We know that the 2020 election in America is already upsetting and divisive, capturing our attention and making it difficult to focus on what matters most each day. A big part of the problem is what we see on our social media feeds and how we react to this content.
Unfortunately, a lot of content showing up on social media, especially on Facebook, is coming from malicious sources, and it’s designed to unsettle and divide us.
Misinformation Is Happening NOW
America’s intelligence agencies have warned us that foreign nations, especially Russia, are sending misinformation our way via social media to upset, to deceive, and to divide us. (CNN, NY Times, The Guardian, NPR)
Facebook Is Ideal for Spreading Misinformation
Former leaders of Cambridge Analytica, who spread misinformation in 2016 have said publicly that Facebook is the single most effective way to spread misinformation. (The Guardian, NY Times, Tech Crunch)
Misinformation Travels Fast
Research has demonstrated that fabricated “news” on social media platforms like Twitter spreads six times faster than the truth because of how sensational it appears to be. (MIT, PBS, BBC)
The Senate Is Blocking a Response to Misinformation
The Senate majority has blocked bipartisan legislation that could take action against this online interference. (The Independent, AJC, MSNBC)
Facebook Won’t Act Decisively
Facebook has resisted taking decisive and effective action against misinformation. While the company has removed some misinformation accounts, numerous public whistleblowers have criticized the company’s inadequate response. (NPR, Forbes, Wired)
How to Remain Grounded in Unsettling Times?
All of this tells me that it’s up to us to resist the vast waves of misinformation coming our way. There’s nothing stopping this tsunami of upsetting falsehoods from crashing into our social media feeds. It’s hard to avoid this misinformation that is designed to create despair, anger, and division.
The good news is that we can step out of the ocean, so to speak, and move ourselves onto dry land until the waves of misinformation and trolling pass us by.
The highs and lows of the daily news cycle don’t have to sweep us away. We can step to a place that is firm and secure so that we can process the events of our times with clear minds and then take prayerful, constructive action.
The place to begin is with the stuff we allow into our minds, and addressing the role of social media is essential in creating space for silence, prayer, and compassionate action.
Fast from Your Facebook News Feed
While it would be ideal if every American simply avoided Facebook and social media in general for 30 days until the election passed, that isn’t realistic. In our small town we rely on Facebook groups to share information among parents, to stream church services on Facebook pages, and to organize events.
Yet, we can still get these connection benefits without the fragmenting content in our news feed. We simply need to fast from our news feed.
This isn’t as hard as it may seem. We can delete the Facebook app from our phones and use browser apps like Chrome’s “Kill News Feed” app to turn your news feed into a sea of nothingness.
At the very least, removing Facebook from your phone for 30 days will significantly cut down on the amount of content you see. If you miss the app, just add it again after the election.
A Chance for a Clean Start
Yet, I hope that a brief fast from the daily cascade of content on Facebook will be a welcome break or reset for your social media use. Perhaps you’ve forgotten what life is like without the daily infusion of content on Facebook.
You could leave social media apps off your smartphone. You could keep the Kill News Feed app running. In fact, I tried it for 30 days a number of years ago, and I was surprised that I didn’t miss the news feed at all.
Tech Companies Want You to Be Hooked
Keep in mind that social media companies are investing a ton of money in personnel and technology to keep you hooked.
The more data they collect from us, the more valuable we are for them.
The least we can do is to meet all of their work to capture our attention is to spend a little time guarding it so that we can focus on what’s most important. A few boundaries around social media can actually be quite liberating.
Suggestions for a 30 Day Facebook Fast
A Simple Fast: Remove Facebook from your smartphone and block/avoid your newsfeed when using Facebook on a computer. You can still use groups, events, etc. on Facebook.
Avoid Facebook Completely: Announce that you’ll be taking 30 days off Facebook. Make sure you have other activities lined up so you aren’t tempted to reload the app. Consider the following: books, arts/crafts activities, volunteer work, or a household project.
The 30 Day Cleanse: If you really want to see what life is like apart from social media, try logging out of social media for 30 days. Use the same ideas as above, but apply them to each social media service you use. I especially encourage journaling during your fast so that you can grow in awareness of how social media impacts you.
Read more about digital formation vs. spiritual formation in my book Reconnect: Spiritual Restoration from Digital Distraction.