebook action takes place. There’s always something to get these groups talking, whether it’s the latest Trumpian outrage (there’s no shortage of those) or matters of political and theological importance. Overall, I benefit from these discussions, but they have become a time sink, so the benefit I get is seldom enough to justify the time spent.
As I’m about to begin my Facebook fast, I joke that I hope we don’t have another school shooting or some other event that would otherwise suck me into Facebook pontifications.
Late Monday (Day 1) night: I knew it would happen — a news article is published that in all likelihood has my corner of Facebook buzzing. And I’m missing out.
It’s not really a news article, but news item in a commentary by insightful Latter-day Saint writer Jana Reiss in a Salt Lake Tribune commentary. Reiss writes that in a thorough survey of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, only 22 percent disputed that the pre-1978 restrictions on temple entry by blacks or priesthood ordination of black men was God’s will. Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority thought otherwise — a full 37 percent said they “know” (that’s a big word in LDS circles) and 25 percent “believe” that the racial ban was God’s will. Like Reiss, I find those numbers discouraging.
For me, it’s obvious that God had nothing to do with the ban other than granting church leaders the authority to make decisions; they are fallible, just as I am, and in this case they failed. To me, it’s that simple. The God that I believe in “inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33). Or in the words of Paul: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female” (Galatians 3:28). Try as I might, I can’t reconcile those teachings with racism of any kind.
Ha! I’ve done my pontificating for the day without Facebook!
In my circle of Facebook subscribers who are members of the Church (most aren’t), the poll’s numbers would be reversed. (Yes, like most Facebook users, I have a friends list made up largely of people who agree with me, although I do appreciate those who don’t.) There’s no way close to a fifth of them would defend the priesthood/temple ban. So I have no doubt that the poll was a hot item of discussion today in my Facebook circle. I’m sure there were plenty of self-righteous musings over the poll. That’s the downside of Facebook. But I’m also sure there were those writing who were in need of comfort in dealing with the disappointment of the poll results and wondering how they fit in. We’re supposed to mourn with those who mourn, so I’m sure my Facebook feed saw plenty of that too. And that’s one of the upsides of Facebook.
The thing is, if I hadn’t been Facebook fasting, I would have spent at least two hours this morning discussing the poll despite intentions to not get sucked up in the conversation. Instead, I mowed the lawn, completed some necessary paperwork for my youngest son and had a fruitful time of reflection (more about that upcoming). And I was able to leave at noon for work without my customary rush out the door.
Early Wednesday (Day 3) morning: There wasn’t much to say about Tuesday. Tuesday is the one day of the week where I work two jobs, so I’m shut off from Facebook access anyway from 6:15 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. except for meal and work breaks.
One thing I’ve liked about the Facebook fast so far is that now, for three days in a row, I have begun each day with a time of prayer and contemplation. I’ve long aimed to do that, and I like doing that, but I’ve usually found myself distracted by social media and/or catching up on the latest news while still in bed. So when I did set aside my quiet time, I usually ended up sandwiching it between other activities during the day.
What I do specifically during my quiet name varies, but this week I have been contemplating on Biblical excepts selected by (of course) a phone app. Monday’s was the most interesting as a subject for reflection: “Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). There’s a lot to unpack in there, and I thought (among other things) about the similarities and differences with Buddhist thought about the nature of suffering. In any case, my time was definitely better spent than it would have on Facebook.
Later Wednesday (Day 3) morning: So how did this Facebook fast begin? I had thought about doing something like this for some time, and then I learned Sunday night that my youngest son was fasting from social media for one week — and both his mother and his sister were following suit to support him. So I did the same and here I am.
As an avid Snapchat user, my son didn’t come up with the idea himself. On Feb. 3, the president of our church, Russell M. Nelson, spoke to a huge gathering of church teenagers in downtown Salt Lake City, and recommended they “fast” from social media for two weeks. “Choose seven consecutive days and go for it,” he said. So my son started two days ago. For the record, Nelson wasn’t criticizing all social-media use; I’m sure the Church spends a considerable sum for its ample social-media presence. But he expressed concerns, among them that teens can suffer from depression and spiritual problems as they compare their lives with the lives that their social-media friends supposedly have. “Another downside of social media is that it creates a false reality,” he said. “Much of what appears in your various social media feeds is distorted, if not fake.”
He’s right, of course. There are plenty of upsides to social media; for me, the biggest downside is the amount of time it consumes and the attention it takes away from real life. And, yes, there can be a fakeness to much of it. Most of us are likelier to post the good rather than the bad about our lives, so we aren’t getting the full picture when we compare ourselves to others, who also are posting what’s good. The more troubling aspect for me is that social-media discussion (and this can be true for blogs and other written media as well as Facebook) can turn much of life into a response to controversy. While we shouldn’t ignore the evil around us, there certainly can be found a more balanced response. I’m hoping this week will help me do that.
Thursday (Day 4) morning: Gays are a hot topic in Utah (since our culture wars are at least 10 years behind the rest of the country’s). Last night (and now) there are three news stories, stories that people are talking about on Facebook, on the subject: Utah’s biggest July 4 celebration has denied a spot (again) to a pro-gay group in its upcoming parade. FamilySearch, a genealogical database sponsored by the LDS church, is developing the software it needs to include families headed by same-sex couples. And Utah’s senior center, Orrin Hatch, makes an impassioned speech supporting a national suicide hot line, saying gay youth “deserve our unwavering love and support.”
Homosexuality isn’t my favorite topic of discussion. But online discussion, even if not on my favorite topics, provides me a rush of dopamine or whatever it is stimulates the brain cells. Although I have things I can be doing now, I’m missing that rush, and I’m bored. Facebook tempts me, but I will not succumb.
Later Thursday (Day 4) morning: I just got an email from Facebook telling me that one of my good friends, someone I know from real life but haven’t seen in a while, has posted something, and it already has 30 likes. I am seriously tempted. I’m home alone (well, there are three others still in bed), I feel somewhat lonely, my perusal through job listings isn’t fruitful, and I’m curious about my friend. I’m seriously tempted, just this once.
And I realize how silly all this sounds.
Saturday (Day 6) morning: I didn’t particularly miss my social-media fix the rest of Thursday (most of the time I was working), nor Friday (when I worked just a half-day). For today: So far, so good.
Sunday (Day 7) evening: I have less than three hours to go. I will say, at least for the last few days, I didn’t miss Facebook as much as I thought I would. In the next few days I’ll work out a plan to help ensure that I get a decent return for the investment of time.
Monday (Day 8) morning: It’s 10 a.m. on my first day off the hiatus, and I haven’t looked at Facebook yet, although it’s the next item on my to-do list. The experience has taught me some things about myself, which I’ll write about in a future post. Facebook is here to stay for me, but my goal is to make it a net positive.
All Bible quotations are from the NET Bible.
Image provided by Shop Catalog and used with permission in exchange for the link. I normally don’t link to this kind of site, but the picture was too fitting for this post to not use it.