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Some may think this title is familiar.
I’ve written about “people cleansing” before using the title “I get Body Cleansing, but have you Heard of People Cleansing?” And within the same lines falls the social media cleansing decision I made a few years ago.
Many have tried the “no social media for x days” challenge to see how it’s going to affect their lives, but in my case, I didn’t make the decision because I wanted to see the end result.
The end result was just this sweet gift I got after the decision I made to delete all social media applications from my phone and refrain from opening them on my laptop.
A couple of years ago, I was at church with my parents right before pre-Easter lent started. The priest was telling us that fasting doesn’t have to be about food. If we can easily live without eating artificial sweets or reducing its intake when following a healthy diet, then it’s not that big of an achievement if we do it during lent. So we stopped drinking alcohol. If we’re feeling an itch and suffering from not drinking, then maybe we should think that we have a problem.
Fasting could be us letting go of something we are attached to, most probably a bad habit, and working on letting it go.
Some people quit meat if they’re not vegan, and others stop eating dairy products. Some choose their favorite snacks or drinks and stop eating/drinking them during lent. And good for them! It is indeed an achievement. But when I was self-reflecting, I realized that I didn’t have a certain food that I couldn’t live without or that I adored so much that I’d be suffering if I didn’t eat it.
I couldn’t fast until noon because I had meds to take, and my iron deficiency made it difficult to do that.
So what was my big lent gesture going to be that year?
And then it clicked.
I wanted to quit social media all through lent to focus on praying more, getting to know myself and my spirituality, and spending more time with my family.
My friends started laughing when I told them. They said I wouldn’t last a week. And that’s not because I’m addicted to social media, spending long hours scrolling through my feed. No. It’s because we rely on social media to know what the hell is going on around us.
But I decided to give it a try nonetheless.
The first week was hard. I knew my Instagram inbox was flooding with funny memes my friends had been sending me. And what if I missed a major event going on in the world? What if one of my many cousins got pregnant or engaged or traveled?
What if someone finally noticed my author’s Instagram account, and it suddenly blew up?
But whenever I was about to click on the store app on my phone to download Facebook and Instagram and whatnots again, I took a deep breath, grabbed a book, and started reading.
Eventually, it became easier.
I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time. Peace of mind.
I was more focused. I was more present. I was there for the people I cared about. I had more time to get to know myself. I had more time for my hobbies. I was more focused while praying.
I suddenly started noticing the world around me, things I hadn’t noticed before because I was so busy scrolling through Instagram and Twitter while waiting for my coffee at the shop, too busy laughing at memes in bed to realize that looking at the screen before sleeping is harmful. I was too busy to notice how beautiful the world is.
Hell, even the trees became greener.
And I realized that I was more content with my life as it is. I wasn’t looking at freakishly edited pictures of models whose bodies I envied. I wasn’t liking pictures of countries I longed to visit (but knew I would be frustrated because it was damn difficult to get the visa). I wasn’t…I wasn’t…I wasn’t…
And at the end of the 50 days of lent, I realized that I hadn’t even thought about social media in the last three weeks. I was happy to have finished the books I’d been meaning to finish, and I was happy I had more time to get in touch with my spirituality and faith.
Although it is nearly impossible to live without social media at this point in my life since my job depends on it and my writing practices have been mostly online, this decision still impacted me in more ways than one:
1. I’ve been more attentive to the screen time displayed on my phone. When it exceeds the hours I set for myself on social media during the week, I pay attention the following week to reduce it.
2. I’ve learned to put my phone away when I know I don’t need social media anymore. Once I’m done checking what I need to check, I put my phone away and pour myself into something else that’s more productive, like reading, drawing, sitting (and being present) with my family, and even watching movies or series for fun!
3. I’ve been focusing most of my time on social media reading about things that matter. Let’s face it. The fastest way to learn about a recent major event is through social media (we can argue about the validity of the information offered on those outlets later). So, I decided to check for timely events first, laugh at a few funny videos and memes, then pull myself out of the abyss of endless scrolling.
4. I don’t regret not knowing about someone’s pregnancy through Facebook anymore. At some point, I used to believe that if a family member got pregnant and announced it on Facebook and I didn’t like the post while adding “Congrats” in the comment section, then it was my fault. But, truly, not everyone is active online. We can’t expect people to keep up with our lives by constantly checking our socials. If someone wants you to know, they can send you a message on your phone.
5. I try to use my pages for a purpose. I used to spend hours thinking if my picture looked good enough to upload. But now, I rarely post pictures of myself (I still do but rarely), and I focus more on my writing pages. I focus more on my personal blog. I focus more on the arts than on the vain need to be validated by the number of likes on a selfie.
And last but not least, social media is not evil, but let’s not let it control our lives, and let us control it instead.