Although it’s been several years since I qualified as a youth in the Church, I was still delighted to listen to and read the recent Worldwide Youth Devotional featuring President Russel M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy, two of the most youthful old people around. The energy and vitality of that ninety-something President of the Church is remarkable.
In encouraging our young people to become more involved in the greatest work on earth, President Nelson offered 5 suggestions for things they could do now to become and achieve something more. I was quite intrigued by his first recommendation: a seven-day fast from social media. Here I am, struggling with guilt over not doing more with social media, while others suffer from the opposite problem and are entangled in a pseudo world where social media dominates too much of their life. His challenge to the youth on this issue began with a story that reflects not only wisdom from the parents of a young man, but a healthy willingness to learn displayed by the initially furious young man himself. I love what he learned in the experiment President Nelson describes:
And now I invite you to prepare
yourself by doing five more things—five things that will change you and
help you change the world.
First, disengage from a constant reliance on social media, in order to decrease its worldly influence upon you.
me tell you about one young man your age, the grandson of a dear friend
of mine. He is popular with his friends and a leader in his high
school. Recently, his parents found things on his phone that were
inappropriate for a follower of Jesus Christ. They insisted that he go
off social media for a time. They exchanged his smartphone for a flip
phone, and he panicked. How would he stay connected with his friends?
he was furious with his parents, but after just a few days, he thanked
them for taking his smartphone away. He said, “I feel free for the first
time in a long time.” Now he calls his friends on his flip phone to
connect with them. He actually talks with them instead of always
What other changes have
occurred in this young man’s life? He says he now loves being free from
the fake life that social media creates. He is actively engaged in life
instead of having his head in his phone all the time. He participates in
outdoor recreational activities instead of playing video games. He is
more positive and helpful in his home. He seeks opportunities to serve.
He listens better in church, has a brighter countenance, is so much
happier, and is actively preparing for his mission! All this because he
took a break from the negative influence of social media.
President Nelson then called for a seven-day fast and reminded us of further problems from excessive reliance on social media:
my first invitation to you today is to disengage from a constant
reliance on social media by holding a seven-day fast from social media. I
acknowledge that there are positives about social media. But if you are
paying more attention to feeds from social media than you are to the
whisperings of the Spirit, then you are putting yourself at spiritual
risk—as well as the risk of experiencing intense loneliness and
depression. You and I both know youth who have been influenced through
social media to do and say things that they never would do or say in
person. Bullying is one example.
downside of social media is that it creates a false reality. Everyone
posts their most fun, adventurous, and exciting pictures, which create
the erroneous impression that everyone except you is leading a fun,
adventurous, and exciting life. Much of what appears in your various
social media feeds is distorted, if not fake. So give yourself a
seven-day break from fake!
Choose seven consecutive days and go for it! See if you notice any difference in how you feel and what you think, and even how
you think, during those seven days. After seven days, notice if there
are some things you want to stop doing and some things you now want to
This social media fast
can be just between you and the Lord. It will be your sign to Him that
you are willing to step away from the world in order to enlist in His
I’ve been amazed at how social media leads people to become digital savages. The sudden formation of virtual mobs to mock and slander others is a painful phenomenon to observe or to experience. The ease at which insults are hurled and judgements made on the moral values or human worth of others is disheartening. The impersonal nature of writing short quips and the ability to hide behind a screen when insulting distant targets brings out the brute and the coward in many people. Breaking away from that environment will be a healthy step for many. Ditto for dropping the savagery and mindless waste of time that typifies many online games. I am astounded at how often I learn of parents troubled over their promising child who insists on spending every spare moment shooting people or smashing things up via video games.
President Nelson’s call is to make something more of our lives and to use our time for things that really matter. Bravo!
Overall, I was impressed and touched by the messages shared by both President Nelson and his wife, Wendy. We are so fortunate to have such people in our midst. Now I need to just find some more time to get out there and (politely) Tweet about this!