If you’re looking for a easy, high-tech way to lose weight, you’re reading the wrong article; this one is about ways to find peace in a world of noise pounding at us every minute of the day.
In the same way that physicians are looking back at the unexpected side-effects of cigarette smoking and the health risks of our trend toward obesity, future psychologist may do the same for our willingness to wire our brains into social media and streaming video. Can you catch a mental illness from social media? Apparently, yes!
Within the past several months, an increasing number of teenage girls have been experiencing uncontrollable tics. Experts were initially perplexed, because tics associated with Tourette’s syndrome are generally more common in boys than girls. But it turns out that TikTok—not Tourette’s—is to blame.
“These teenage girls who are exhibiting tics aren’t necessarily fitting within the normal tic disorders that we’ve known, like with Tourette’s syndrome or epilepsy,” says Omar Danoun, M.D., a neurologist at Henry Ford Health. “For example, they’re talking in a British accent, or their movements are weird, or they’re saying British words.”
So what’s happening? Teen girls are watching TikTok videos featuring influencers who do have tics. Then, because they’re watching these videos so often, their brains start to mimic the tics. “What these teen girls have are called functional tics—it’s a functional neurological disorder,” says Dr. Danoun. “We’ve seen this before in children who have parents or siblings with seizures. They’ll develop functional seizures. The brain imitates what it sees. It’s used as an escape mechanism.”
So, how do we protect ourselves from social media literally driving us crazy? Pastor Josh Koskinen from Crossway Church suggests that it’s time to use a simple, time-tested solution: fasting. He explained that the purpose for fasting in the Old and New Testaments was to reduce our distractions, so we can connect better with God. In some cases, that meant food, but feeling hungry wasn’t the purpose: instead, it was all about getting distractions out of our way so we would be more focused on God.
I was intrigued by one type he described: a “digital fast”. In this, he takes 8 hours (of awake time) — with the TV turned off, the radio silent, the phone happily sleeping, while slurping up electrons on a charger — to disconnect from the frantic pace of life. The pause let him instead listen for what God was trying to tell him, stuff that might have gotten lost in the noise. Now, just so you don’t think Josh is an 80-yeal-old mystic who lives in a tent in the woods, this is a picture of Josh:
Josh works a full-time job, is married and has 2 children, so his life probably looks a lot like yours. Working as the campus pastor at Crossway Church in Milwaukee requires that he is generally accessible, so turning the phone off for 24 hours would probably inspire someone calling an ambulance. Still, those weekly 8 hour time of “techno-fasting” to hear the voice of God — and his wife and kids — has become an important part of his finding balance. If he can do this, you and I can too.
What “noise” in your life could you turn off for a couple of hours? Do you have the NFL Channel streaming 2022 games to help fill the void, now that the Superbowl is over? Is the radio in your car tuned into music or talk radio from the second the tires roll? Does it seem like time just floats away once you click on that first new YouTube Short or TikTok recommendation, ending only when the phone battery gets low? Was the scariest part of the Texas power outages during the coldest part of winter not the risk of freezing to death, but instead the idea that you’d be stuck somewhere for four days without anything to watch or listen to?
The seventh core principle of Celebrate Recovery® encourages this. For us to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will, we need to set aside a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer. To do that, we need to turn off those other voices in our ears in order to hear God’s. The article encourages the same: “[W]e should use social media responsibly. It is addictive. And the more time you spend on it, the more the algorithm will keep feeding you the same types of videos to keep you watching for as long as possible. … It can be difficult, but it’s up to us to limit our consumption.”
You don’t need 8 hours to get the benefits. Start small and build. Could you take that 30 minute commute without a sound track, or people arguing over the air? Rather than binging one more episode, how would you be changed by hearing that you are loved, you are forgiven, you are part of God’s chosen family? Back to the article: “The brain imitates what it sees.” What would change if you saw godliness?
Come back to the next Open Share and share how the process has changed you!