In the Women’s Conference, Pres. Nelson encouraged all attendees (girls 8+ and all women) to begin a ten day social media fast, abstaining from online social media platforms. The youth were previously requested to do a one week social media fast. This request is odd for a few reasons: 1) it does not include the men, and 2) it may be unclear what is meant by social media (more on that in a moment).
First, let’s talk about why this request was only for the women. I can think of a few reasons, none of which I like or agree with:
- Because Pres. Nelson thinks that how women & girls perceive and use social media is a bad thing, somehow different from how others do, or perhaps that they over-indulge in it, but men do not. Perhaps Pres. Nelson thinks that men don’t “waste time” on social media, but women and girls do or that men don’t compare themselves to others online, but women do. Maybe he thinks porn is the male vice, and social media is the female vice.
- If so, by dealing with a symptom, one potential outcome is that women will instead judge one another on whether or not and how they participate in this social media fast. (It’s a little bit like tattling on someone for having their eyes open during the prayer, though).
- Because women usually perform the bulk of emotional labor in families (maintaining social contact with extended family and friends), men often don’t see the value of it or even notice that women do it. Weirdly, in the same conference where women were told that “motherhood” and “nurturing” were the most important things they could be doing, they were also encouraged to forego the online social contact that to many of these women is their lifeline to resources and support in pursuing those exact same endeavors.
I couldn’t help but think of the time we read Isaiah 3:16-24 in a Gospel Doctrine class:
Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, The rings, and nose jewels, The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails. And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.
Dude has more opinions about women’s appearance than the Avon Lady and seems to be channeling an incel. Anyway, a very orthodox sister in my ward raised her hand and said, “Wow, was that written by a man or what? We’re supposed to make ourselves attractive, but apparently when we try, we get smacked down with this. Women can’t win.” Boom.
I’m sure the advice is kindly meant (Nelson’s–Isaiah’s intentions are much more doubtful in my book), and that Pres. Nelson is not aware of some of the unforeseen consequences.
- We use social media to maintain relationships.
- We use social media to celebrate loved ones’ milestones.
- We use social media to request support or help.
- We use social media to bolster each other spiritually.
- We use social media to connect to the world outside of our homes.
- Some relationships are solely maintained through social media due to distance, hearing loss, or other factors.
And there are some impracticalities for some women:
- Many women run online (or other) businesses that rely on social media platforms. This hurts their livelihood if they primarily engage with church members. At this point, all businesses, online or not, rely on social media.
- Particularly hurt are time-bound things like book launches or film releases (like the Emma and Jane movie) targeting female church members (as the audience or consumer) that happen to coincide with this 10 day fast.
- Women use social media in their callings–a lot–some more than others. Primary teachers find activities and coloring pages to go with their lessons, Young Women’s leaders find lesson helps as well. Teachers often go out to see discussions of the materials to get ideas to make their lessons more engaging.
- Schools often require students to use various forms of social media as part of the school’s communication system and also to submit their work. Group projects often require the use of social media. My daughter had one class that required her to blog daily for a grade.
- Women who work are often required to be active in social media for their jobs. This is clearly true for women in fields like marketing, HR, programming, journalism, and small businesses.
The ward I currently belong to is already off the deep end in my opinion when it comes to social media use. The majority of them have some belief that Satan runs all the major social media platforms, and they refuse to participate at all, which creates a lot of downstream impacts to us as a Relief Society Presidency. Rather than having a simple way to communicate that will reach everyone to let them know about upcoming lessons and activities, we have to do all communications at least 3 different ways: Facebook post, Instagram post, email. We often get requests to also publish a written newsletter and to text everyone about everything, simply because each sister seems to have deliberately stayed off one or more forms of contact that the others prefer. I routinely hear people say “Oh, I didn’t get that because I [don’t have a Facebook account/don’t check my emails/don’t have an Instagram account/wasn’t at church that week]. We don’t want people to feel left out or disconnected, but there’s no practical way to reach dozens of people without using social media in its various forms. And yet, many of these women already feel smug and unplugged. 
I agree with the idea of evaluating our social media use and making corrections if we are not connecting with the real live people right in front of us, but that doesn’t mean that unplugging for ten days is an obvious good without negative repercussions. He also didn’t clarify which platforms are considered social media. Here are some possible ones, and I confess I’m not familiar with all of the options that are out there:
Ways to Talk
- Snapchat. This is definitely social media, and it’s the main way my kids communicate with me during the day. I don’t love it, honestly (because things they post disappear so you can’t go back and see them), but in some generations, it’s the go to way to say how your day’s going.
- Texting. I don’t know if this is really social media or not, but it seems very similar to me in how it’s used. I have to use this in my business every day as well as in my personal and church life.
- Facebook Messenger. This is interchangeable with texting, IMO. It’s a one-to-one (or group) messaging platform. It’s the only way I talk to my out of state friends and relatives.
Places to Share
- Facebook. This to me is a mostly passive channel. I go 10 days without posting a status update all the time. The only thing I wouldn’t be doing on a fast is posting is pictures of really cool sunsets or recognizing people’s birthdays. Yes, there are people who post inflammatory political stuff, but I try to keep that off my personal FB page.
