What I’ve learned from my Social Media Fast
By Marlon Rice
For the past four years, I have decided to take the first month of the year as a time to abstain from social media. I have done different fasts during the first month of the year. No meat, No Dairy, No Alcohol – Most of us look at the beginning of the new year as a clean slate, a time to create new habits and disciplines. Churches and gyms always see a spike in clients in the year’s first month. For me, fasting is essential to cleanse your palette of everything. It’s kinda aligned with the concept of “too much of a good thing…”. For example, pizza is a great food to eat. But, if you had pizza every day for ten months, the beauty and deliciousness of it would almost surely be lost on your palette.
And so, I tend to use January as a month to cleanse my palette. No Twitter, No Facebook, No Instagram. No posting. No reading comments. Social media cold turkey. We live in a world more and more attached to social media than ever before. News travels faster on social media than it does through television. Photos and Reels capture the attention of us all, causing many of us to simply waste hours of the day scrolling. Social media is a powerful drug indeed, and going cold turkey requires a great deal of commitment.
But also, business is tied to social media now more than ever. Deals are made, projects are promoted, and connections are nurtured – social media is an open market for every facet of capitalism. And so this year, for the first time, I was forced to cut my fast time down to two weeks. I had to be available on social media to deal with certain aspects of my work. I couldn’t get around it.
In those two weeks, though, there were things that I noticed about fasting from social media that I thought would be interesting to share. Read along, and then take notice of yourself and your social media sites in your spare time to see if you find the same nuances that I have.
I am programmed to check my phone. – The first thing I always notice when I take a social media fast is how often and involuntarily I check my phone. It takes a couple of days just to wean yourself off checking your phone and favorite pages. It’s a corruptive habit. Two days in, I was on a phone call, and at the end of the call, I had subconsciously gone from the phone app right into Facebook. I didn’t even realize that I had done it. I feel like Pavlov’s Dog, checking social media becomes more reflex than reason.
Social Media is a mean place – Step away from social media for some time, and when you return, you will realize that the tone and carriage of many conversations on social media are downright mean. People use social media to tear at other people. They tear at celebrities. They tear at musicians. They tear at each other. On my first day back on social media, I saw eight posts on why Lebron isn’t better than Michael Jordan within my first five minutes back. The tension permeating social media is frightening when you see it brand new all over again, especially Twitter. It’s really weird. Social media’s potential is endless, yet most people use it exclusively to talk about others.
We can’t escape social media – This brings me back to why I had to cut my fast down from 30 days to 15. Social media is the largest commerce infrastructure in the world. What I mean is, if you’re doing business of any kind – in America or abroad – a social media presence is mandatory for success. Phone calls used to be the standard bearer for communication. Now everything is a DM or a tag. DMs are even second to text messages. A reel can reach a million people in an hour. That kind of reach is worth millions, and every one of us has that exact capability just from our phones. How can you look at that potential with a side eye?
At the end of the day, I am happy to be back on social media. But, I am even happier that my fast allows me to see the chessboard with clarity.