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The president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, invited female members to participate in four challenges at the women’s session of the 188th semiannual General Conference held each October. One of the challenges was a 10-day fast from social media.

When President Russell M. Nelson issued a challenge to the women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to engage in a 10-day media fast, I thought I would have no problem. I am not a huge poster on social media (although I do my share of lurking), and most of my time spent online is for work.

So, I jumped into the 10-day fast with gusto, figuring it would be way easier than President Nelson’s additional challenge to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year.

But only a day into the fast I quickly realized just how often I am mindlessly scrolling or checking my social media accounts throughout the day. To my surprise, I reached for my phone:

• At stoplights (rather than talking to my children).

• While waiting for my daughter at gymnastics (instead of watching her).

• While dinner cooked on the stove.

• In the morning before getting out of bed.

• At night before turning out the light.

• While my son entertained himself with blocks.

• Basically anytime my brain was not actively engaged in something else.

I had absolutely no idea I was checking social media that often. Like I said, I don’t post a ton, but I am disappearing from the real world into the online one a lot more than I thought. And sadly, most of the time I am doing it when my children are around. I’m giving up moments with them to scroll through who-knows-what on my phone for people, many of whom I’ve never even met.

Once I was aware of how often I was getting sucked in to social media, I started also to take note of how I felt being off it. I did have to check my messages and some notifications regarding work deadlines, but other than that, I really tried to stop myself from simply consuming what everyone else was posting each day.

By the end of the 10-day fast, I noticed a thing or two.

I felt more connected to the people around me. I played games with my kids and talked to them about their day more.

I felt less stressed. My Twitter and Instagram feed are mostly made up of other writer friends. Most of the time, this is a great way for me to connect with other authors and learn about publishing. But it also means I do a lot of comparing. I see other people’s success and start to feel stressed and depressed about my own. When I stepped away, I felt like I could focus again more fully on what I am doing rather than what everyone else is.

I felt more productive. I don’t know if I actually completed any more tasks than normal this week, but I certainly felt like my phone wasn’t consuming the lion’s share of my time.

In today’s world, I don’t believe it’s practical to get off all social media all the time. As a mom and as a writer, I learn a lot from my online friends and often need the communities I’ve built on various social platforms.

3 comments on this story

But this social media fast showed me that I can scale back — way back. I can set better limits for when and how I engage with social media. In particular, I'm going to try to:

• Not engage in social media on weekends.

• Check social media accounts only once daily at a specific time.

• Leave my phone in the car more during outings and activities.

More than anything, I don’t want to unwittingly let social media work its way into my brain and my home. I want my children to see my face, not the top of my head. And I want to use social media to enhance my life, not replace it.