- Instagram. This is what most women my age and younger prefer instead of Facebook. They post photos of what’s happening in their lives or things they think look cool. It’s how I know what’s going on in the lives of my extended family members, and it’s never been political that I can see. I confess, I go weeks at a time without checking this one, and I just don’t really get it, but I know I’m the outlier here.
Places to Find Information
- Pinterest. It took me quite a while to figure out what this whole thing was, and then I really liked it, and now it’s been months since I was on it. It’s a place to find ideas and connect to articles that are related to hobbies you like such as travel, reading, cooking, parenting, inspirational quotes, etc. It’s not (IMO) very interactive between people.
- Linked In. This is a professional platform mostly useful when you are trying to find a job. You can interact with people here or be contacted by a recruiter if you’re lucky. Colleagues sometimes ask for an endorsement on this platform.
- Twitch. This one blows my mind, but there are kids out there who want to watch others play video games.
- Twitter. This is a place to post “hot takes,” which may be snarky or pithy or clever. It can be interactive, but people can be passive on Twitter too, just reading updates from others they are interested in. It is often used as a person’s news source. I spend less time here than my husband does, by far, because he follows sports, and I don’t. Fasting from Twitter is, for me, something that might be a good idea. I find it’s very political and sometimes gets me fired up. Clearly that’s true for our horrible POTUS as well, tweeting “covfefe” from his golden toilet bowl.
Group Discussion Forums
- Facebook Groups. Discussion groups are the interactive component to Facebook. This is where one might interact with others to discuss topics of interest.
- Blogs. Aside from the fact that I do blog, both here and at BCC, I have (believe it or not) occasionally gone over a week without really checking in, simply because I’ve been traveling or busy.
- Reddit. I don’t usually participate in Reddit, so this one would be no loss to me.
- Other Online Discussion Groups. I occasionally participate in some of these, but I also forget about them often.
My overriding thought, though, is that there’s a general unease with social media among the older generations, that it’s like when the telephone came out and everyone was like “No! Nobody will ride their horse over to visit neighbors anymore!” I have to think social connection is valuable, and if there’s something we are trying to correct with a fast, we should get clear about what that is. What exactly are the goals here?
My second thought is that there’s absolutely a sexist sentiment behind this, like when “gossip” is decried from the pulpit without clarifying that sharing information about one another is also how we minister, and relationships depend on interest in one another’s lives, things that are often conflated with “gossip.” There are men with strong opinions about how women should live our lives but with very limited understanding of why women do the things we do or what women’s lives are like. Given that literally no women spoke in the first two sessions of conference, it’s not hard to see why that would be. We are told to speak up (we need your voices!), but not too much (to a craven, boot-licking audience’s chuckle ). Then we aren’t asked to speak at all, and we are told to stay off the social platforms that are our main form of communication.
Let’s see what you think of this injunction against social media:
- Do you think some of these social media platforms are more “dangerous” than others? Do you think Pres. Nelson intended to include all of them? Is he even aware of all of them? (I mean, I’m not, as my kids frequently point out. I didn’t list Vine or Tumblr or any of the others that I literally just don’t get at all).
- Why was this advice only given to women & girls, and not to the men or general membership? Is that coming or is this like handing the Relief Society a final copy of the Proclamation that was written with no female input?
- Will women do the fast or not do it? Will it be a litmus test for faithfulness, used to judge one another or will people mostly say “meh” and ignore it?
- What is wrong with social media that a fast from it is intended to address? What is the goal?
- What online social media forums do you like (top 3)? Which ones would you not miss at all if you were to fast from them?
 That’s a phrase that needs to enter our lexicon along with “garmpit” (visible garments in the armpit of one’s shirt).
 Also, let me announce my new punk cover band, the Craven Boot-Lickers.
So you’re suggesting that men in their 90s don’t really understand how women in their 20s and 30s use social media for plain vanilla communication and interaction? And therefore tell women to abstain from it (no online communication or interaction for ten days) without really understanding what they are requesting? I think that’s a reasonable summary.
Like you, I wonder what the goal of the whole event is. Mainstream Mormons need to be told this so they can return on Day 11 and tell the world that they experienced the leader-directed results.
Social media is today’s most prominent news outlet and the fast occurs during a critical time in both American and Brazilian politics. Both the American blue wave and the Brazilian resistance are powered by women’s movements-coordinated largely through social media. It’s no secret that the church leans heavily conservative in U.S. politics, but I can’t imagine why the church would remove Brazilian sisters from their country’s democratic and moral struggle at this critical time. Was Brazil just not on the radar when this was conceived? Were sisters not thought to be political drivers in national or world politics? Is political participation deemed “beneath” the saints? Do we consider ourselves so separate from the world that we can ignore politics? Sadly, I conclude “yes” to all these questions.
