Why I’m not fasting from social media

Ah, social media. If the 1950s image you have of a woman involves her talking on the phone with a friend, the 2010s image surely involves her Instagramming photos of her toddlers.

Are you feeling guilty yet for taking your eyes off your small child at the park to read this post? If you’re Mormon and female, the chances are good that you are. Unless we’re “flooding the earth” with gospel-centered memes and messages as Elder Bednar suggests we do, it’s a waste of time–and maybe dangerous! Mommy bloggers warn us that social media is affecting our parenting, and just this week President Nelson asked us to participate in a 10-day fast from social media “and from any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind.”

Whoa–wait. Social media brings negative and impure thoughts to my mind? I don’t know who you’re following, but I’ve noticed that social media tends to connect me with friends around the world, introduce me to new ideas, and serve as a support group platform for the many negative things that are going on in the world around me. Ignoring negativity doesn’t make me feel better: it just makes me ignorant.

So here’s my list of why I’m not participating in this fast:

1. Because men are not being asked to do the same thing. Lets note that the only groups that have been asked to abstain from social media have been women and youth. Were such a call extended to men as well, I’d be more likely to give it a chance, but including me with the under-18 crowd is infantilizing.

2. Because social media is an important way for women to support each other. The #MeToo movement, the creation of Mormon Women for Ethical Government,  forums for supporting mommies or LDS graduate students or survivors of abuse–these are all things that women come to social media to participate in. It’s a way to have a voice and to learn that we aren’t alone. During the recent Kavanaugh hearings, Facebook was a great platform for Mormon women to share our concerns with our elected representatives–sure, we were ignored, but we know they heard us. And then we had a place to express our outrage and disappointment and anger.

3. Because there’s an election coming up. Instead of a megaphone and a soapbox, modern-day would-be political influencers use social media to talk about the issues. Here in Massachusetts, one of our ballot questions has to do with regulating how many patients a nurse would be responsible for in different situations. Since there are nurses both for and against it, I want to hear from both sides–and not the 30-second scare tactic ads I see on TV, thanks. I want reasoning and explanations.

4. Because social media is the place that many female entrepreneurs rely on for advertising and word-of-mouth. I still want parents of kids who are going to take the SAT this year to see messages from my SAT-prep company–and, as those kids’ parents, so do you. As a small business owner, I’ve also learned that advertising through social media gives me a bigger bang for my buck than the local newspaper, while allowing me to target people more effectively than I could on radio. LDS women, specifically, have been dissuaded from entering the traditional workforce, and a disproportionate number of us support our families either partially or solely by selling on Etsy and Insta. The movie Jane and Emma has relied heavily on its online presence during this opening week, and many of the women who would otherwise see it and be edified by it aren’t seeing those messages. Go see it, by the way.

5. Because it keeps us away from the news. My local newspapers and TV stations aren’t covering the sex abuse lawsuit filed against President Nelson’s daughter and son-in-law, but I think it’s important for me to follow even though I don’t live in Utah. I’m sure President Nelson would include that instance in his list of “negative and impure thoughts,” but being an informed and engaged citizen–even and especially when the topic is so horrible–is a vital part of being “anxiously engaged in a good cause.” Doing good requires us to know where there is evil. We cannot lift the world from its fallen state if we refuse to look at the bottom of the well.

6. Because in the same talk, President Nelson said that the church needs women. Quoting one of his own talks from 2015, he said,

My dear sisters, we need you! We need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices.” We simply cannot gather Israel without you.
Pick any or all of the above.


  1. Also: Women *run* the church via social media!! The reminders and requests for help that happen on the ward FB page are the lifeblood!

  2. That’s a great point, Kjerstin. It seems like only a man used to leading from a distance could be blind to the uses of social media like that.

    And Libby, a thousand amens to this: “Ignoring negativity doesn’t make me feel better: it just makes me ignorant.”

    Ironically, once in a lesson I gave in church I asked how people cope when the negative things in the world get them down and one woman answered she looks at all the positive things she follows on Instagram! At the time I was kind of speechless because it seemed like a head-in-the-sand thing to do. But it actually supports your point that social media is a way to receive support.

