When’s the last time you were really uncomfortable? When’s the last time you sacrificed something so BIG you had no choice but to trust God to order your steps? I’m about to find out.
This journey began in September when my pastor, Rev. Watley of Reid Temple AME – North, challenged the congregation to unplug from technology and reconnect with Christ. He stood on the pulpit and announced that we would unplug from social media for a week. During this time we would have to spend daily time with God, use a website such as Time Tracker to track how we spend time online, among other things. I was excited for a challenge. “A week?” I thought to myself. “I can do that” and so I did.
I’m on social media every single day posting commentary, sharing volunteer work and encouraging folks to give back, scrolling and finding the latest news article and catching up with family and friends. It has become such a major part of my life that I had to be deliberate in my attempt to cut it out completely. Later that evening, I deleted the apps from my phone one-by-one. “A week?” I thought to myself again. “I know that I can do that and it’ll be over next Sunday.” Then I proceeded to dust my shoulders off. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was comfortable with my weeklong social media fast. I still had control. My life wasn’t really disrupted and so I continued to exercise safe faith – when a person says they have faith, but is not really stretching him or herself to a point of discomfort where he/she has no choice but to listen and believe in God.
I walked in church with pep in my step the next Sunday morning. You would have thought I had on a brand new pair of Christian Louboutins as I strutted in to the chorus of Kanye West’s “Can’t tell me nothing.” I felt accomplished about making it through the weeklong fast. How many of us give ourselves a pat on the back for doing things that we know we can already do? Clearly, I’m guilty.
Before beginning the sermon, Pastor Watley asked us how we felt about the fast. I turned to my neighbor and shared with such excitement. Then he said, “Well, I want you to know that I’ve decided to extend the fast for another week.” I squealed. Literally. Other people gasped and we all looked around the room. Then Pastor Watley said, “If you had a negative reaction to this, then you have a problem.” I burst with laughter. It was at that moment that I began to see that I had been living a safe faith life in my comfort zone.
In the weeks to come, Pastor Watley added more to the fast. We fasted from social media and tv the second week and social media, tv and the internet (except for work use) the third and fourth weeks. Instead of feeling more difficult, the fast felt easier as time went on. I became more motivated as I noticed a change happening with my state of mind and lifestyle. After fasting for a month, I had experienced a few light bulb moments:
1) We have more time than we realize: We live in an era where busyness is glorified. We fill our schedules with things we think we should be doing and end up getting burned out and exhausted doing what actually could be “good” things while simultaneously neglecting ourselves. Also, normally my weekends felt too short. During my fast, I actually felt relaxed during my weekends and didn’t dread going to bed on Sunday night knowing that I have work in the morning. The fast revealed just how much time idle time I spend on social media and how much more time I had for things that I had put off for months, years even. I got a lot more accomplished during the week because I wasn’t coming home to be a tired zombie on the couch watching hours of television. I thought I had no time, when in reality I had more time than I could’ve imagined — so much time that even my two-day weekend felt enough.
2) We have to choose peace: Given the times (racism and prejudice is no longer being swept under the rug, police brutality, mass incarceration and our criminal injustice system are all being challenged, economic inequality is at the highest its been in nearly a century, folks are losing battles with mental health, the youth – especially those living in poor and under-resourced communities—are living in a state of distress) it can be very easy to allow all of this and more to overcome and overwhelm us. I felt that weight day in and day out. However, during my fast I didn’t feel the obligation that I had put on myself to share my opinion about everything going on locally, nationally and internationally. Most of this was because I didn’t see a constant barrage of news and opinions on my timeline every day. This forced me to find other outlets to stay informed and also read and view things with a different perspective than I might of had when I combined it with everything else that I read on my timeline. In my peaceful state, I was able to view situations with new eyes while also giving myself the time and space to be innovative in coming up with alternative ways to combat old problems.
3) We have to be laser focused: Social media and the internet has changed the way we learn and process information. As humans, we must study subjects in depth to become smarter. This is exactly the opposite of how many of us acquire information in the age of social media. The internet is so busy and it causes our minds jump from topic to topic, click story to story, read opinion after opinion and as a result it’s difficult for our minds to naturally acquire knowledge and form theories or new innovative thoughts in a meaningful way. I noticed my productivity increased when I was able to focus on one thing at a time without all the distractions. I had more control over what I was putting in my mind and as a result it grew stronger. Additionally, I didn’t find myself worrying about what the next person was doing. I was able to focus on my own personal growth and development. There’s no room to compare when you’re only looking at yourself.
4) When we eliminate distractions, we free ourselves: Overtime, I noticed that I was beginning to progress in areas that I always said were a priority, but through my actions weren’t. How many of us set the same goals year after year and never accomplish them? These are the goals that are keys to our happiness, but they end up slipping through the cracks because we don’t make large enough sacrifices to make them happen. How good would we feel to begin to move the needle on the neglected areas of our lives? A few of these goals for me are focusing on some financial goals that I’ve thrown to the wayside for too long, growing in my relationship with God, committing to a weekly gym routine and having more face-to-face time with those I care about most. Social media allows us to be able to keep in surface level contact with folks. When people don’t have daily access to what you’re doing, they’re forced to inquire when they see you in person or talk to you on the phone.
After completing the fast, I realized a month off was too short. I went right back to old habits of posting and scrolling. In December, I hit a rough point that forced me to make a drastic change. I was so frustrated with a few toxic decisions I made and couldn’t even look myself in the face. My mind was weak and it caused me to make poor decisions and go through the same internal tests and trials over and over again. Some of us keep experiencing the same hardships because we’re selfish and stubborn. We refuse to change. So in that vein, my yearlong fast was born.
I’ve been living my life for the past thirty years in the safe faith zone – my comfort zone. I’m giving up social media* for a year to focus on me, myself and I: #DarlasDigitalDetox. I look forward to this inward journey and experiencing the highs and lows of change. For me, I had to give up social media. It could be something else that you may have to let go. I ask you to do what I did: Reflect on your life and where you are – if you’re not happy with certain areas of your life that you’re dealing with privately, change them. Finally, be committed to true faith in order to be in a spiritual and emotional state that brings you joy, happiness and a life of purpose.
If you ever wanted to chat with me hit me up: Darla.Bunting@gmail.com and be sure that we get face-to-face time. I’m over keeping in contact with folks just through pictures and status updates. 😀
*Social media fast: No Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat and Twitter.