Thank you for your insight. I was hoping earlier this morning that you might express your thoughts and was not disappointed. I created a Facebook account to keep my aged mother involved in family activities, see photos of grand and great grandchildren and feel part of their lives. She really enjoys it! I wish it had been available when my children were infants so I would not have felt so isolated. Men never tire of telling women what to do.
I told this story in a lesson recently: I’m part of a particular Facebook group. We’re scattered across the globe and most of us have never met in person, but we’ve known each other online for over two decades. One of our group went through some tough times, and just to twist the knife, his mother passed away and he found that he didn’t have enough money to cover her funeral expenses. Not as in “I owe the funeral home some money for that lovely service,” more like “The funeral home told me they won’t bury my mom until I come up with the money.” He didn’t even have to ask: we immediately set up a collection and together raised the money he needed.
Anytime somebody goes on and rants about social media being a soulless waste of time, I tell them this story and ask them about the last time they organized a bunch of people located thousands of miles apart for Christian service. Are there cat pictures and vapid comments on social media? Sure. But there are also real, substantial community ties that I think are being wrongly dismissed here.
Well lets see. It couldn’t possibly be to do with wanting to keep people away from social media just when folk are online venting about and discussing all the stuff they didn’t like about conference could it? In ten days things will probably have toned down somewhat…
Why the women and not the men? The men have their immediate Priesthood file-leaders to rein them in. And the women are getting out of control, hence the big smack down in the women’s session, and they have seen all too well how women have been using social media to organise (mama dragons etc). Am I feeling cynical right now? Very!
How do I use social media – well I’m not on Facebook – but that’s not for reasons of religious devotion. Over here the push has been to use social media to proselytise the church, but really I just can’t face having to wade through the constant “political” postings of some of my brothers, that would be men then (much of which seems to stem from the US right, especially the alt right stuff!!! sadly via their church social media contacts – thanks for that church!!! – and is so out of place in a British context). If anyone can tell me there’s a way I can avoid their politics whilst still seeing their posts about family, I might reconsider… Do I think they might just benefit from a social media fast?
I read blogs, listen to podcasts, and vitally, stay in touch with my kids who are now both at university. The eldest particularly struggles because of their autistic spectrum condition, and 10 days is far, far, far too long to be out of touch, the way things can escalate. So no, I will not be doing a social media fast.
Was this a revelation? Or just a thought bubble? As no purpose was explained, how will anyone know if it succeeded? It must be a big power thrill to have millions of people do something just because you tell them to without even giving a reason.
I doubt there was much thought put into the fast from social media suggestion.“ Thought could have been nothing more than — “here’s a way to practice self-discipline” and “years ago we got along reasonably without the internet, so why not”. It wouldn’t be the first thing said (or written) that was more impulsive than thought-out.
There’s a bit more thought evidenced at lds.org on “Social Media Helps for Members” which “supports the Church Internet policy found in Handbook 2: Administering the Church (2010), 21.1.22, and is a companion to the Internet Usage Helps for Members web page” and Handbook 2 and in:
“Sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before. . . . Perhaps the Lord’s encouragement to ‘open [your] mouths’ might today include ‘use your hands’ to blog and text message the gospel to all the world!” . . .
“With the blessings of modern technology, we can express gratitude and joy about God’s great plan for His children in a way that can be heard . . . around the world. Sometimes a single phrase of testimony can set events in motion that affect someone’s life for eternity.” — President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (Ensign, May 2011, “Waiting on the Road to Damascus.”)
Was there any thought about sister missionaries’ use of social media in proselyting, serving, communicating as may be needed?
I read the Handbook as encouraging a number of the uses the OP identifies.
I’m a bit of a cynic, but I wonder if there isn’t a socio-political reason for this. Right now there are a lot of women expressing outrage over being unheard by their government during the Kavanaugh hearings, and perhaps the idea is to prevent Mormon women (ahem, I mean Latter Day Saint women) from being influenced by the voices of dangerous feminists.
I was also irked by the Women-Only nature of this challenge, but I am trying to keep that under control until we see if the challenge is issued to the EQ/YM at some point in the future, just as the challenge was issued to the youth, but not adults, in the past. I am not super optimistic on that score, but it could happen.
Also, does that mean that none of the females who work in PR for the church will be contributing to the church’s online presence for the next 10 days? Perhaps there are no women in PR, which would be far more disturbing.
I think that President Nelson’s statement was a bit vague. For one, it would probably take a long time to go through a list of specific websites, but also because I think we have the responsibility of figuring out with the Lord what the fast means to each of us. I know a lot of women who jumped right right in last Saturday. Which is fine. I have a few reservations about the whole thing. If you are going to take his statement as something coming from the Lord which should be obeyed, I think it’s important to keep in mind that we are encouraged to pray about the things the prophet says. In Seattle recently, President Eyring emphasized that very fact right before President Nelson spoke. I think this challenge could in fact mean different things to different people. For example:
-If my job involved social media, perhaps this fast could only apply to my personal accounts. (Of course, if your clientele is mostly LDS then you will take a hit regardless.)
-Blogging is my personal form of writing a journal about my family. I wouldn’t count that as social media.
