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Fasting as a spiritual discipline is part of our devotion to God. Denying ourselves from the pleasures of the flesh shows our commitment to the Lord.
In today’s world where our social media time has drastically increased, a social media fast may just be what we need. If you’ve noticed that your Bible reading time and prayers have become short, it’s time for a digital detox.
Some good things come with using social media. We get to connect with others, especially those who are far, and use it to share the gospel, encourage those around us, and stay informed on the latest news. But it can be harmful and addictive.
In this post, we will go into how to do a screen sabbatical and the benefits for you spiritually, mentally, and physically.
The negative impact of social media
Social media platforms may have become part of your daily life, but numerous studies have been done to assess the negative impact of using them excessively. It can affect our mental health and cause us to be more anxious and depressed.
While people are sharing their highlights, we end up thinking what we have is not enough and that what we’re doing is not enough. This toxic comparison, envy, and discontentment are not in line with God’s word.
The abundance of content online makes you scroll through your social media feed for hours, and before you know it, it’s the middle of the night, and your sleep is affected. Phone screens have a blue light which disrupts your sleep at night.
There are mental health difficulties that come with excessive use of social media, such as stress, depression, anxiety, and even anger.
Spending too much time on your mobile phone can also stop you from engaging actively with family members, colleagues, and friends.
By nature, social apps can be addictive and offer a tempting yet meaningless distraction to real life. Instead of praying through a challenge you’re facing you may rather prefer to mindlessly scroll through social pages.
Even teen girls may develop bad habits, and experience body image disturbance from social media posts and comments, leading them to have mental health challenges.
Social media use can lead to habits such as body shame, especially for adolescent girls but even for adults.
Spending a lot of time online can stop you from engaging your mind and doing something productive or even slow down your productivity. Social platforms can make waste your time and negatively affect your mood.
Because of the negative impact of social apps, a fast may be necessary for you from time to time.
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There are many different types of fasts in the Bible, such as a sexual fast, liquid fast, absolute fast from food and drink, and fast from worldly desires. You can fast from fleshly desires such as coffee, secular music, and social media.
A social media fast is an intentional break from all social media apps. You can do it for a day, week, or month. The main goal is to use the extra time to connect with God through reading the Bible without distractions.
It lets you press pause on social sites and will encourage you to figure out new and better ways to fill your idle time.
If you wake up in the morning and the first thing you want to do is check all your apps, you may be addicted to them. God wants us to seek Him first in the morning so He can guide and lead us during the day. Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed in the morning, and this is the example we should follow.
Do you make posts on your social media account and then check your phone constantly for notifications to see who liked, shared, or commented on the post? You may have started to crave social approval and may need a break from it. God wants us to seek his approval, not that of people.
If you can’t stop checking your phone and take it to the bathroom or check it while driving and your fingers are twitching for your phone for no reason, a much-needed break may be a good idea.
Facebook or Twitter may have become the source of all relevant information and truth, whereas God’s word is the ultimate source of truth.
Even if you’re not addicted, digital disengagement to allow yourself the space and time to prioritize your relationship with God is a good reason to do a social media fast.
If social media usage is fully integrated into your daily life, it may be difficult to take a break. But we have a few tips and resources to help you figure out new ways to fill the extra time you’ll be having.
The first step you need to take is to pray about your intentions. If you’re used to spending a long time checking your phone this will not an easy fast. So, pray and ask the holy spirit to help you. We don’t fast so others can pat us on the shoulders but draw close to our heavenly Father.
Take time to understand the purpose of disengaging from excessive screen time. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see how digital platforms may have become a barrier to a close relationship with God.
Make a plan for your social media break. Don’t do it during the Christmas holidays, when you’re going through difficult times, or when you’re sick. The best way to make a fast from social media apps meaningful is to replace screen time with reading the Bible, meditating on the word, worship, and prayer.
After spending too much time on social channels, you may need to back off a little bit at a time rather than abruptly. For example, you can delete all social media accounts and leave one that you check at specific times during the day. Most phones and apps allow you to set a limit on your account activity.
You can even start by turning off notifications on all platforms on the 1st day, then the next day, you delete one account. Use the little extra time you get to pray or do Bible studies.
If you’ve never fasted, you may need to start with 1 day off social media platforms, and once you see results, this will encourage you to plan for 2, 3, or 4 days and before you know it, you’d have done a 30-day fast. Small steps give you a positive experience, and as you enjoy your success you’ll be encouraged to keep going.
Every time you start to open the app on your phone or log in on your computer, stop, and instead pray or read scripture.
If you are doing an absolute fast, delete all your social media sites and only reinstall them when your fast is complete.
Do it with a friend or an accountability partner who can check in on your progress when it comes to your digital detox.
Plan for alternative times of how you’ll spend your extra time. In this video, we’re encouraged to do prayer walks, physical activity, reading, and pacing ourselves in all our tasks instead of rushing because we hear that notification bell.
Consider journaling, and doing a crossword puzzle during your lunch break. Do chores at home or take out that recipe book that’s collecting dust and cook a meal from scratch.
Find other meaningful ways to spend your time, such as joining a charity or starting a side hustle to make extra income.
If your friends rely heavily on connecting with you on social media, you can let them know that you’re taking a break and private message them how they can get hold of you.
The positive experience you’ll have with the fast will make you want to do it again. Some of the benefits are:
- When you’re no longer going through social media posts with the highlights from the lives of others, you have much time to speak to and hear from God. The sacred time with the Lord makes you more spiritually sensitive and will grow your faith in Him.
- Reducing social media use leads to positive thinking and positive mental states as you have less anxiety and a healthy sleep routine which means you wake up more energized and refreshed.
- You realize there are better ways to use your time as you develop healthy habits, such as self-care, journaling, and prayer walking.
- At work and home, you become more focused and productive in your tasks.
- As you exchange social media time with building relationships, you become more present with your family members and those around you. You realize you can go and see that neighbor you’ve been meaning to go see and call that friend for a coffee and much need face-to-face catch-up.
- A much-needed break from social media sites makes us more content with our real lives as we start actually noticing how much God has blessed us. We have an easier time noticing what we don’t have when we’re mindlessly scrolling.
Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,
- Your physical health can experience a boost as you no longer spend all day sitting and scrolling your phone, but you start being active.
- You can get more money from your side gig as well.
When you complete your fast, take time to reflect on it. Understand what was challenging and what you gained from the experience. Don’t do the fast only once but occasionally, and you’ll learn something each time as well as grow spiritually.
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Going forward, your social accounts can still be used more intentionally with boundaries and limited time.
In some cases, as you find more meaningful ways to spend your precious time, you may find that you have little desire to return to social media after a fast. Or you only use it from your desktop rather than your mobile phone.
While a social media fast may be challenging, with the help of God it’s possible. The spiritual, mental, and physical are worth it.
Books you can read to help you take a social media fast
Wendy Speake is the author of the 40-day sugar fast and co-author of Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses. She has a great book called The 40-Day Social Media Fast: Exchange Your Online Distractions for Real-Life Devotion which encourages a screen sabbatical. In the pattern of her popular 40-day sugar fast, Wendy encourages us to purposefully unplug from screens and plug into real life with the help of a very real God.
To teach our kids not to spend too much time on screens, read this book by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane Screen Kids: 5 Relational Skills Every Child Needs in a Tech-Driven World
NKJV – Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
NLT – Holy Bible: New Living Translation. 1994, 2004, 2007, 2013. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers