Fasting from Social Media Feeds
Social media, content creators, influencers and Tik Tok reels. This is the world that we live in today; an endless carousel of bite-sized information, drip-fed onto our hand-held devices 24/7. News, entertainment, sports scores and group chats tie us to our phones.
But did you know that studies have found a strong link between heavy social media use and an increased risk of depression, anxiety, loneliness and self-harm? In Malaysia, one in three people have mental health issues, most of them 16-19 year olds.
Realistically speaking, there’s no escaping the Internet, mobile phones and social media today. Chances are you are reading this on your phone and I have definitely just written this on my laptop too. But as Our Daily Bread writer David Cook explains, “Like wealth, social media is a very helpful servant but a dominating and potentially destructive master.”
Social media and fasting
This time of the year, many Christians in Malaysia would have completed their 40-day fast and prayer for the nation. But we also often hear of people going on social media fasts (especially during Lent), and how they have experienced positive changes like better sleep, less anxiety, more quality time with loved ones, and becoming closer to God.
Isn’t it curious to think that our dependence on social media is a lot like our dependence on food? We crave it, we draw energy from it, it gives us dopamine, and we go “cold turkey” when we don’t have it. We even “feed” ourselves with content on our newsfeeds and Facebook feeds.
So what’s the solution?
When we’re feeling overwhelmed, the first thing we can do is to decrease our media usage and other things that drive anxiety and immediate reaction. True fasting, according to the Bible, is one that works to “untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6).
This is certainly applicable to our dependence on social apps, because the tools and the contents we feed on try to fulfil our hunger for identity, belonging, acceptance and self-worth. How much better it would be to feed on “the bread of life”, Jesus Himself, and never go hungry! (John 6:35)
If social media could be an idol like wealth, then perhaps another good way to resist its mastery is to take control of it and spread its use over time. For example, how about choosing the least productive waking hours and limiting your device use to those hours? By putting our device in its place, it will serve us, not vice versa.
It could also be helpful to think of ways to use social media positively, such as by spreading the Gospel and always seeking the truth. In all our digital interactions, we could display God’s image by practising self-control, patience, kindness and gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23) to build bridges and enable reconciliation.
Finally, here’s an encouragement from ODB contributor Jason Weimer taken from this devotional video: “The Spirit helps us when we draw near to God, and we pause and ask for His help, and we saturate ourselves with His presence… and drink deeply of the spirit’s living water. Just imagine the renewing impact of spirit-filled believers in Jesus going against the cultural grain in refreshing ways, and imagine the peace that it could bring to you personally.”
Wan Phing Lim is a contributor to Our Daily Bread Ministries Malaysia. Born and raised in Penang, she studied Politics before turning to a career in writing. She loves coffee, books and films.
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