NASCAR driver Michael McDowell announced via his Facebook and Twitter accounts on Monday that he will refrain from using social networking sites for 30 days as part of a "social media fast."
The decision came Monday following the weekly Bible study that McDowell and his wife, Jami, host at their home and is attended by other NASCAR drivers and their wives, USA Today reports. This week the focus of the Bible study was on the topic of life's distractions.
"For me, it's like it's become almost an addiction," McDowell told USA Today Sports. "It's something you almost have to do; you want to see what people are saying and you want to keep your fans up to date and you want to be engaged – but you don't realize how much time it actually takes."
McDowell said he was recently on his phone updating his status on his social media profiles when Trace, his 3-year-old son, asked him to play with him. McDowell didn't want to set aside his phone until he finished posting the status, however, which he now realizes wasn't ultimately very important.
He hopes the time spent away from social media will allow him to spend more time with his wife and two children, especially considering the NASCAR season begins in February.
McDowell has deleted his social media apps from his phone, just to ensure he doesn't use them. Though he won't be posting any personal messages until the 30 days is up, Bible verses will continue to be automatically posted to his accounts for his more than 35,000 Twitter followers and over 5,500 Facebook fans to see.
"The only thing we should be dependent on, for me, is God," he said. "I don't want to put anything before that. If I have time to go look at my Facebook and Twitter for an hour, surely I have time to open my Bible and read it, you know?"
Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Mich., blogged in November about the benefits of social media fasting from his own personal experience. Some people have their social media appetites under control, but he still recommends taking anywhere from a few days to a week or more off of the sites every once in a while.
"Social media takes time," wrote DeYoung. "Taking a break gives you more time to do something you're not currently doing, like watching Lord of the Rings, reading a book, running a 5k, paying attention at the dinner table, or saying your prayers."
DeYoung says he read more books than usual during his two-week fast, and spent less time roaming the Internet aimlessly, as many are prone to do. "I felt free to keep my opinions unstated," he said, and he was able to take a break from thinking about himself and his role in the blogging world for a while.
It's healthy to take a break from the fast-paced (but often unimportant) information flow of social media sites and exchange it for "slow reflection" and considerations of "the wisdom of the past," he says. Fasts from Facebook and Twitter also serve as a reminder that the world goes on without our social media input, and those who can't stop just for a while, says DeYoung, might be addicted.
The 28-year-old McDowell, who is entering his sixth full season of competition in NASCAR and was one of the association's first drivers to have a Twitter account, acknowledges that there are good things that can come out of social media sites, but says he just needed a personal break from them for a while.