When my church announced their program of 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting again this year, I had little interest. I had never fasted before or really even thought about it but this time many of my friends were taking part. The options for fasting were the Daniel Diet, Liquids, and “Other” — created for those who can not fast food for medical reasons.
I wondered if being weak and lazy qualified me for the third option. When I asked their opinion about what else I could refrain from, my friends pointed to a social media fast so quickly that it made me a little self-conscious. Had I become known as one of those serial Facebook-posters? I don’t have Twitter or an iPhone, use Farmville or create groups, and I certainly don’t post the most out of all my friends. But my OCD-like nature makes me feel agitated unless I check every last post that has been made during the day — just in case I miss out on something. I wasn’t one of those people, was I?
I started the fast at exactly midnight, resolved to last the full 21 days without cheating. I became absurdly productive within the first ten minutes: I cleaned the kitchen at breakneck speed and went to bed with an aura of pride over my seemingly newfound strength.
But although I was generally more productive as a result of staying away from Facebook I began to find new ways to distract myself. I began to look for new forms of affirmation.
Years of avoiding creating a Youtube account came to a sudden end and now I found time to become part of yet another online community. Now instead of just watching endless clips, I was able to comment on and rate them as well! I went back to a video I had commented on a day earlier only to find that hundreds of users had given it a “thumbs up”. I was a little too pleased with myself and probably missed Facebook more than I cared to admit.
Before starting my fast one of my biggest fears was feeling out of the loop. In reality, I found I also secretly relished not being totally contactable. But this feeling diminished radically during a visit to my mother one day when I discovered she knew more about my friends than I did.
In a conversation about my ex-boyfriend she casually mentioned, “He is listed as ‘in a relationship’, did you know?” I covered my surprise quickly and impatiently changed the subject but the second she left the room I was at my sister’s laptop, logged onto Facebook, on my ex’s profile and clicking on the girl within the space of about thirty seconds. I looked at her picture, logged out, and said to myself, “It’s done.”
I felt bad about the incident and how it revealed a lack of self control. But over all my fast taught me that I had more than I thought. The rest of my Facebook hiatus ran smoothly and I was scarcely tempted. Being away from the site made me feel quite powerful, knowing I could give up something which held millions of people captive each day.
On the midnight it officially ended I logged on tentatively and checked my notifications for about ten minutes then logged off. The desire to sit there, scrolling pointlessly for hours had certainly diminished.
Months later, and I’m back to most of my bad habits but considering fasting again. I recently found out how to disable my account, making it seem as if I have deleted it. I like the idea of people wondering where I’ve gone, which just goes to show that if you’re not on Facebook you’re disconnected from a whole realm of society. It’s sad but true that social media has become an almost essential part of lives. Are we on it to create a persona that we want the world to see, or to truly be connected? It’s a little of both for me. It might take another fast to find out the answer.
Jasmine Edwards is a Uniting Church employee and communications student who loves Facebook almost as much as she loves her cat.