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The Incredible Way a Social Media Addict and Happiness Expert Are Responding to President Nelson's Challenge

Anyone who knows me may be shocked to learn that I have a secret addiction to social media, namely Facebook and Instagram. While I enjoy sharing posts from time to time, what I really love is seeing what my 1,500 closest friends all over the country are up to. I love scrolling through their greatest accomplishments, funniest moments, and pictures of their adorable kids and pets.

I have known for a couple of years that I have a problem. My husband and kids have brought it to my attention and I recognize many moments where I have not been fully present for the people right in front of me. My social media went everywhere with me, including the beach, meals, hikes, vacations, concerts, bike rides, church, date night, and embarrassingly even the bathroom and car. At my worst, I was spending over two hours a day with my head down mindlessly scrolling. A quote by Linda Stone comes to mind that says it best, “We are everywhere in the world, except for where we are physically,”

On October 6, 2018, President Nelson issued an invitation to all women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to participate in a 10-day social media fast. After my initial feelings of panic and anxiety, I felt a sense of relief. I was thankful for that call to action that was issued and I decided to go all in. I removed the apps from my phones and iPad and I journaled each day to record my "aha" moments and insights. 

After the first 10 days, I had such meaningful results that I decided to extend my fast to 17 days. It was seriously the best two weeks I have had in a really long time, and I experienced benefits physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. 

On the first Sunday back at church after the social media fast was issued, it was all the buzz among the women and men. I was not the only one who had felt immense blessings flow into my life as a result of the fast. That week the scripture Matthew 5:16 kept popping into my mind: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” 

I felt inspired to call my friend Amy Blankson and share with her my experience. Amy and her brother Shawn Achor own a company called Good Think and they are two of the leading experts on the science of happiness and positive psychology. Amy's area of expertise and research is on leveraging technological advances, apps, and gadgets in a way that helps us to be more productive, while keeping our sanity and boosting our happiness.

I asked Amy if she would help me to create a survey to capture the results and impact of the social media fast. She joyfully accepted, and when I asked her why she was interested she said, “We often hear that unplugging feels good, but what does it actually do for your mind, body, and spirit? This survey is an incredible opportunity to hear from thousands of women about their experiences.”

Amy has interest from a research perspective but also speaks, writes, and has connections that will shine a light on this timely topic and encourage others across the globe to examine their own social media habits and also possibly participate in a fast themselves. We have a unique opportunity to share our stories and to light the world with our example. All survey results will be shared with the Church and President Nelson.

Our goal is to obtain 5,000 survey responses, and we have received over 300 responses so far. The data and verbatim quotes that have come in thus far have been overwhelmingly positive and significant. 

Here are some of the early survey results:

  • Prior to the social media fast, 34% of participants spent more than two hours a day on social media; 35% spent 1-2 hours. After the social media fast, those numbers reduced to 10% and 17% respectively. 
  • 38% reported better sleep.
  • 68% reported feeling more productive.
  • 44% felt more at peace.
  • 40% recognized and made improvements in their spiritual life.
  • 46% spent more time with their children.

Here are a few quotes from those who participated in the survey:

  • “I felt more personally connected to the Lord.”
  • “Social media seems like such a vital part of our lives, but really it is a distraction.”
  • “I realized that I used social media to fill my quiet moments, which took away from time for creative thinking.”
  • “I had the realization that social media isn’t making me happy. In fact, it often makes me jealous, have fear of missing out and is just a big time waster.”
  • “When my life isn’t weighed down by time spent on social media, I have more time and energy to improve myself and serve those around me.”

I have had the pleasure of reading over 750 quotes about the impact President Nelson’s invitation has had on the women of the Church. I was moved to tears many times reading personal accounts of miracles, promptings, and tender mercies that occurred during the fast. Testimonies, individual, families, wards, and communities were strengthened because of his prophetic counsel. 

I invite each of you to participate in the survey and to share it with other women that also participated in the fast. We need your voice and insights. 

You can opt-in to receiving an email summary of the full survey results or you can join our Facebook group “Social Media Fast” to get more information and updates on our progress. Amy and I will also be writing a follow-up article for LDS Living about our findings. 

As we join our voices together and share our experiences, we will be able to bring greater awareness to this timely topic and share our collective light with the world.

Lead image from Getty Images
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