  3. I agree with this list! I also agree that a sabbatical from social media now and then is a refreshing, healthy thing for a person to choose when it’s right for them. I dislike the general tone from church leaders that social media is this horrible vice that we’re all falling into that we need to “give up”
    Social media is not a black and white tool, but can be lots of healthy things for lots of people!

  4. I decided that I’d clean up my feeds to eliminate clutter and annoying content, and earnestly look for new, informative and uplifting sources. But Facebook is where I follow the major news outlets and keep in contact with friends all over the world. I also moved the icons for Twitter and Facebook so I don’t click mindlessly, I have to find them and mean to click.

  5. President Nelson said: –
    “First, I invite you to participate in a 10-day fast from social media and from any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind. Pray to know which influences to remove during your fast.”

    I suppose the inference is that he believes that either there are Latter-day Saints that have a time wasting addiction, or are getting the wrong influences from their time on Social Media. Interestingly this view is not unique – many education and social experts think similarly. Young girls (pre-pubescent) are particularly at risk of emotional, mental and physical issues related to likes, body image, etc.

    However, reading what RMN says are a 10-day in a row is only one way of reading it. Most people who abstain from something they are addicted to, for a period, quite often return to the same pattern. Crash dieting rarely works in the long term, for instance – certainly doesn’t for me.

    So maybe a way to approach this, which might also cover many of the concerns, would be to build up.

    Week 1 – miss one whole day.
    Week 2 – miss two days in a row
    Week 3 – miss three days in the week
    Week 4 – miss fours days in the week

    Maybe this, gentler, more holier, approach will help to establish a better balance. I don’t know. I am going to try it.

  6. I have to respectfully disagree. President Nelson’s invitation was to “participate in a 10-day fast from social media and from any other negative or impure media.” He asked that we pay attention as we fast to how it affects our priorities and then to record and act on spiritual impressions we receive. This identifies that the purpose of the fast was not to silence women, but to take a step back from the clamoring, busy, influential, and sometimes isolating world of not only social media, but negative or impure media as well. This allows those participating to experience a different focus.

    Social media definitely has its benefits and is wonderful in many ways, but like so any other things, there are a lot of negatives. I have seen in myself and in others how it can replace actual interaction, can incite comparison and feelings of not being enough or doing enough, as well as take a lot of our time and thought.

    What has stood out to my husband and I the most though, is how differently youth today interact with one another than we did when we were young. Having our own teenagers, and with my husband working directly with teenagers in and out of the Church for the last 15 years, we have seen an overwhelming pattern of teens being less interactive in person, struggling to make an actual phone call, rising rates of depression and low self worth, and being more isolated as they prefer to connect with peers through text and social media rather over “in person” interaction. It has concerned us quite a bit as we try to help our children and the youth be with their peers, reach out, and not gauge all their interactions from the implied world of media.

    I applaud the inspiration of our Prophet to counsel women and youth to temporarily step away from the influences of social and negative media in order to take a breath, see life through the lens of our own eyes rather than the presented world of media, and identify how we feel.

    I don’t pretend to know the exact reason why men were not included in this call to fast, but I do know that it is important to study things in context. When done in this instance, it is evident that the reason President Nelson invited women and youth is one of esteem, not oppression. President Nelson’s invitation to youth and to the women of the Church was connected to the need for their strength, testimony, leadership, AND voices. Indeed, he said, “My dear sisters, we need you! We ‘need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices.” So no – absolutely not to silence. Rather, it will allow us to take a step back, see our spheres of influence, and in many ways, find our voice and inspiration from the Spirit and not from the many clamoring opinions and words we are constantly bombarded with. I know there are men who seek to silence women and children and it is horrible. However, we need to be careful in condemning and labeling all as such, for this is not. I am grateful for President Nelson’s love and care for the women and children of the world.

    Although your reasons of why social media is important are valid, I think you inadvertently demean women, for how “infantile” are we if we think that the only resource we have to support each other, access news and information of elections, and promote our businesses is social media? The inference that social media makes up a woman’s entire resource of the internet is demeaning at best. Goodness – we’re better than that.

  7. The amount of people here who immediately run to the message boards for validation from their “friends” when the prophet commands them to do something they don’t want to do is astounding. I can think of a couple brothers from BoM who would have loved this blogpost

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