-I don’t think he said the days have to be consecutive. Personally, I am going to take that to mean 10 Saturdays or Sundays – time that I should probably spend more time with my kids than my phone.
-He didn’t say when to start. If I were to do 10 days straight, I would consider waiting until after November 6th (in the States) if political activism was my thing.
My RS happens to only use FB outside of church for communication. In light of upcoming ward and RS activities, it seems to me that this fast will make advertising about and planning for these events unnecessarily difficult. Also, the solution of some is to discuss these activities at length in a group text, which, in my opinion, is a far greater evil than social media. However, the silver lining may be that our RS finally gets motivated to set up an email list, so that would be a benefit.
Mormons… Ahem, members of Even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, have a somewhat limited view of fasting perhaps because the way to fast is so carefully prescribed: no food or drink for two meals / 24 hours. Other faith traditions fast differently, for example fasting from meat at lent, or fasting only during daylight hours during Ramadan.
With that in mind, in solidarity with the women if the church, I’ll be participating in the social media fast by avoiding handwritten notes and letters between the hours of 1 and 3 a.m. Admittedly, it’s not much of a sacrifice or sign of devotion, but it’s more than I think necessary for either men or women anyway.
I found the fast ironic given that in the morning session Elder Cook suggested using social media to spread the word about lesson schedules and such once the two hour block starts.
“Maybe he thinks porn is the male vice, and social media is the female vice”
That’s a pretty good assessment. Women want social contact and men (usually) want virginia.
Dave B. writes “So you’re suggesting that men in their 90s don’t really understand how women in their 20s and 30s use social media for plain vanilla communication and interaction?”
Correct; but it doesn’t stop there. Truth be told, men at any age do not understand women.
I do not understand my daughter at supper, who with a bite of food halfway to her mouth, will put that food back down to answer a beep on her cellphone. It’s a text and it will still be there once you’ve swallowed that bit of food.
I accompanied the driver of a garbage pickup truck at a college campus in Sacramento. He has to drive very, very slowly because close to 100 percent of students are walking with their heads down looking at a little screen. Several of them bounced off the truck. They were like zombies.
Boyfriend and girlfriend were at the mall, sitting side by side, presumably texting each other. I’m reminded of “Wall-E”: https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/film/2016/09/list-ways-our-society-already-pixar-s-dystopia-wall-e
Plain vanilla interaction 24 hours a day. Hooray for technology.
I guess for me I was thinking that he gave general request, which then we must take to receive personal inspiration in how we might apply the guidance. I didn’t feel that he was suggesting that all women abuse social media, but we all know that some due, and some of us might not recognize that we do/are until after doing the fast. President Nelson will probably ask the men to do that next General Conference as he recognizes that social media is often a very important form of communication for all those reasons mentioned in the OP. So now maybe men can take some of the onus of keeping in contact and be more appreciative of all that their wife does, etc. There are will always be political things going on in different countries, so I don’t think that there is ever a good time to invite the general audience to do the fast. And I didn’t interpret his message to mean that if I use social media for work or for truly required things, that I shouldn’t use it…but even just not getting phone calls and text messages for a few days while traveling can often help improve, orient, and anchor ones perspective in what really matters. It’s easier to not miss important posting and messages if those doing the posting may also be doing the fasting. I agree that the fast sets up a platform for the self-rightous to judge those who needed to stay active in a social media group, or make postings for their job etc. Although it would be nice if president Nelson would have been more specific in what constitutes as social media, what should be avoided, and what is okay, and in which situations it is permissible and not, etc. I think there are nearly an infinite amount of permutations and hypothetical situations where nearly the same situation in one perspective is permissible and yet not in another. I imagine that he thought about this, and realized it was impossible, and so instead just gave the general requisite and it is up to us as individuals to obtain person revelation of how they can best follow. Maybe its only staying off of Facebook, but using texts and messengers are fine for one, and for another it can be totally different. I suppose he could have clarified that exact scenario…perhaps, however, he didn’t because anyone can justify just about anything they do on social media if they are clever enough. Perhaps he’d rather let them obtain that guidance directly from the Lord. Anyways, that is my two cents…
Like many of you have said, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc are my life line to family. For instance, tell me exactly how I can get my 20 something to actually talk on the phone? Haha That’s a foreign concept for them! How else would we communicate if it wasn’t for one of the aforementioned? Sorry, but you have to keep up with the communication times! It’s just the way things are done now!
Now, I will say I have watched parents who are so engrossed in their phones that they cannot even look up long enough to tend to their kids. I do find that frustrating to watch. I see post after post on Facebook of silly videos that people spend hours watching. Yes, their time could be better spent. But, actually, what’s the difference if they are watching those or sitting in front of the TV?
Yes, I do think there is a detrimental factor in much of social media with the “likes”. There is this sense of thrill when enough people “like” what you had to say. Even my husband will come find me and say “Did you see how many likes I got on the joke I made on Facebook?”. Many times we base our ego and self worth on how many people respond to us on social media sites. This can be a problem and can mess with your head. For instance, I am always so nervous when I will leave a reply here. Will people like it? Will people disagree and dislike it? Will someone openly correct me? Will I feel publicly shamed? People are emboldened by the anonymity of such places. Even on other forms of social media where we present ourselves by our own name (usually), we are emboldened because we are not face to face with others. In that emboldened state often times we say things we never would have other wise. I know there has been times I have posted things on Facebook that later I really regretted.
