Month: September 2022

A Spiritual Journey Away from Social Media: In Good Company

Fasting from foods is a struggle for me. Before I became an Orthodox Christian, it was fairly easy to make up my own rules and only give up beef and pork during Lent. Dairy and fish became my dietary refuge. However, even these are to be abstained from in our weekly (Wednesday & Friday) fast as well as the major periods throughout the year. We still can eat shellfish. But with fresh oysters at $17 a pint, passing over a $3 pack of hot dogs is kinda rough. I find most vegan cheese substitutes abysmal in flavor and texture. I can cook some tasty bean and vegetable dishes. However, as soon as the fast is over, there will be a piece of dead animal on my pit being bathed in hickory smoke.

I didn’t have the same response with the end of my self-imposed fast from Facebook. If anything, my church has inspired me to continue to keep my distance from it. My priest and I did meet on the platform. But, he was off of Facebook for years as he grew tired of the shallow and toxic post by many users. He does very little posting these days. My fellow deacon also uses the platform sparingly putting up the occasional family or dog photo. Most of the leaders in the Fellowship have accounts. But, they spend more time doing the work of ministry instead of posting about it.

I watch the “Be the Bee” series from the Greek Orthodox Church’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry Department from time to time. The recent episode #176 underscored another reason why I have all but left Facebook. The host, Steven Christoforou, quoted something that was quite disturbing. We are no longer consumers. We have become the product. This is quite scary that social media platforms are using us as money making pawns with no control over the content we receive and that our identities are merchandise for advertisers. Of course, Facebook, Twitter, and other culprits can use us even if we don’t have accounts with them. But, by absconding from chronically scrolling and using them two and a half hours a day, we can symbolically protest their abuse and turn our souls to something (anything) more spiritually nurturing, healing, and healthy.

Father Seraphim Rose was a big believer in reading the ancient wisdom of the Church. Even if it is no more than a few sentences a day, putting something from the Desert Fathers to the Northern Thebaid was far more preferable than wasting one’s mind on silly television programs. How much more is it better to scroll through a few lines of the Philokalia and ignore the shallow and toxic memes posted on Facebook? Words of Evagrious of Pontus or Maximos the Confessor can help us overcome our secret sins and grow closer to God. Many post on social media are there only to stir us up to anger and suspicion.

I have shared some photos of my work activities on the Friends of York River State Park page. And this post will probably find it’s way on someone else’s. I just want to avoid wasting time counting “followers” and “likes.” God will bring me to the people he wants me to serve.

A Spiritual Journey Away from Social Media: My Beginning

I absconded completely from Facebook from the Dormition of the Theotokos Feast (August 15) until the Ecclesiastical New Year (September 1). Since then, I have made only one general post and posted a blog article and haven’t spent any time scrolling, checking for “likes”, and the only places where I have shared my post are on the 2 pages I directly moderate (All Saints West Point, Fellowship of St. Moses the Black/VA Chapter) and the Fellowship of St. Moses Page where I develop content.

Too much time on it can do this

Facebook was the only social media platform I was very active on. I rarely use Linked-in and never use Twitter. Instagram and Tik Tok seem weird to me, so I never signed up for them. I liked finding links to various “Cosby Show” videos and stuff from old school hip-hop groups on Facebook. Some of the platform’s comedies were okay and I liked a couple of the more recent music groups as well. I quickly scrolled past post on my “News Feed” that I didn’t like and would “like” some comments and memes. I did waste a few minutes a day at work on Facebook and throw away hours on it at home. Heck, at least it wasn’t porn or violent games. As long as it didn’t interfere with my job or marriage, I didn’t see a reason to even fast from my social media habit, especially after keeping the Dormition fast.

St. Pachomius icon from St. George Orthodox Church, Boston MA

Sunday, August 14th, our Subdeacon at St. Basil, Charley Stayton, gave me a copy of “Prayers of the Desert.” I was especially excited to find the Rule of St. Pachomius, of the the great African Desert Fathers. While standing at the altar during liturgy, I began to think about how those ancient monastics lived apart from all the hub-bub of worldly society. These men and women were completely devoted to struggling against their own sins, obtaining holy virtues, and becoming one with God. Except for selling a few handicrafts to buy bread, the Desert Fathers didn’t entangle themselves in the cares and worries of society. It is impractical for me to leave my wife and life and live in a cave near Aswan, Egypt. Except for my Compline (prayers at bedtime), I kept a very consistent prayer rule. One thing that I could do for a while was to leave social media alone for a while.

Not spending time on Facebook paid off almost immediate dividends. With my new teaching position with the St. Athanasius Academy, I had extra minutes to review my lesson plans. I got a little more done at work, and felt more compassionate to my wife and others. I even developed and kept a regular Compline prayer. The Apostle Paul warned about busybodies in the Church (2 Thessalonians 3:11). Avoiding Facebook altogether freed me to handle my own affairs and spirit rather than getting upset about people’s political opinions, or congratulating myself on how many people liked my latest blog article.

There are probably plenty of people who use social media wisely, not wasting hours on mindless scrolling and silly arguing with people they never met personally. Unfortunately, I was not one of them. I needed to leave the platform cold turkey and let my soul heal from visible and invisible wounds. I didn’t know I had them until I gave up Facebook. The self-imposed fast has removed scales from my eyes and allowed me to see things more clearly.