I'm not much of a New Year's resolutions person; I believe that if there is a new habit I want to set in place or something I want to change about my life, I can and should do it now. There's no need to wait until the New Year rolls around.
This year, however, after having a lot of time to think and reflect about the year, my life (and just everything really) during my abnormally quiet December holidays, it dawned on me that there was something I needed to address urgently: my excessive social media use.
One day, I was watching Netflix. 20 minutes into the episode of my show, I checked back into reality and realized that simultaneously, I had my phone in my hand and was mindlessly scrolling through my newsfeeds, switching back and forth between Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I thought back to almost every night where I would have my phone in hand, scrolling for hours. Social media and the things I saw on the different platforms were the last things on my mind before finally drifting off into sleep. I thought about how every single one of my mornings would start with–you guessed it– social media and me scrolling and scrolling and scrolling away until I finally motivated myself to get up and get the day started.
I knew for a very long time social media was affecting me in adverse ways; I constantly felt wired, had trouble sleeping, and often had difficulty thinking and concentrating. It took me longer to get through my to-do lists. Some days, my workouts would take twice as long because I would jump on social media in between sets. I knew that my addiction (and believe me, it took me a long time to admit to myself that social media/cell phone addictions exist and that I suffered from this) was taking away from more important things. I knew it was slowly but surely draining my energy.
I knew I had to do something. The New Year was approaching and I told myself that I needed to address this, but I didn't exactly know how to. Was it just a matter of cutting it out cold turkey? Should I slowly phase it out? I didn't know. So I decided to pray about it.
On Sunday, January 5th I decided to attend a Church service at C3 Toronto. I had never been to this Church (as my home church is Liberty Grace), but I had heard a lot about this Church and felt compelled for some reason that morning to attend their service. This service kicked off the congregation's annual 21-day fast. Those who chose to participate were given the liberty to decide what sort of fast was necessary for them, whether this was fasting from food, alcohol, pop, junk food, Netflix, smoking, sex, etc. I knew at that moment why, of all Sunday mornings, I felt compelled to attend this service on that day. It was not a coincidence. God provided me with the perfect opportunity to tackle my problem. I was going to cut out all social media for 21 days and I was going to pray about it because I knew it would be difficult.
Today (February 6th, 2020), I have been off of social media for 30 days! 21-days was the initial goal, but after reaching day 21, I had decided to keep the fast going because I noticed the positive difference it has made.
Frankly, my days and weeks have been a lot more enjoyable and fulfilling. I can honestly say I feel much less wired. My head and shoulders feel less heavy, and my thoughts less cloudy and convoluted. During my Netflix time, my attention is focused on one screen instead of switching back and forth between screens. I am knocking items off my to-do list quicker and with more precision. My overall productivity has gone up. I am sleeping better and deeper. And most importantly, I end my day in prayer, drifting off into sleep while talking to God about anything and everything. In the mornings, I have replaced checking what's happening on Twitter and Instagram with reading a few chapters of the Bible and setting intentions for the day.
While I have truly enjoyed my social media fast, I do not intend to cut it out for good. I think there are great things about social media when used responsibly and in moderation. I enjoy using it to keep in touch with people, especially my family and friends abroad. I enjoy it because I get the chance to learn about topics that are unfamiliar to me. I like being able to stay up-to-date on the various things happening in our crazy world. And, I like being able to celebrate the wonderful milestones and achievements of my Facebook/Instagram/Twitter friends even if that's just a simple 'love' on their post and a 'congrats!!!!!' in the comments section. Social media really isn't all bad. This is why I will begin to reintroduce it in a responsible way, allowing myself to log on a day or two a week and no more than an hour in total.
What is most surprising to me is that this process didn't end up being as hard as I anticipated it would be. As someone who would use social media every day, multiple times a day, and for several hours, I thought I would not know what to do with myself. But I truly believe what made this whole process relatively easy (and enjoyable!) was prayer and putting God at the center of it. This wasn’t a Chantel-led process, it was God-led.
I am eagerly looking forward to the growth that has and will continue to come through diverting attention away from social media, and instead, channeling my energy towards personal, professional, and most importantly, spiritual growth.