Social media is a very important part of our world today. Like everything else, it can be misused and we need to consider how we each are using it personally. I think there are other things that have a much more serious negative effect on me. I am taking a serious look at those and deciding how to change my use of them. Social media is the least of my problems!
I’m with the more skeptical commenters here. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve just had the Kavanaugh debacle and that there’s a lot of anger among women now, with talk of the women’s vote swinging congress to the left, yes, but also a more general anger at the patriarchy. This seems to me to be the time one would most want to be plugged in. Also, of course, there’s a larger ideology at work here. Given the talk from church leaders recently about being careful regarding the internet and sources, etc., I think this is just part of the same, tired trope of: “Don’t trust the internet; trust us.” Which is of course absurd. There are a ton of untrue things on the internet, certainly. It’s no brilliant, reliable source of information, but it sure does allow a lot of good historical source work to happen, esp. regarding a lot of history the church is still uncomfortable with. This new “fast” is, IMO, simply part and parcel of that way of thinking.
And yes to this being really condescending. As Angela points out, one of the many harmful results of stereotyping the genders is this kind of outmoded, inaccurate and harmful thinking: “Cut off the women from social media and they’ll be less likely to gossip!” but of course, that also does things like limit LDS women’s access to current stories about sexual assault, gendered versions of the truth and the patriarchy that continually seems to be winning out in our country at the moment. Forgive me for being skeptical about this being for “the women’s own good.”
Our mission is on a huge push to get all of our local members in the area on social media so that we can use social media to preached the gospel through sharing how happy our lives our, etc. We get this message at church all the time and leadership is going around friending everyone online they can find. So the direct contradiction of that from president Nelson is just kind of weird.
I don’t know about anyone else but the way I see it is one more hour of personal time on Sunday is one more hour to celebrate it on social media!
And, BTW, aren’t a lot of those men indulging in porn doing it on their computers? So, yeah! Once again, it’s the sisters who are the problem…..
I’m on my lunch hour using social media to spread voter registration information and organizing a canvassing effort for a candidate I support. I also made a donation to a GoFundMe for a friend with cancer. Now is not the right time for me to step back from my social media. I’m not sure what the point would be.
Great analysis, Hawk. I, too, have been wondering since the fast was announced why it assigned in a gendered manner. I think there are a lot of factors at play, but the largest is probably the fundamental misunderstanding of how younger women use social media that you suggested. That misunderstanding is coupled with an absolute certainty that as God’s mouthpiece, there’s nothing I/we don’t understand. That’s quite the combination.
It goes directly against Johari’s window. Basically, there are things you are aware that you know, things you know but aren’t aware of the knowledge, things you don’t know and are aware of the lack, and things that you aren’t aware you don’t know. There’s a lot of hubris in neglecting to recognize that which you don’t know, and a lot of teachability and potential for learning when you go out of your way to find out what you don’t know yet. It seems the first presidency could use a little of that.
One more perhaps ironic point I didn’t make in the OP. I literally only found out about this social media fast via social media. My weekend was pretty crazy with our business and my daughter’s 16th birthday, so most of my conference “viewing” was through social media check ins.
Brother Sky observes “I’m with the more skeptical commenters here.”
How could it be otherwise? 😉
Here’s what President Nelson said:
“First, I invite you to participate in a 10-day fast from social media and any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind. Pray to know which influences to remove during your fast. The effect of your 10-day fast may surprise you. What do you notice after taking a break from perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit? Is there a change in where you now want to spend your time and energy? Have any of your priorities shifted just a little? I urge you to record and follow through with each impression.”
My first impression – there’s some wiggle room in what to fast FROM. He’s clearly wanting us to target stuff that promotes “negative and impure” thoughts whether it’s social media or other media. This is definitely in the same vein as the men getting a lecture against pornography at a regular priesthood session.
Second impression – there’s a LOT of ways to take “negative and impure thoughts” as well as “perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit.” I don’t think people should come up with stipulations on this thing for anyone except themselves. He’s purposefully left it broad and vague.
Excellent points Angela. I haven’t read the comments so forgive me if I’m repeating some things. My local ward did a social media fast a few years back and they had some specific exceptions: Friends, family, dating (of course dating because it was a singles ward and you can’t go 30 seconds without mentioning the elephant in the room), work, school, church. If social media was needed and used for any of those things you could use the medium. For example, just yesterday I posted on my page twice, the first I linked to a free lance article I published defending Columbus on Columbus day. The second I tried to get together a group to watch Monday night football. (Though the Redskins laid a total egg so I’m glad that didn’t work out.)
