Why I’m Going On a Social Media Fast

Yawn…stretch…it’s morning, and first things first.

Coffee (of course!).

And what’s up next for me?

Checking social media to see what is happening around the world. Well, perhaps not around the world, but certainly with all the friends, family and pages I have “liked” or “followed” on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

As I sip my coffee, I sift through endless updates on the most important topics. These include things like where my friends went to dinner the night before (usually accompanied by a picture of their food), looking at lots of home improvement and gardening photos on Instagram, and seeing what new political intrigue (insults, stupidity, lies, etc.) are being expressed on Twitter.

I pretty much do this for the first half hour (or so) of my existence each morning. In fact, I even get up at the crack of dawn so I can enjoy this time to myself with my social media guilty pleasures.

The only problem though is, it doesn’t stop there. I end up checking my phone ALL DAY LONG intermittently to see what new things are being said, or to see if any new awesome pet videos have shown up.

You would think that as a writer who discusses the topic of virtue, I would know better. I’ve read countless stories, and heck, I have even written an article about why we should all unplug. Clearly, I’m the worst hypocrite in the entire world. Or maybe I’m just another person trying to stay connected with friends and content…and paying the price.

Just today I read research that shows that on average people spend about 3.5 hours per day (per day!) on social networking sites. While I don’t spend that many hours, I still have to admit to myself that I spend way too much time viewing social media.

I just posted something five minutes ago. Did anyone “like” it yet? And if so, who?

Hey, why did my hilarious video update, showing my dogs chasing each other, only get 15 likes? How rude!

Clearly something has got to give.

And so it shall.

I have decided to go cold turkey on all social media platforms for a month.

So what will I do with all the extra hours in the day, you wonder?

Well, for starters, I want to focus on creating more meaningful connections with friends and family. Connections that go beyond “liking” things they have done, or vice-versa.

I also want to focus more on two very important relationships.

First is my relationship with God. Even though my blog “Grow in Virtue” has brought me close to many wonderful people who love God — people that have even helped me to grow in my own faith — I simply can’t deny the fact that it’s often time-consuming. For this month I want to just be in the presence of God. Praying more. Reading more. I want to develop a stronger relationship with Him.

And what a perfect way to spend the season of Advent!

Second is my relationship with myself. I want to think more. I want to daydream more. I want to sit quietly and not think at all. I want to live like the Alan of the 80s and 90s that didn’t have social media…or heck, even a cell phone for that matter. Simply put, I want to care less about what other people are doing (or not doing) and pay more attention to the real world around me and within me.

I’m also planning to spend more time reading. Spiritual books, gardening books, news (just not the fake kind), and of course I’ll keep up with all the wonderful articles on Catholic Exchange (intentional shameless plug).

It’s odd really, even though social networks are designed to help us connect more with one another, they can actually disconnect us from the true world around us.

Instead of engaging in real conversations with those around us, we often just stare at our phones, like we’re reenacting a scene from Village of the Damned.

Social media can even make us feel worse about ourselves, because perhaps we compare our lives (inferiorly) to those around us. We can tend to see everyone’s lives as perfect and happy, leaving us frustrated, depressed, lonely, or just plain jealous.

I’m not sure what this month long social media fast will bring to me, but I’m definitely curious and even excited about it. Will I grow closer to God, gain perspective, learn some new hobbies, and connect more with my friends and family? Or will I just turn into an antisocial recluse who has no idea what Donald Trump is being blamed for now?

Hmm, time to find out. And I’m accepting prayers.

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Alan Scott is a writer and graphic designer residing in Virginia. A former Agnostic, he converted to the Catholic faith in 2004. In 2014 he started his blog GrowInVirtue.com, and is the author of The Quest for Virtue, both which focus on growing in holiness, by attempting to live a life more simple and virtuous, a life that is lived for God. When he’s not writing or designing, you’ll find him, hands dirty, in his garden. You can find him on Facebook, too.

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