In the years that I have been on Facebook inevitably every spring comes the status update "One more day until I sign off Facebook for Lent! If you need me you will have to find me in REAL LIFE! I spend way too much time away from my family and friends on the computer. See you after Easter!" Typically the status update comes from one of my Presbyterian friends, of which there are many, or from another Christian non-Catholic denomination. This pronouncement makes me a little bit crazy.
The Presbyterian church I grew up in did not encourage giving something up for Lent as a spiritual practice. I do not have a good understanding of it, but I do see how denying yourself something could be a meaningful experience. I don't like the whole "giving up Facebook" thing because does it accomplish the goal? Do you really grow closer to God and to your family through giving up Facebook for a few weeks? That's one of my issues. Another issue, is spending time on social media sites a negative in your life?
My first issue is with the whole "Facebook is evil" mentality. I know that it does allow some people to isolate themselves within our society. Facebook also does amazing things. I am able to keep up with friends who live far away. I would love it if I could visit more, or even sit down and write lengthy letters to them, but I do not always have the time. I can jump on Facebook and see what they are up to and let them know I am thinking about them. We can keep up with each other and still KNOW each other through social media. I won't even get started on the people I have met online and become good friends with. One of the best gifts of Facebook came to me yesterday. I had two friends give birth yesterday, one a beautiful boy and one a beautiful girl. I was able to see pictures of these beautiful babies within hours of their births. Both families have friends and family around the world who were able to see these sweet babies. Facebook can be a gift if you use it wisely.
My second issue is does what you are giving up accomplish your goal? I'll admit that for several years I have not thought in terms of what I should give up for Lent, but what should I be doing to be more of the person God is calling me to be. I know lots and lots of people do this. It makes more sense to me in my relationship with God. This year I have been focusing on being healthier so my Lenten pledge is to get 30 minutes of exercise every day. I hope to pray every day while I walk to help me remember why I am doing it. Hopefully at the end of Lent, I will not only feel closer to God, but be a healthier person. If you are giving up Facebook, what are you replacing it with? Websites? Books? Are you making an effort to consciously exchange that time for what you think your life is missing? If you think Facebook is letting you miss out on time with your children, your family or your friends, are you giving your online time to those people to regain your connection?
I would love to hear if you have made a Lenten pledge this year! Have you given something up? Are you adding something to your life?
Whatever faith you do or do not practice, I hope you have a beautiful spring!