A month ago the youth (ages 12-18) of my church were challenged to go on a social media fast for 7 whole days by our prophet, Russell M. Nelson. I love listening to the broadcasts and devotionals that church leaders share even if they aren’t speaking to my demographic I often listen in. That was the exact case on June 3, 2018.
I know that when the prophet speaks it is because he has something of value to share. Even though he was directly speaking to the youth I knew that he was going to share truth that I could benefit. I was not disappointed.
One prompting that stood out to me was about distractions and how I allow them into my life. Slowly my time and thoughts drift away from things that provide me with meaning and benefit those around me. I can do better and I need to do better for myself but also as an example to my kids.
Nelson, called the youth extraordinary and invited them to join the youth battalion as part of gathering Israel. What an honor and a responsibility he placed on them and their generation. When I was growing up President Hinckley called the youth the chosen generation. Now the bar has been risen as they are called to join in the greatest cause on earth. My mind drifted off and thought about my kids. In 10 years I will have a 15 year old, 14 year old and 12 year old that will be apart of the Youth organization. What responsibilities will be placed upon them? How can I raise kids that the Lord can depend on? Whew! I am in for quite the job but I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for me and that I have been given my kids for a reason. Now I just need to do my best to show them the path that heavenly Father has prepared for them.
Following Prophetic Counsel
While I was listening to the prophet suggest a media fast my mind immediately went to my Grandma and her response to prophets council many years ago. To when President Gordon B. Hinckley discouraged members to have more than one pair of earrings. During his message she quietly removed her extra earrings and never looked back. I would like to say that I was as quick to obedience as my Grandma’s example but I waited until the next day to begin.
I did it! Maybe I procrastinated beginning this challenge but eventually I took the leap. I participated in the Youth Media Fast and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The first couple days was tougher than I imagined but the end result was worth the sacrifice.
My Social Media Habits
Changing the simple habits of my social media use was a challenge. I jumped on Facebook right when I woke up, even before getting out of bed. I scrolled Instagram while eating my breakfast instead of talking with my kids. I watched YouTube videos while I nursed my baby. During soccer practise I was busy taking pictures or videos for my feed. I wasn’t allowing myself to enjoy the simple moments. Instead I was constantly looking for the best angles or anticipating something cute the kids might do. Some days I watched the kids on my phone through the camera lens. I didn’t see them with my own eyes. I was trapped behind a screen. Writing this makes me feel slightly terrible but I’m guessing I am not the only parent that has found themselves in similar struggles. Tell me I’m not the only one.
At the end of the night I would lie in bed scrolling feeds instead of chatting with my hubby. My phone intruded on our date nights, while we were driving or even when we watched Netflix. I found myself still scrolling for absolutely no reason. It was out of control.
What I learned while on my Media Fast
1. After my 7 day fast I noticed that I am could stay focused on a task and actually complete things. Not everything but I didn’t feel the need to stop working on whatever to check my phone. I actually was able to fold multiple baskets of laundry before I needed a pause. Huge success for me.
2. I found more patience. No, my kids did not become angels during my fast but I didn’t snap as quickly. Was it because I was giving them more attention? Maybe. Was it because they were simply interacting with me instead of interrupting my media use? Very possible.
3. I talked more with my spouse. Full on conversations as opposed to just filling the other in on our day and talking about the kids. We had discussions and shared our thoughts. We even played games together once the kids went to bed. I know the prophet didn’t suggest a fast to help the youth’s marriages but the words he shared impacted my life that way.
4. I let go of my need to document everything. Moments don’t need to be photographed to give them importance. Yes, I still took plenty of pictures but not constantly like I have been known too. I took the picture I wanted then put the phone down and soaked in the moment, making memories with my family. I didn’t just watch them catch bubbles and snap pictures hoping to get the biggest grin on camera. Instead I got off my butt and chased bubbles with my kids and laughed with them.
Changes I made to keep Media from controlling me
I loved the challenge so much that extended my fast to close to 10 days. Since then I have adapted the way I use my phone and social media and let me tell you I am loving the changes.
1. I turned my notifications off. No sound and it doesn’t pop up in my notification section on my phone. I no longer find myself constantly logging on to see what the beep was for. I am in control of my time and I go on when I have time instead of filling my time with my phone and the leftover time for things that should actually be my priority.
2. I save my social media time for the evenings. I used to find myself on my phone during meals, when I was outside with my kids, when I attended the kids events. Not all the time, but I was consistently looking down and not taking the time to be fully present in whatever I was doing. Now I look at my kids and have conversations with them while we are eating. I put my phone down and chase them around instead of scrolling.
3. Social media isn’t all bad there are many positives and I truly love it. I missed my favorite people and the daily upliftment that they offered. Not everyone I follow brings goodness in my life but I am working on weeding out the negative. Getting rid of things I don’t want or need. I am only going to follow the best. The people that help me feel good about me and the work I am doing. The accounts that bring me joy and help me be the best I can. My list is going to be different than everyone else’s but I am in charge of what I let into my life and that included what I see on social media.
Writing this all out really hits home. I wasn’t the Mom that my kids deserved or the best wife I could be. I was constantly split. I wanted to be there with my family but my thoughts drifted to those silly red dots. How did I let myself get so connected to a metal square box?
Slowly, that’s how. Just like being tied with thin flaxen cord, I found myself bound. This social media fast was the break that I needed.