I think those exceptions are excellent as it left all of the important stuff you mentioned, but discouraged the useless or counter productive gossiping, envy, jealousy, and any other unfortunate by products that come from too much random surfing of social media. As usual, a bit of clarification about using social media for positive things like the ward facebook page, work, or communicating with friends and family would have helped a great deal.
Church leaders (or church culture, take your pick) don’t do a very good job of teaching moderation. Social media can have negative elements but it can also have positive elements. Rather than getting into nuance, maybe give a talk about the dangers of comparing ourselves to others or how addictions can become unhealthy within the framework of social media, we get the more simple lesson, “Stay completely off social media for a while.”
One person in the history of human kind gets blitzed after drinking too much black tea and it’s, “No tea for ANYONE!!!” Black. White. It’s how the culture understands things.
Joseph Smith once said, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”
I guess since we’re not to keen on letting people govern themselves that we feel it’s no longer necessary to teach correct principles either.
I am 65 years old and a former Bishop, Stake President and now Bishop again. My thoughts on Social Media are so varied I don’t even know if I understand what I think !
I know as a Bishop many years ago, Social Media was not a problem because it hardly existed. By the time I was SP, it and porn were both really a problem for both genders. I’d guess 90% of the infidelity issues in a marriage were caused by one or the other. In my now 2nd tour as Bishop, I’d say porn is a bigger problem again. My reasoning is that in my experience Social Media is so varied and used so differently now that in some ways it seems like the way we used to use the rotary dial phone in my younger days, i.e. as a communication device.
On the other hand as some have pointed out, businesses and other entities cannot survive without a social media presence. If I owned a business, Facebook would be the first place I’d open an account. So, Social Media has a place.
I’ll give President Nelson the benefit of the doubt. He seems genuine to me and I was in some meetings with him about 5 years to me. He was very kind respectful to all in attendance. He’s quite humorous and cut up a lot that day. Most times the intent is good, but the delivery of the message was not the best. I do note, he did not say when to start/end, he just said it would be a good thing to do. That would lead me to think there is no underlying motivation other than what it is. One other thing too is that as accomplished and bright as he is, President Nelson has not been in the Frist Presidency in any capacity. He is still probably learning the role as well.
My thinking on a 10 day Social Media fast would be the intent is to stop non-productive surfing. That could apply to about anything on the internet or TV or anything else. I know I watch way too much sports on TV when I could be doing things that would probably be more productive in other areas.
Just my 2 cents…and that is probably about what it is worth. I really appreciate all the points of view. It’s very cool to read and think about the different perspectives offered here.
As I have a YM calling, I did the social media fast when the youth challenge came out–though I did it while at scout camp, so it was an easy week! I did realize after going through old facebook posts that were several days old that I could get into a pattern of boredom clicking and making more out of reading posts and reactions than I really need to. As to the gendered request, I simply take it that this was the rotation for the Women’s meeting. Had it been the Men’s meeting, the same challenge may have been issued. Maybe not…but trying to think charitably.
Thank you for posting the precise wording and for your note. Granted, I did not attend or watch the meeting, but the summary I heard from my wife contrasted sharply with the reactions here, and I think a lot has to do with some confusion about what the invitation is and what it isn’t. The language of “fasting” seems crucial to me. First, when we fast from food, we’re not making a statement that food is bad; we’re giving something up that can become a distraction in order to focus on other things, with the incidental benefit of learning to control our excesses. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any GA or GO say that social media is categorically bad, and I don’t think that’s the point of this exercise.
Second, as with any fast, individual circumstances may alter the duration and parameters of the fast. As Mary Ann noted, President Nelson did not dictate what specifically to fast from, nor did he give the precise start and end of the fast. If there is some major event that requires social media use, then it’s still possible to accept the invitation and make it work with individual needs. A 10-day fast, to me, seems long enough to help people figure out what they really need and don’t need out of social media, but not so long that most people will miss important updates.
As to why women only, I have a few theories, some of which I suspect President Nelson was explicitly thinking of, and some of which may not have been well understood by President Nelson, but are a part of the reason that President Nelson received inspiration (maybe even-gasp!-revelation) on the subject. First, I suspect the men will get a similar invitation at a different time. For most families, it would be impractical for everyone to give up social media all at once, and so staggering these things by groups helps the invitation seem both more personal and easier to actually implement. Second, studies on the subject have shown that women tend to be more active on social media than men. Anecdotally, many of my male friends don’t have social media accounts at all, and so this invitation would inspire literally no changed behavior. Third, and related, I think it is absolutely true that women shoulder much of the burden of maintaining family relationships, and they choose to do so through social media. A ten-day fast from social media teaches these women that they don’t have to shoulder that burden (and provides an excuse for those who are already aware to show their husbands that they can pick up some of the slack).
Given that President Nelson issued a similar invitation (albeit three days shorter) to all youth long before the whole Kavanaugh thing, I think conspiracy theories regarding swaying of elections is very tinfoil hat. Besides, it would be totally ineffective. There’s a lot longer than 10 days between now and the election, and those who are really riled up about the election (or have responsibilities related to the election) will either ignore the invitation or push it off until after the election.
