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. 
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?”  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.” 
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.
—”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.”  Isaiah 58:6  Matthew 5:14-16