Recently I was interviewed by a friend who writes for our diocesan newspaper, and the subject was on “fasting” from social media for Lent. As I answered her questions, I realized that this could be an invitation for those of us who feel a tug, a calling, a voice within that is beckoning us to set aside more time for prayer and contemplation.
What began as a series of questions about “giving up” Facebook, Twitter, and the like for Lent, developed into something more, and this post is both an explanation and an invitation of what that vision has become.
“Sacrificing Social Media” is a multimedia campaign that specifically excludes some or all use of social media during Lent and instead encourages the enrichment of personal relationships – the knowledge of self, the gift of charity to neighbors and strangers, and the increased love of our families and God.
Beginning with this article, Internet users everywhere are encouraged to make a personal pledge of sacrifice that will begin this Lenten season in regards to their use of social media. You are asked to prayerfully discern what will be a true sacrifice (so it has to hurt your ego or bump you out of your comfort zone, at least a little bit) of your time using social media; will it be a few hours per day, a day or two per week, or even the entire 40 days of Lent? Whatever you feel called to relinquish in exchange of alternate uses of your time (which are explained in more detail below), you are encouraged to participate!
You may wonder, “What am I going to do instead of Facebook or Twitter?” or “How am I going to remain steadfast in my personal pledge every day?” I will attempt to answer both, beginning with the latter question. Unplugging from the world of technology may seem obvious to some, but for others it may be a true challenge. All of us, to some degree or another, have become at least accustomed to – if not dependent upon – the Internet and our virtual devices. That is why offering up the time we spend on social media can be a true form of fasting and an authentic gift in this modern age.
To begin your commitment, perhaps turn off those automatic and instant updates that you receive in your inbox and/or smartphone from Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. That way you won’t have the constant temptation – and interruption – of responses to your “likes” or retweets and repins. Once that is taken care of, it may suffice to decide a specific time frame during your day that will be your time to unplug from technology and in turn plug into your spiritual wellspring, your interior life. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to join this campaign; it is simply a matter of individual conscience and the desire to truly tap into one’s heart and soul so as to connect and reconnect with others.
“Sacrificing Social Media” will connect you to other bloggers who are pledging to give up some, or all, of their time using social media. That is the purpose of the link-up at the bottom of the page. By visiting various blogs, you will learn new and often creative ways of spending quality time with your family, quiet time for reading and prayer, and ways to save money and time in the kitchen by incorporating innovative meatless dishes into your family’s diet. It is my hope that others will share their ideas of creativity by commenting on others’ blogs or by posting their own entries.
Perhaps in spending less time on social media, we will all discover a new hobby or rekindle an old friendship that we have watched fade away over the years. Maybe we will realize that the well within our souls that has so often run dry is actually overflowing with a renewed strength, hope, and fervor. We may discover our need for healing and decide to spend more time frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist or perhaps add an occasional visit to Adoration on our calendars.
Before closing, I want to acknowledge and validate the positive aspects of social media sites and perhaps offer some ways to use our time on social media to evangelize and bring the message of hope to others. I also realize that some people work for social media and therefore simply cannot, in prudence, “give it up” entirely. Even so, please be assured that everyone is invited to join in this modern means of fasting, regardless of what you are both able and willing to do as part of this campaign.
Were it not for social media, I would have never met the amazing moms and other family members who have children with Apert Syndrome, the rare chromosomal anomaly that my daughter, Sarah, was born with. Virtually no one in our geographical area had ever heard of it, and so much of my support system was in finding groups on Facebook that included encouragement, prayers, and outreach. This would not have been possible for me were it not for social media.
So maybe this Lent, we could all use social media differently, in addition to spending some time “off the grid.” We can use it to post inspirational quotes from saints, to retweet messages from Pope Francis or other Catholic media agencies. We can support each other in whatever our personal pursuits may be – writing, blogging, visual art, etc. It is possible for us to come up with new and creative ways to use social media as part of the “New Evangelization,” as well.
No matter what you feel God is calling you to do in regards to your use of technology and time spent on social media, be assured there is truly something for everyone with this campaign. I hope you will find this to be true.
I sincerely hope and pray that what was initially inspired by a series of questions will become a magnanimous union of hearts across our nation, and that through the virtue of self-discipline, we may desire to continue our commitments long after Lent has passed. May this Lenten season “bear fruit that will last” in your hearts, your lives, and your families.
Please visit the “Sacrificing Social Media” page for more specific information, and link up your blog to join in. Be sure to pass the message on to others and share on your social media groups before Lent begins!
Copyright 2014 Jeannie Ewing