As for the reference to men and computers, etc.: men in the Church are constantly told to limit their time on the Internet, get a filter, etc.
It’s interesting to note that the time to start & end was not specified. There has certainly been a “ja vol, herr commandant” performative aspect to how some women quickly clicked their heels together to proclaim their immediate obedience.
One wonders is “negative and impure” is meant to be one category or two. The “and” implies it’s one category. Impure to me sounds sexual.
The perspectives of the world that wound my spirit include the gender essentialism and gender roles that I missed by skipping this session, so honestly, I feel like I’m already living the spirit of this injunction and have been for years. I also block posts from friends and family that are spirit-wounding like things that are too political and hateful, IMO. To me, I’d rather not know these things about people I might otherwise esteem. In that vein, I conclude that the best fast he could have called for is for a 10 day fast from Fox News. Imagine the health benefits of that!
Having said all that, I question the idea of simply ignoring the unpleasant. We are adults. We vote. We need to be informed. And yet, we have a confessed serial sexual assaulter in office. We have a new SCOTUS who was very credibly accused of sexual misconduct in his youth, and a slew of senators whose response was “Who cares?” and a President claiming he was “proven innocent,” wishful thinking if ever I’ve heard it. Should we be unaware of these things, especially going into a vote? Should women in particular be unaware of them?
The Nov 5 policy is supposedly because kids of gay couples are going to be made uncomfortable when they come to church where people will talk trash about their parents. Certainly, that’s spirit-wounding stuff.
Angela C, I love this “In that vein, I conclude that the best fast he could have called for is for a 10 day fast from Fox News. Imagine the health benefits of that.” When I work out, I used to watch Fox News but it is so biased towards the Republicans, I switched to CNN. It (CNN) is so darn biased the other way, I have now switched to watching Andy Griffith reruns. There is no stress in Andy and Barney and Iaugh my head off while working on the treadmill. I guess people think I am crazy as I sit there and laugh, but hey, it’s so fun. I am an independent, I do wish there was a news source that would just give the facts and let us decide what is what.
Michael2: I really don’t care for Virginia and don’t seek it out. I’m much more of a Midwestern man by temperament. (I can’t tell if you’re a victim of auto-correct, or deliberately altered your word choice to avoid a word filter.)
“There has certainly been a “ja vol, herr commandant” performative aspect to how some women quickly clicked their heels together to proclaim their immediate obedience.”
Reminds me that the other thing that disturbed me about conference was the several references I heard to “President Nelson’s youth battallion”. My kids are out of youth now, so that one passed me by. How long has this been a thing? What with Pres Oaks talk on Saturday and the gender essentialist first presidency trio at in the women’s session, the mentions of the youth battallion were giving me surreal images of nazi Germany… Please, let me be wrong about that!
Bro. Jones wonders “I really don’t care for Virginia and don’t seek it out. I’m much more of a Midwestern man by temperament.”
A humorous scene from “John Carter of Mars” popped into my mind, combined with a small desire to avoid being too obvious about what most men presumably desire, led me to choose “Virginia”. I lived there for several years and found it to be a beautiful state. West from Warrenton heading up into the mountains exist many little roadside shops selling home made jams and jellies. OMG but they are so good.
Temperamentally I am also fond of Minnesota, particularly “up nort” around Bemidji and Lake Itasca, headwaters of the Mississippi. People tend to be above average and relatively polite. Where else can one find wood tick races? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoF6p4Les7Q
Hedgehog, it’s been a thing since June. https://www.lds.org/youth/article/president-and-sister-nelsons-devotional-for-youth-a-call-to-enlist-and-gather-israel?lang=eng
The social media fast for women may have damaged the prospects for Jane and Emma in its crucial opening week, a movie about two women in the early church.
I skimmed all your comments, searching for the one that began “I inquired of the Lord to better understand His prophet’s recent challenge, and learned that the purpose for it was…”
Wonder why I didnt see a post like that. Hm…
Thanks for that link Mary Ann.
There’s so much I find disturbing on there. If I can draw all the threads in my mind into a coherent whole, I’ll write a post.
Meanwhile from the quote you gave in your earlier comment:
“a 10-day fast from social media and any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind. Pray to know which influences to remove during your fast. The effect of your 10-day fast may surprise you. What do you notice after taking a break from perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit? ”
I’ve been avoiding all news about Brexit since the vote, it was certainly wounding. Is he really recommending we retreat to our bubbles? I mean I know that’s what I’m doing with Brexit, and I also don’t think it’s particularly healthy, but there we go. But the biggest wound inflicted on my Spirit has been this conference, ironically delivered globally over the internet.
Great post! I have my own social and news fast going on. Watching the news is overwhelming to me these days. I feel like I’m getting beat up every day. Facebook? Holy moly!! Do they even know ( my friends?) they are posting to the same circle of people the same stuff multiple times a day? I’ve blocked, unfollowed and snoozed so much lately I’m down to animal videos and recipes I won’t make. I keep it just for the contact I have to extended family I never see . I don’t expect or need my church or anyone else to be this involved in my daily life. I think I can handle this one on my own.
