Why I’m not fasting from social media

Ah, social media. If the 1950s image you have of a woman involves her talking on the phone with a friend, the 2010s image surely involves her Instagramming photos of her toddlers.

Are you feeling guilty yet for taking your eyes off your small child at the park to read this post? If you’re Mormon and female, the chances are good that you are. Unless we’re “flooding the earth” with gospel-centered memes and messages as Elder Bednar suggests we do, it’s a waste of time–and maybe dangerous! Mommy bloggers warn us that social media is affecting our parenting, and just this week President Nelson asked us to participate in a 10-day fast from social media “and from any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind.”

Whoa–wait. Social media brings negative and impure thoughts to my mind? I don’t know who you’re following, but I’ve noticed that social media tends to connect me with friends around the world, introduce me to new ideas, and serve as a support group platform for the many negative things that are going on in the world around me. Ignoring negativity doesn’t make me feel better: it just makes me ignorant.

So here’s my list of why I’m not participating in this fast:

1. Because men are not being asked to do the same thing. Lets note that the only groups that have been asked to abstain from social media have been women and youth. Were such a call extended to men as well, I’d be more likely to give it a chance, but including me with the under-18 crowd is infantilizing.

2. Because social media is an important way for women to support each other. The #MeToo movement, the creation of Mormon Women for Ethical Government,  forums for supporting mommies or LDS graduate students or survivors of abuse–these are all things that women come to social media to participate in. It’s a way to have a voice and to learn that we aren’t alone. During the recent Kavanaugh hearings, Facebook was a great platform for Mormon women to share our concerns with our elected representatives–sure, we were ignored, but we know they heard us. And then we had a place to express our outrage and disappointment and anger.

3. Because there’s an election coming up. Instead of a megaphone and a soapbox, modern-day would-be political influencers use social media to talk about the issues. Here in Massachusetts, one of our ballot questions has to do with regulating how many patients a nurse would be responsible for in different situations. Since there are nurses both for and against it, I want to hear from both sides–and not the 30-second scare tactic ads I see on TV, thanks. I want reasoning and explanations.

4. Because social media is the place that many female entrepreneurs rely on for advertising and word-of-mouth. I still want parents of kids who are going to take the SAT this year to see messages from my SAT-prep company–and, as those kids’ parents, so do you. As a small business owner, I’ve also learned that advertising through social media gives me a bigger bang for my buck than the local newspaper, while allowing me to target people more effectively than I could on radio. LDS women, specifically, have been dissuaded from entering the traditional workforce, and a disproportionate number of us support our families either partially or solely by selling on Etsy and Insta. The movie Jane and Emma has relied heavily on its online presence during this opening week, and many of the women who would otherwise see it and be edified by it aren’t seeing those messages. Go see it, by the way.

5. Because it keeps us away from the news. My local newspapers and TV stations aren’t covering the sex abuse lawsuit filed against President Nelson’s daughter and son-in-law, but I think it’s important for me to follow even though I don’t live in Utah. I’m sure President Nelson would include that instance in his list of “negative and impure thoughts,” but being an informed and engaged citizen–even and especially when the topic is so horrible–is a vital part of being “anxiously engaged in a good cause.” Doing good requires us to know where there is evil. We cannot lift the world from its fallen state if we refuse to look at the bottom of the well.

6. Because in the same talk, President Nelson said that the church needs women. Quoting one of his own talks from 2015, he said,

My dear sisters, we need you! We need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices.” We simply cannot gather Israel without you.
Pick any or all of the above.

Libby

On prolonged sabbatical from her career in arts administration, Libby is a seamstress, editor, entrepreneur, and community volunteer. She has a husband and three children.

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9 Responses

  1. Kjerstin says:

    Also: Women *run* the church via social media!! The reminders and requests for help that happen on the ward FB page are the lifeblood!

  2. Emily U says:

    That’s a great point, Kjerstin. It seems like only a man used to leading from a distance could be blind to the uses of social media like that.

    And Libby, a thousand amens to this: “Ignoring negativity doesn’t make me feel better: it just makes me ignorant.”

    Ironically, once in a lesson I gave in church I asked how people cope when the negative things in the world get them down and one woman answered she looks at all the positive things she follows on Instagram! At the time I was kind of speechless because it seemed like a head-in-the-sand thing to do. But it actually supports your point that social media is a way to receive support.

  3. Wendy says:

    Oh Libby, how I love you and this post.

  4. Violadiva says:

    I agree with this list! I also agree that a sabbatical from social media now and then is a refreshing, healthy thing for a person to choose when it’s right for them. I dislike the general tone from church leaders that social media is this horrible vice that we’re all falling into that we need to “give up”
    Social media is not a black and white tool, but can be lots of healthy things for lots of people!

  5. Diane says:

    I choose all of the above. Thank you!

  6. Ari says:

    I think the president left some words out there. I think he meant to say “…we can’t gather Israel without your wombs!”

  7. M says:

    I decided that I’d clean up my feeds to eliminate clutter and annoying content, and earnestly look for new, informative and uplifting sources. But Facebook is where I follow the major news outlets and keep in contact with friends all over the world. I also moved the icons for Twitter and Facebook so I don’t click mindlessly, I have to find them and mean to click.

  8. Andrew R. says:

    President Nelson said: –
    “First, I invite you to participate in a 10-day fast from social media and from any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind. Pray to know which influences to remove during your fast.”

    I suppose the inference is that he believes that either there are Latter-day Saints that have a time wasting addiction, or are getting the wrong influences from their time on Social Media. Interestingly this view is not unique – many education and social experts think similarly. Young girls (pre-pubescent) are particularly at risk of emotional, mental and physical issues related to likes, body image, etc.

    However, reading what RMN says are a 10-day in a row is only one way of reading it. Most people who abstain from something they are addicted to, for a period, quite often return to the same pattern. Crash dieting rarely works in the long term, for instance – certainly doesn’t for me.

    So maybe a way to approach this, which might also cover many of the concerns, would be to build up.

    Week 1 – miss one whole day.
    Week 2 – miss two days in a row
    Week 3 – miss three days in the week
    Week 4 – miss fours days in the week

    Maybe this, gentler, more holier, approach will help to establish a better balance. I don’t know. I am going to try it.

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