Aimee Winder Newton is in the thick of a re-election campaign for her seat on the Salt Lake County Council.
But you wouldn’t know it from her social media accounts – at least not over the past week. That’s because since 6 October, at the behest of her church’s top leader, Newton has been engaged in a social media fast, limiting exposure to sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Russell M Nelson, president of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked the church’s women to consider the fast in his address at a womens-only session of a church conference.
“I invite you to participate in a 10-day fast from social media and from any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind,” said Nelson, 94, who became the church’s 17th president in January. “The effect of your 10-day fast might surprise you.”
The break, said Nelson, whom church members view as a prophet of God, might lead Latter-day Saint (LDS) women to notice a shift in their priorities.
Nelson’s request came as a surprise to many and has produced a range of reactions from women. Some appear to have immediately logged off and gone dark from their social media accounts, a reaction that may not be surprising in a religion where obedience to church leaders is seen as a sign of faithfulness.
But for those who rely on social media to do their jobs, manage their families, or who, like Newton, are in the midst of a political campaign the choice has been more complicated.
“When he first said that, I thought, ‘oh no!’ I’ve got all these Facebook ads running,” said Newton, a Republican and the council’s current chair. “And I was thinking about all the people who would be off social media and wouldn’t see them.”
Crystal Young-Otterstrom, a Mormon who has been active in Utah’s Democratic party for more than 15 years, said many women are talking about the conflict and deciding to do what’s best for their own lives, even if they agree in principle with the fast. That includes opting in on a limiting basis or deciding to put off their fast to a late date, as Nelson didn’t specifically say fasts should immediately begin. Read more