Is not this the fast that I have chosen?

On Saturday evening, Russell M. Nelson challenged women and girls (but not men and boys) to “fast” from social media for 10 days, with the implication that a fast from social media means turning it off. Almost immediately, I started seeing posts in my Facebook feed of people announcing that they’re taking 10 days off from Facebook in response. It took all of my willpower not to comment on those posts with Matthew 6:16-18. [1]

This challenge doesn’t sit right with me. The first reason is the obvious one – it has the effect of silencing women. Women’s voices have been silenced throughout history, both in secular and religious circles. Telling women to shut up, especially with an election only a few weeks away, while leaving men to do whatever they please is the height of tone-deafness. The second reason is that social media is how I keep in touch with my loved ones. The people I care about live all around the world, and if I don’t connect with them on Facebook, I don’t really have a good way to stay in contact with them.

The third reason brings me to the point of this post. Social media is an incredible force for good and right in the world. It’s a very effective way for groups of people organize themselves to bring change. In the book of Isaiah, we learn about the purpose of fasting: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” [2] It takes more than one person to loose the bands of wickedness – it takes a group, and groups organize online these days. There are people who carry heavy burdens, especially physical and mental illness, whose primary support groups exist online. Revolutions around the world have been organized on Facebook and Twitter, letting the oppressed go free. Communities are how we break every yoke, and many communities are global.

So, getting off Facebook for 10 days misses the point of fasting altogether. Jesus reminded us “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” [3]

If I were to get off Facebook for 10 days, I would be putting my candle under a bushel. So I’m not going to do that.

I invite anyone who wants to participate in a social media fast to choose another way to observe it. Use your time on social media to reach out to the downtrodden, uplift the oppressed, speak truth to power, and show love to all humankind. This is the true spirit of fasting.

God gave you a voice; don’t let men take it away.

[1]”Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”

[2] Isaiah 58:6

[3] Matthew 5:14-16

Trudy

Trudy is a lawyer living in the southwestern US. She has two cats who allow her to live in their apartment in exchange for a steady supply of food and treats.

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15 Responses

  1. Florence says:

    Yes. YES! You said what I felt and didn’t know how to articulate. Thank you.

  2. Jan Signore says:

    Very well thought out and stated, I like the idea of shifting one’s focus on social media rather than silence.

  3. Wondering Why says:

    This was a restatement of the same challenge he gave ALL youth (including the YM). No doubt, when we get round to General Priesthood in April the Priesthood will have the same challenge. We haven’t had a forum for him to tell us yet.

    And, it’s a Fast, and we decide how we fast based on a whole set of circumstances. If we are unwell, or pregnant, or nursing, or whatever, we adjust the usual fast. So, have at it, do the fast that feels right with the Lord and you will have followed the Prophet.

    • Anon says:

      No forum to invite adult men to join a social media fast? I recall President Nelson addressing a general audience three times last weekend.

      • Wondering Why says:

        Anon, specifically – as men alone. I think you knew that.

        I know I will not be popular for saying this, and nothing will be different in that, but generally women (especially young women) are more addicted to, have a deeper need for the self-confirmation that come from and are using more social media.

        Whilst young men do use it, their female peers do so far more. As the father of six daughters aged 32 to 15 I know a little of which I speak. I only have one son, his use is vastly less – and of a different nature.

        I took the 15 year old to a multi-stake dance last weekend. At the end I waited 10 minutes while photos were being taken – all were being taken by the girls, and immediately posed to Instagram (and Facebook by association). All around the hall this scene was being played out.

        I don’t have a problem with it. But there are serious social implications and problems coming in the form of self-image issues, being “liked”, etc.

        As feminists I would have thought you would all welcome some support for our young people caught in these vicious traps. Instead of looking for the Patriarchal stamp down aimed by the Brethren at ONLY women (the idea that a wife, choosing to follow the prophet, isn’t going to be encouraging her husband to do so also is a bit odd).

        If the women in my life don’t post on social media I will be starved of social media because I only use Facebook because it gives me more pictures of my grandchildren.

  4. el oso says:

    I am certain that reducing the political participation of 1/2 of active latter-day saints is not the intention or the desired outcome of President Nelson’s advice. That would fly in the face of over 100 years of consistent counsel and action from church leaders.
    I will note that the 2 day fast from most news that I had over conference weekend was a good mental and emotional recentering for me. That was part of rationale for the advice given to the youth previously.

  5. DT says:

    Thank you! I want to scream at my screen to all the women taking a fast right now: IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WEEK! Or next week or next month. If you feel inclined, try it at some point if it works for you. I am working out some family issues with people who are not members of the church on Facebook right now, dropping out is not going to cut it.

  6. M says:

    I moved the icon on my phone so it’s a more deliberate choice now. I have spent some time tidying up my Facebook & Twitter follows to improve the content. I feel that’s been much more effective than turning them off.

    • AlbertaTim says:

      I am rarely on either one now on account of data/privacy breaches, making social media fasts not difficult at all.

      There’s something called the phone. I use it. It’s reliable, it’s personal, and it involves real people,

      It’s also second to none.

  7. Susan Hinckley says:

    Thanks for articulating this so well, Trudy.

  8. Dani Addante says:

    “I invite anyone who wants to participate in a social media fast to choose another way to observe it. Use your time on social media to reach out to the downtrodden, uplift the oppressed, speak truth to power, and show love to all humankind. This is the true spirit of fasting.”

    I love this! The Spirit of the law is more important than the letter of the law.

    • AlbertaTim says:

      As do I. There are way too many people in the world — and especially in the Church (sadly) who are so hung up on the letter of the law, they wouldn’t know the spirit of the law, even if the Lord Jesus Christ Himself came down from On High and shot lightning bolts out their caboose!!

      To letter of the law Pharisees the likes of those, it’s all about power, control, and abuse of those qualities for their own personal gain or getting their ‘kicks’ or ‘jollies’.

      Thankfully, Christ used His mortal ministry to teach us all a better way. A higher and holier approach that includes reaching out to the downtrodden and the often forgotten as well.

      Tim Rollins 🇺🇸🇨🇦
      US/Canadian Citizen
      Calgary, AB

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