At the beginning of the year, my church invited the congregation to do a 40-day fast. Having never done a food fast, I didn’t think a 40-day one would be the right way to get started. Still, I decided I wanted to join the effort of deprivation, thinking it would be a good way to center myself on God at the beginning of the new year. So, off social media I went. Cold turkey.
On January 13th I logged out of all my accounts and went on with my life. My initial thought was, how on earth am I going to survive this? But once I got over my first Monday without WhatsApp – let’s face it, it is by far the most addictive of all apps– I felt liberated. I could leave my phone anywhere I wanted, unattended, because I knew nobody would be able to reach me. Never did I even consider anybody would actually pick up the phone and call me. It is 2020 after all, the era where phone calls are deemed offensive. I kid you not, I’ve been privy to many conversations with people telling me that phone calls are an inappropriate form of communication.
A few days went by and it all felt good. I quickly lost the habit of checking my phone for any notifications or to scroll down my Twitter feed for updates. The absence of these seemingly small interruptions meant I could be more productive at work, at home and all around, with life. I had already gotten in the habit of limiting my phone usage once I got home from work but now, with all my apps rendered useless, I had no ‘news’ and no mundane conversations about something random that happened in Kigali to catch up on. This meant I had SO much mental space freed up to do what I always wanted to do with my evening. Reflect, read and pray, without constraint. Social media wasn’t competing for my time and attention, I was a free agent.
After a week’s absence from social media, some people started catching on and reaching out to me via SMS. It was all good for some time but then, this new form of communication quickly turned into a high-cost replacement for the free apps I was running away from while on a hiatus from social media. Refraining from responding to SMS would be deemed rude, so what was a girl to do? I tried as much as possible to call people. At first, this once common method of outreach felt oddly unfamiliar and sometimes ended in relief when the intended receiver failed to answer my call. But after a few tries, phone calls grew on me and in some instance, there was mutual joy and excitement at the unfamiliarity of catching up through a phone call. Lucky for me, my friends have not yet reached the robotic state that rejects any form of human to human voice interaction.
My time away from social media led me to one simple conclusion, something I’ve had on my heart but was not able to confirm until I took a time out. Virtual relationships have become a thing, a pseudo version of reality. Before my leave, I could have 30 active chats in one go but come the weekend, I would be hanging out by myself. Over the years, I have dedicated so much time to these relationships that I have neglected the real deal. I got comfortable engaging in lengthy and philosophical soul fueling exchanges over social apps but I was losing the art of in-person communication. It’s as if I thought the loneliness I felt was going to be cured while hanging online with my friends. I was off social media for 40 days and out of the 30 chats, no more than 2 handful of people tried to reach me through a different avenue. This is not to cast a stone at anyone, but it is telling. My absence from social media made me practically irrelevant. No one looked for me and neither did I. Some people assumed I was in a bad place. One of my friends asked me if I was taking a mental health break. While it wasn’t the intended purpose, it was indeed the outcome.
My 40-day social media fast was incredible. My desire to center on God was realized. I was able to communicate with Him daily with an unoccupied mind. I spend many moments alone, appreciating my being. Funny enough, it never felt lonely. I truly think it’s because I spent those 40 days focusing my energy in the right direction, His presence.
4 thoughts on “No social media for 40 days.”
Being alone and never feeling lonely is surely an underrated superpower. When I was younger I would take a day “off” each week from life to just regroup, reflect, reenergise and it was sooo good for my soul. Thanks for the reminder that I need to go back to that.
Wow. This is amazing! Thank you for sharing… I did start the church fast the food way and gave up in between for obvious reasons lol. Like you, I think I am also loosing the art of in-person communication. Also, this spoke to me deeply, “it never felt lonely. I truly think it’s because I spent those 40 days focusing my energy in the right direction, His presence…” I definitely should try out this social media fast.
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Hey Ozzy! Yes, I totally encourage you to try the social media fast. May it be a revelatory experience for you as well!!
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Such important things you are writing about! How did I now discover this blog before?