Before I get into the main points of this post, let me explain a little of the story. I am not Catholic so I don't observe the Lent season in a traditional way, but every year I try to give up something that has consumed my life in one way or another. Last year I gave up sugar, the year before I think I gave up coffee - this year, I felt God nudging me to fast social media.
Social media is a crucial part to marketing my own music & personal brand, so I kept telling God "I can't give up social media. What if I lose followers by being inactive, and my music career takes a hit?" He kept telling me to trust Him, so on Ash Wednesday I deleted the social apps off my phone and committed to only visiting my work-related social accounts (I'm a social media manager at both of my day jobs).
I broke the fast on my birthday and intended to resume the fast after that, but I decided to end the fast there so I could start marketing my music again. Even though I didn't do the full 40+ days of Lent, I still gained a lot of healthy perspective when it comes to the internet, and I'm so glad I chose to fast social media.
Here are the main things I learned:
1. You're allowed to enjoy things for yourself.
The first day of Lent, I spent my afternoon at Starbucks, and they were playing music by Julien Baker (one of my favorite artists) over the speakers. I remember wanting to tweet about it. Instead, I realized, "I don't have to share this happy moment with anyone else. This happy moment belongs to me, and I get to enjoy it." It was liberating. The same kind of thing happened frequently during my social media fast - I'd be hanging out with new friends, realizing "I don't have to add this to my Instagram story. These friends chose to spend time with me, not with a couple hundred of my followers."
2. Facebook is toxic.
When I broke my fast on my birthday and checked Facebook for the first time, I felt sick to my stomach. My news feed immediately blasted me with Facebook statuses filled with complaints, political arguments, and memes with Minions (ugh) on them, and my profile was filled with half-hearted birthday wishes from people I barely knew. I thought to myself, Is this what Facebook has always been like? Was I just blind to all this negativity and superficial "friendship?" Needless to say, I won't be re-downloading the Facebook app on my phone, and I'll be happily limiting my time on Facebook from now on.
3. No one misses you while you're gone.
Unless, of course, you're a popular blogger or a celebrity or something... but as for me, a little-known musician, my followers went on with their lives as normal the whole time I was gone. There was absolutely no pressure for me to get back on. I didn't come back to a lower follower count or comments demanding where I've been. I didn't miss out on much either - in fact, a friend got engaged, and of course I missed the Facebook announcement, but I still found out about it via a conversation with a mutual friend.
4. People's impressions of you (and of what you represent) are shaped by your social media presence.
This was something that I learned after I logged back in, when I had a fresh perspective: People are watching me, especially because I volunteer on the worship team at a large church. I felt a little convicted; I definitely have complained about my life and posted negative things on social media before, all of which was seen by people who have seen me lead worship. They know that I claim to love Jesus, so shouldn't my posts look like Christ? Even from a non-Christian perspective, there's already WAY too much negativity on the internet, so I should only be contributing kindness and positivity.
5. Social media saps creativity out of a creative person.
By taking a break from social media, not only did I free up a lot of time that I'd normally spend scrolling; I freed up my thoughts as well. Before Lent began, my thoughts consistently dwelled on social media: "I wrote a little chord progression. I should post a video of me playing it." "Something frustrating happened at work today. I'm gonna vent on Twitter."
Stepping back allowed me to think normally. I was able to write chord progressions and then work on adding to them or developing them into full songs, instead of stopping the writing process to record an Instagram video. And when something frustrating happened to me, I'd channel my feelings into writing music instead of channeling it all into my Twitter account. When I freed my brain from its social media cage, it was able to freely create.
This social media fast was exactly what I needed, to say the least. Now, with fresh perspective, I'm ready to harness social media as a marketing tool, NOT a crutch or outlet. I encourage you to do something similar; just take a break. You won't miss anything, and you'll come back feeling liberated and refreshed.