According to the Pew Research Center, about 80% of internet users in America are on Facebook alone. This doesn’t account for all the other social media platforms: Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc. On average, Americans spend almost two hours a day on social media. That is two hours a day that people aren’t having real relationships with their children or spouses or friends or neighbors. Our overuse of social media is having an adverse effect on our mental health. Several studies have shown a correlation between extended use of social media and greatly increased risk of depression and anxiety. Social media is also implicated in increased instances of bullying, a decrease in positive body image (particularly Instagram), and greater feelings of social isolation and jealousy. All studies show that connecting with people via social media is no substitute for face-to-face interactions.
This isn’t to say that social media is inherently bad. It can be a great way to stay in touch across great distances. I recently reconnected with a friend in Germany who I had the privilege of seeing come to faith in high school. It was wonderful to reconnect with her. Fasting isn’t just about giving up bad things, it is about the willingness to give up anything (good or bad) to draw closer to God.
My challenge to you this week is to give up one full day of social media use. A stretch goal would be to give up all social media for the whole week. If you don’t use social media, you aren’t off the hook! I challenge you to give up whatever means you turn to for escape, maybe a game you play on your phone or computer. Or you might give up TV, if that is how you escape. In the time that you have freed up (2 hours a day for some of us!), I encourage you to connect with real people in real time and space. Maybe meet a different friend for coffee each day that you have been meaning to catch up with, or have friends over for dinner. Maybe social media has taken over time that you need to be spending on your spouse or children. Take time to invest in these important relationships. If you tend to use social media or play games at your work, instead use that time to work on your relationships with colleagues. As you are spending time with real people in real time, pray for them. Be fully present with them, not checking out on Facebook or Instagram. I believe that God will open incredible doors to spiritual conversations if we make this one small sacrifice.
You might consider praying this prayer each day this week:
“O God, in the course of this busy life, give us times of refreshment and peace; and grant that we may so use our leisure to rebuild our bodies, renew our minds, and reconnect with those we love, that our spirits may be opened to the goodness of your creation and your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”