This Lent, Consider a Social Media Fast

We all seem to be looking down these days. I wonder if that’s why many of us feel down too.

We perpetually bow our heads, but not in prayer. While we might believe prayer works, we don’t have the time to get on our knees because we’re on our phones. Hunkered down over a screen, checking in online, responding to a text — then looking up just in time to snap a picture of the sunset. As we post it to social media with a long string of hashtags, we miss out on watching the sky turn from pink to purple to magenta. We miss much when we share much.

I’m exhausted. Perhaps it has something to do with late nights spent streaming movies, or maybe it’s because I don’t have any quiet moments without a screen stimulating me. I’m all tweeted out. I need to unplug for a season so that I can plug in to the One who seasons me. I want to be salty again.

I want to be light-bright too. But spending time looking into the pixilated light of my phone doesn’t make me shine the way spending time with the Light of the World does.

I’m worn out, as drained as the battery on my phone — and I know I’m not alone.

Perhaps you need a break, too. A holy hiatus. A social media sabbatical.

Here’s the backstory about how I came to fast from social media in a backward sort of way: Seven years ago, I invited my online “friends” to join me for a forty-day sugar fast. Progressively, year after year, more men and women joined us for the annual event. We confessed, collectively, that we were turning to something other than God’s strength to get us through our days.

Each time we journeyed through those forty days, He grew in our bellies a holy hunger for Him. He was increasing in our lives, and we were decreasing. Many of us dropped pounds, but more than anything else we dropped our idols. Some of us even dropped our phones.

While sugar is the emphasis during that forty-day fast, fasting from sugar opens the door to our sweet Savior. We invite Him into the innermost chambers of our lives. Once inside, He looks around and says, “Thanks for the sugar, but I want it all. I want your whole life.” At that point we ask ourselves what other distractions are distracting us and what other strongholds are holding us back from experiencing His strong hold. In chorus, the majority of my fasting friends respond, “It’s my phone!”

Smartphones distract us from focusing on what matters most: God. In Matthew 22:36–39, an expert in the Levitical law asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” This man was really asking Him, “What matters most?”

“Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Nothing in my life has made loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind more difficult than my constant connection to my devices. The same is true when it comes to loving my real-life neighbors. Devices are divisive.

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Often, I spend my early morning hours connecting with those I “like” rather than the One love, which begs the question, “Do I truly love Him most?” I believe in my heart that I do.

I love God more than I love all the people in the world (and all the people on the web), but the habitual way I turn to the world testifies to my priorities. Fasting has become the most profound way that I journey back to what matters most — Who matters most.

I invite you to pinpoint what it is that you turn to in lieu of turning to Him, and then use this Holy season to actively return. If you turn to comfort food rather than The Comforter and crave a sugar high rather than The Most High… then fast from sugar during this Lenten season. But if your device is your vice, consider going dark in order to experience the Light of the World. 

If Instagram is your thing, and you share your highlights with thousands but don’t have the time to share your lowlights with a few intimate friends, unplug in order to plug into real-life relationships. And if you’ve bought into the lie that “You are what you tweet”? Spend forty days discovering who God says you are. Your identity is not found in how witty or pithy your 280 characters can be.

All this “communicating” has stopped us from communicating with the One (and the ones) we value most. I know this feels countercultural, and indeed it is. But Jesus said if we’re going to follow Him, we must deny ourselves (Matt. 16:24). For the next forty days, stop following everyone else online so that you can follow the One who invited us, “Follow Me.”

Exchange your online distractions for real-life devotion this Lenten season.

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