It seems odd to talk about giving up anything for Lent. Least of all because I am not Catholic. But also because the thing I’ve chosen is social media. And I’m blogging about it, of all things. But I think my reasoning is sound. Hear me out.
Lent is a religious observance, meant to “prepare” the believer through penance, repentance of sins, atonement, and self-denial. Most people focus on that last bit. Some also add a bit of spiritual discipline like reading daily devotionals. There’s a lot of “40” happening in the Bible, but the say it lasts 40 days to reflect the time Jesus spent in the desert where he endured temptation by “the devil” and he fasted for the whole 40 days. Kind of like how the Buddha went into the desert and fasted too…hm. Anyway, in Buddhism, fasting and abstinence are a means of exercising control over one’s body, but in practice it’s usually only a day or two at a time. It’s a step in self-discipline. The practice exists across many religions, really. Tying the timing of my self-denial to Lent specifically is a simpler way of having accountability. I know the start and end dates, plus my in-laws are Catholic, so they are bound to be talking about Lenten things, keeping it in my present awareness. It seems a good way to experiment with this practice, which I’ve never honestly undertaken before.
So the season of Lent is largely about sacrifice and self-restraint. We’ve all heard someone joke that they’d given up smoking when they’re a non-smoker, or cheeseburgers when they’re already a vegan. I recall a coworker once decided her sacrifice would be marshmallow Peeps, and another decided on chocolate in general. It could have been a way to stave off extra Easter candy-related weight gain, but in the end, I suppose it was still about restraining oneself from temptations.
Why social media? It started with my observance that I was obsessively refreshing Twitter when I should be working. And that I was falling behind in working when my time is already shortened by frequent trips to various doctors through the month. And when Twitter slowed down, I’d jump to Tumblr, where bored teenagers and 20-somethings are queuing images to post throughout the day, even when they themselves aren’t online. The illusion of having a constant online presence. Content to be gobbled up by us procrastinators who have better things to be doing. And when that wasn’t enough, I found myself ADDING more Tumblr blogs to my follow list, as well as Twitter accounts to follow. Normally I’m one to trim the fat and only follow the essential (to me) sorts of blogs, etc. It was clear it was problematic. So on Ash Wednesday, I announced to my husband that I was giving up Twitter for Lent. As the person who has watched me spend far too much energy and time on scrolling through conversations that are NOT talking to me, he approved immediately of this decision. (I did ask him whether he planned to give up something for Lent, but at that moment, he admitted to not having thought much about it.)
It might be somewhat easier, or more traditional, to give up chocolate or coffee or some other consumable vice. Truth is, I am not one who needs to abstain from fatty foods and the like. In fact I’m currently about 10 pounds under baseline weight, thanks to chemo. So no low-fat diets for me, thanks. Not that I’ve been one to eat fatty foods anyway. My giving up, say sodas, would be like giving up The Bachelor when you don’t even own a TV. Giving up Twitter and Tumblr* represents truly putting aside something that has become a problematic vice for me. During the next six weeks, I intend to examine why it got to be that way and perhaps see what I end up doing with the time I have freed up.
* I have deleted the Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and G+ app shortcuts from my tablet, and cleared my browsing history so the links don’t appear in my Firefox URL dropdown, but really the first two were the only ones I used with regularity. I just also don’t want to fill the gap created by losing those two with still other social media platforms.