> What exactly are the goals here?
IMHO, the goals are to reduce the influence of Babylon and to focus and look inwardly and to those people who are at hand instead of all the buzz and commotion going on in the world. Men, as a general group though there are many exceptions, are more likely to indulge in Babylon through media, movies, music, and video games than through social media.
As a stay-at-home mom, I am pretty defensive about my social media time because it’s my lifeline to the rest of the world. There was an article that went viral a few years back — “How to Miss a Childhood” — and another specifically in Mormon circles about “When Satan Steals Your Motherhood,” both flagellating mothers caught mothering under the influence…of their phones, quelle horreur. Really?! I’m with my kids 24-7. So when exactly am I allowed to be on my phone? If I bring them to a park and sit with my phone, it’s because I am exhausted from trying to entertain them and just need a few minutes to use a part of my brain other than the one that knows to sing “Baby Shark” when the toddler’s fussing in a long line. However wasteful whatever I’m doing online is, it’s actually more important than helicopter parenting. For everyone’s sanity, I NEED to miss a little more of my kids’ childhoods. Social media connects me to a world beyond diapers and whining and angry little demands. Sure, there have been days when the dishes and laundry piled up because I was researching and arguing a point with a stranger on Facebook. But they were still there when I was done, and I tackled them knowing I made some kick-butt arguments.
This is not an ode to social media. I can find myself spending too much time on it, and caring too much about the Wemmick-style dot and star stickers we give each other on it. I don’t mind the idea of a fast, either. But I do wonder if this request comes from a mindset that doesn’t understand the value or mechanisms of female connection.
Kay Gee: Hilarious Church Lady impression! I miss Dana Carvey. Kids these days don’t know who he is.
There are definitely things we can learn from taking a break from social media, especially if we are just cutting out the things that make us nuts, but I’m also worried about the bubble effect that Hedgehog mentioned. This is how Trump got elected: the polarization of FB news due to only seeing what you “like” or what doesn’t upset you. The more you only see what you agree with, the more extreme your views become, the more likely you are to be exposed to biased and fake news, and the easier to catastrophize and see the other side as evil. I’m as bad as anyone at it, but it’s a huge issue in this country right now.
Side note: There has been much mention here of echo Chambers and also difficulty in holding discussions on-line with differing view points.
The best place I’ve found to have a real discussion about controversial topics and not have an echo chamber is here:
President Nelson gave reasons behind asking for a social media fast when he was talking to the youth in June. If someone is looking for a “why” behind this, that Hope of Israel talk is a good place to start.
Most important, he acknowledges there are positives to social media. The negative effects he saw were distraction from the Spirit (suggesting that loneliness and depression were related to that), doing/saying things you normally wouldn’t (like bullying), and getting caught up in the fake/distorted versions of other people’s lives.
Thank you, Rockwell. What an interesting site!
I inquired of the Lord to better understand His prophet’s recent challenge, and learned that the purpose for it was so that I could sound a trumpet before myself when I did my alms. It was so that I could be of a sad countenance and disfigure my Facebook timeline. And of course, most importantly, it was so I could cast the social media mote out of my sister’s eye.
I’m late to the game but I have some thoughts that need to go somewhere.
1. I hate social media, it makes me miserable. I don’t exactly know why except it just isn’t real. My friendships aren’t “real,” the pictures are largely staged, it’s full of ads mostly and politics, which I actively avoid. It used to be fun but now it’s a chore. I put myself on social media fasts regularly, sometimes for months. So it wasn’t difficult for me to take Nelson up on his challenge.
2. I didn’t think to feel offended that men weren’t asked the same thing. Lots of guys spend too much time on their phones but, let’s be honest, most of them interact with other men during the day so it’s not something they’re generally as attached to as women are. And when they do it doesn’t make them as miserable for some reason. No idea why. Or maybe it does but they can walk away? My husband always complains that leaders keep stereotyping men and telling them to stop playing video games and watching porn.
3. It wasn’t a commandment, it was just a challenge. Someone who doesn’t/can’t/won’t do it shouldn’t feel threatened by being given a challenge. The suggestion wasn’t an attack. If you (not talking to anyone specifically) don’t want to do it, don’t do it. I drink tea. I don’t take offense when other people are better at following WoW than I am and I don’t feel unwelcome at church during WoW lessons. It annoys me a bit when certain people gloat about it but I still drink my tea because I don’t care.
4. I use social media because I live in total isolation. The misery and loneliness I feel using Facebook or even occasionally posting on sites like this one is soul-crushing, but possibly marginally less awful than living with my own thoughts 100% of the time. So I come back after my fasts to the manufactured reality to feel like I exist in this world, even superficially. My soul is perpetually wounded by elements of social media (among other much bigger things, obviously) but I use it anyway. Nobody to blame but myself!
Overall, I supported the call to abstain from social media and other things that harm our souls. I think we all know which things are hurting us and maybe the social media fast wasn’t intended for you. Some people just need a push to take action more than others do. If someone needs to hear it in conference to get that push, so be it.