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After Instagram came out with Reels, I knew I should probably delete the app from my phone. When I learned how addictive TikTok’s infinite scroll could be, I deleted it, and now Instagram is using the same strategy to hold my attention. Something in the back of my head convinced me I was stronger than Instagram, though. Surely, I have enough willpower to overcome an app.

I was wrong.

It only took a few days of going to bed late, missing my workout times, and rushing to work that I realized I am not strong enough to overcome a simple app. It turns out my brain isn’t strong enough to overcome something designed to hold its attention for as long as possible. Who knew? (I did, I should have known.)

Social media is very similar to pornography in this regard. Both manipulate brain chemistry to hold your attention and keep you coming for more. Social media manipulates your brain’s desire for a social life and porn manipulates your sexuality. This is why getting addicted to either is so easy and breaking free is so difficult. We often find we lack the willpower to quit. I would take this a step further and say we lack the understanding of how our willpower works, too.

We Have No Willpower

Imagine you are holding your arms straight out in front of you. (You could actually do it, but it may make reading this more difficult.) At first, it would be easy. You’re used to the weight of your arms. But if you hold them there for a long time, you start to get tired. You bend slightly at the elbows to support the weight and eventually bring your elbows back. You can’t hold your arms up forever.

This is how our willpower works. At first, it’s easy to refuse something enticing. Like a piece of cake offered by my well-meaning Italian coworker. I say, “No, I’m trying to watch what I eat.” But if she persists two or three times, I’m more likely to give in. Similarly, it may be easy to avoid pornography or scrolling social media after the first temptation, but after it tempts us several times, we give in. Why is that?

It’s because our willpower is like a muscle. It takes energy to turn down something we want and the more we use that energy, the harder it is to resist the desire. If you spent the next two hours holding up your arms, and then somebody asked you to carry a heavy box, you would not be able to. If you’re constantly trying to stave off the temptation of social media, when you try to turn down the temptation of porn, you might not be able to.

Related: Turns Out, I Couldn't Stop

This is why if you find yourself struggling with pornography, it is a good idea to get rid of social media as a first step. This is important not just because images on social media can be a trigger, but also because social media slowly wears down your willpower over the course of a day.

Quit Social Media, Quit Porn

We use both porn and social media to fill a need when we’re bored, tired, or angry. They’re both band-aid solutions that don’t get to the root of any of those problems: you need something to do, you need sleep, or you need someone to talk to. If you turn to social media when you’re bored, tired, or angry, it won’t satisfy your needs and you’re more likely to turn to pornography.

If you find you struggle with pornography in the evening, you need all the willpower you can get to fight that battle. Social media is a constant temptation because of how available it is. You can save yourself a ton of willpower energy by just deleting the apps from your phone.

Related: Make a Digital Fast for Souls

If you keep accessing it through the web browser, use a parental lock. If you keep logging in on desktop, change your password to something impossible to remember, write it down on a piece of paper and hide it somewhere (maybe in your Bible) or give it to your Covenant Eyes ally. The harder it is for you to access social media, the less willpower it takes to avoid it. The less willpower you use to avoid social media, the more willpower you will have for the big fights.

Replace a Bad Thing with a Good Thing

With Lent coming up, now is a great time to try giving up social media. But don’t give it up just to plunge back in again. Use this time as an opportunity to ask: What role does social media play in my life? Is that a necessary role? What role should it play?

If you do decide to give it up for Lent, I encourage you not just to give it up but take something else on as well. Social media is a quick fix for many of us when we feel anxious, tired, bored, lonely, etc. You should ask yourself: Do I use social media to avoid feeling things? What feelings? What will actually help me cope with those feelings? If you use it when you’re angry, call a friend you can vent to. If you use it to not feel bored, pick up a hobby.

“Don’t go on social media” requires a lot of willpower. If you have something to replace that activity, it becomes a lot easier. Covenant eyes has an eBook called Hobbies and Habits that can help you identify a number of hobbies you can use to replace the role pornography and social media have played in your life.

Understanding willpower is a huge step in the fight against pornography. By learning how to cooperate with our brain instead of fighting against it, we can turn what feels like a weakness into a strength.

Resource
Hobbies and Habits

Hobbies and Habits

Description

Fighting Porn with Purpose

What if the secret to freedom from porn wasn’t just quitting porn, but changing your life so there’s no room for porn in the first place?

Download this ebook to learn how small changes to your life, as well as trying out new things, can help you change your view of life and reduce your need for porn.

Patrick Neve is an evangelist and speaker based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He hosts The Crunch Podcast and is studying for his master’s in theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville.