Every January, Google searches for “detox” spike.
Graph from Google Trends
In a post-holiday-overeating, new-year-new-me mentality, people look for ways to cleanse their bodies and prepare for a healthy diet in the year to come. Health personalities like Dr. Oz encourage people to “reset” their bodies over the course of a week or so with a strict (usually liquid-based) diet and detox baths that allegedly draw out impurities. Varieties of detoxes—juice, smoothie, salad, or soup—can supposedly help you jump-start your health goals.
More recently, however, social media detoxes or cleanses have gained popularity, especially with the rise of bloggers and Instagram influencers. For many, social media has become a means of making money and a major form of communication. With so many people documenting seemingly every waking moment of their lives on Snapchat or Instagram Stories, it’s no wonder people are slowly coming around to the realization that maybe this isn’t healthy.
Why People Detox from Social Media
Whether for personal, spiritual, or even professional motivations, individuals will cite reasons such as these for going off the grid for a while:
- Want to “live in the moment”
- Takes up too much time
- Makes you feel bad about yourself
- Pressure to have a perfect profile/life
As people live their lives through the lens of a camera or for the sole purpose of Instagramming something, they’re slowly recognizing that their motivations are empty—and the payoff isn’t good either. Views, likes, comments, and followers aren’t fulfilling. Something’s missing.
So people take some time off social media (typically announcing their hiatus/detox/cleanse on a platform). They put time limits on their apps or delete them altogether, and they seek out experiences or hobbies to fill their extra time. They’ll read more, run more, rest more.
But what about Christians? Should Christians give up social media? Do we have different reasons for giving it up?
Why Christians Fast from Social Media
In Christian circles, going off social media for a set period of time is sometimes referred to as a social media fast, drawing on the biblical practice of not eating food for a certain amount of time to focus instead on God.
When you fast from food, you’re overcome with the literal pain of hunger—a growling stomach, a dull ache. That tangible, physical feeling reminds you of your need for food and, more important, your need for God.
A similar experience happens when you fast from social media. You catch yourself reaching for your phone to snap a photo of your iced coffee, only to remember that you’ve sworn off opening Instagram. And, when that happens to a Christian on a fast, it should remind them why they gave up social media for the sake of their faith.
Christians fast from social media for the same reasons non-Christians do, but they might also do it because it can breed sin, although it doesn’t necessarily lead to sins like these:
- Lack of contentment
- Ignoring vocational duties
Of course, these sins aren’t unique to social media. Social media, like anything, can become an idol—something you love and value more than God—so it’s important to do heart checks every once in a while to evaluate if it’s causing you to sin.
How to Fast from Social Media as a Christian
If you’ve looked at your social media use and decided you want to try fasting, it’s easy to get started. As a Christian, your social media detox should look a little different than people who are giving up social media just because. Here are a few faith-centered ideas to help you get started.
Choose a Timeframe
Before you begin your fast, set a length for how long you want to be off social media. Popular options often center around important times or days in the Church Year:
Most people start off doing a fast for one week, which is a good length of time to get used to what it feels like without social media as a constant in your life. No matter how long you choose to detox for, make sure you specify a timeframe for yourself.
Once your fast starts, you can set yourself up for success by setting boundaries on your apps. The newest iPhone OS has a time limit feature that blocks you from opening apps after a time limit has been reached (set yours for 1 minute, the lowest amount of time). You can also drop all the apps in a folder so they take longer to get to and aren’t as readily accessible.
Some people delete their social media apps altogether to fully curb temptation—one thing you’ll probably notice is your fingers automatically going to the place where your favorite app is located on your screen. It’s a scary habit, so deleting the app can stop that automatic reaction when you unlock your phone.
Fill Your Time
“Just checking Facebook real quick” takes up a surprising amount of time when you add all those little scrolls up. Once you start fasting, you’ll quickly notice little moments throughout the day when you would ordinarily check social media:
- Before class
- In the elevator
- Waiting in line
- Relaxing before bed
In these moments, you’ll be tempted to check Facebook—and since you can’t, you’ll wonder what to do. Instead of blindly staring off into space or finding some other website to browse, try doing one of these activities instead:
- Reading a Bible passage on your phone
- Talking to someone new around you
- Saying a quick prayer
- Reading a book
Evaluate and Set Boundaries Post-Fast
This is, in my opinion, the most important and yet the most ignored part of fasting from social media. Typically, once people can get back on social media, they fall back into their exact same habits and sins as before.
Before you log back on, ask yourself a few questions:
- How was my faith life improved when I was off social media?
- Did I specifically battle certain sins during that time?
- What boundaries can I set for myself to ensure I don’t fall back into my same habits?
Consider fasting once a week after you go back on the grid (Sundays as the Sabbath day of rest is a popular idea), or set time limits for yourself—only five minutes a day, only to check notifications, etc.
Have you ever fasted from social media? What was your experience?