This post makes the most sense after reading The 5 Stages of Screen Time Grief.
Many people consider a technology fast as a way to connect with something deep in a shallow, modern world. Although a break from social media, endless smartphone notifications, and screens entirely can have a noticeable impact on your emotions, mind, and soul, it can often create more frustration than actual change.
Here are 3 perspectives to keep in mind if you want to make the most out of a screen time fast.
FASTING AS AN OPPORTUNITY
When the water gets calm, things tend to float to the surface.
The way to invite lasting change is to take notice when they do.
When we fast from technology, we have a priceless opportunity to take stock of our attention spans. Most of us can admit that our world of screens has affected (stunted) our ability to focus, listen, or relax. It’s a tough pill to swallow sometimes, but there is good news: attention is something you can grow with intention. Like other muscles in your body, you can strengthen it again, but it will take time and exercise. Fortunately, a tech fast offers both of those things.
We can also learn about our triggers. This is an addiction term but, for many of us, it’s applicable. During your fast, see if you can pinpoint the situations and patterns that have you often looking for a screen. Are there certain relationships that tempt you to disconnect? Are there certain places that make you wish for a distraction? It may be a habit or it may be something deeper. Anything you learn along this line can be helpful. More on this below.
FASTING AS A DISCIPLINE
Fasting only changes us when it costs us something. Pushing on through the inconveniences and the FOMO of a tech break takes us on to the best destination.
My advice: Set your boundaries before you start. Decide if you are powering down a device, disconnecting from a service, deleting certain apps, or just putting better boundaries around certain times, places, or relationships. Decide in advance how long you will be fasting and what you’ll do if you slip up to make sure that your overall goals are still intact.
Adjust your hardware. Leave the phone in a drawer, remove the time-wasters, and reconfigure how you work for a season. On an iPhone, you can actually use the Screen Time app to your advantage, setting time limits and shutting out certain apps from certain times of the day. Remove the things that tempt you and be free. And don’t be surprised when it gets hard.
FASTING FROM to FASTING FOR
Unfortunately, many of us don’t know what to do with ourselves without a screen to look at.
What will you fill that time with?
You need a plan for that too.
Read a book that’s been on your list for a while. Take up a new hobby or exercise routine. Go serve some real people who have real needs who you could make a real impact on. Come up with a plan for connecting or reconnecting with friends and family in a deeper way. Make three-dimensional memories and keep them to yourself.
Fasting is not a modern invention. For generations, it has been a proven practice for spiritual growth and health. My favorite definition of discipline is: “affecting things that we can control in order to give God access to the things we can’t control”. Lean into that during your fast. I’ve seen God meet many, many people as they’ve asked Him to replace the things that are fleeting and entertaining with things that are sustaining and satisfying.
ONE LAST TIP: DO NOT SHARE IT
Psychologists have observed that sharing a big goal actually keeps us from accomplishing it. The reaction of the people around you who are impressed/jealous/excited when you tell them that you are, for example, considering running a marathon has already reinforced you for the goal, even before you laced up your shoes. It feels good to be applauded but that reaction can actually short circuit the drive you will need to run 26.2 miles in a hurry. There is a direct application for Lenten disciplines, New Years Resolutions, and screen fasts.
The only caveat is that it may be helpful to share a decision like this with one trusted friend who will cheer us on and ask us how it's going. Not only will this boost accountability, but it is an easy way to invest in an IRL relationship.
Whatever desire or demand brought this page up on your screen, I hope you’ve found some encouragement and enlightenment about an effective fast. Personally, I’ve seen many people attempt one of these breaks and, although many have struggled, I’ve never heard from anyone who has regretted it.
You have reached the end of the page. Time to consider giving pause to this glowing rectangle so you can give life to something else.
I’m a pastoral counselor in Oxford and Tupelo, MS. I help people every day work through all sorts of issues, wounds, and problems - even the ones that are on a screen.