Lent begins today. Unsurprisingly my Twitter stream and Facebook news feed are reasonably full of people talking about things they’ll be giving up for 40 days. While fasting is a spiritual practice I have great appreciation for, it’s not one I’ve done recently, mainly because I’m not sure I’m strong/committed enough at the moment. My personal failings aside, I have great respect for those that are fasting this Lent, if not from food, from something else. However, I need to get off my chest how annoying I find it they way many people talk about giving up Social Media for Lent.
Night before Ash Wednesday & I still don’t know what I’m giving up for Lent.. Perhaps no social media? No liquor ? Chocolate? Suggestions???
— Mario Lopez (@MarioLopezExtra) March 5, 2014
I love that so many people are giving up the internet or social media for 40 days at once.
— Jun Song (@JunDishes) March 5, 2014
Why People Give Up Social Media for Lent
Part my dislike for this trend is that I don’t like how people give up things for Lent that they wish they had more control over the rest of the time. For me this isn’t really what it’s all about. I get it that that is a lot of what Lent has become, in North America at least, but that doesn’t mean I like it. The other reason I think the trend towards giving up social media for Lent is a bad thing is that it feeds into the notion that social media is a vice. Seeing as we tend to give up thing for Lent that we think we’d be better off without, helps give social media an undeserved bad rep. Treating social media and technology in general as a vice is way to common with people I know, and I gotta say, I hate it.
I don’t see people giving up winter boots, or driving, or talking to people on the phone. How many people do you know who are giving up reading? Not just for pleasure, but all kinds of reading, even street signs. I can’t say I know any. These may seem like extreme examples, and kind of stupid, which they are, but hear me out. All my examples are things that are external to our physical bodies and are enhancements in some way. This is the same for technology. We are all genuinely better off thanks to technology, but still it gets treated like it’s a vice that we should be able to live without, and that if we do we’re a better person. This I find really troubling.
Why Social Media Should Be Treated Better
Just because innovations use electricity, doesn’t mean they come from the devil. Not that many people actually think that, but it’s the impression I’m often given. For most of us, this is not actually something we believe, although we sometimes act like it. I recognize that people are weary of new things, but I feel this gets taken overboard when it comes to technology. Social media is as plainly a part of my life, and many other peoples lives, as are winter boots, cars, and telephones (of the talking variety). Sure I may use social media for fun sometimes, or end up wasting time, but I also drive places for fun, and waste time talking on the phone with friends. Even though social media is new, we should give it the same respect we give other things, not treat it purely as a vice that our lives would be better without. Our lives would be different with out social media, but I wouldn’t jump to say better.
Lenten Fasting Should Be A Sacrifice, Not A Chance to Live Without A Vice
Now all that said, I must add that there is a time that I think it would be fine to give up social media for Lent. If you intentionally want to cut yourself off from the world to explore the spiritual nature of sacrifice. If you’re thinking if it like a 40 day long silent retreat rather then trying to learn if you can abstain from alcohol for 40 days. If it’s a spiritual retreat giving up social media for Lent might be acceptable to me. Although, just giving up social media doesn’t really accomplish that, but it might if you added in email. And for sure if you added in talking on the telephone.
I guess what it comes down to for me is that Lenten fasting shouldn’t just be a way to see how hard it is to live without something you consider a vice. Giving something up for Lent should be about removing a vital, life giving part of your life, and filling that whole with God.
How do you view the Lenten practice of giving something up? Do you see social media as a necessary part of life, like winter boots, or as a vice like loving chocolate?
If you’d like to learn more about Church Social Media use, join me and other church social media professionals at one of the upcoming Going Digital for His Kingdom conferences. You’ll get to learn from some of the best minds out there on how to improve your ministry using Social Media.