I have not generally given up much during Lent. When I was a kid, chocolate was the popular thing. Meatless Fridays were another. I think the purpose of it was to give up something that you really liked that was harmful to you. I stopped giving up things for Lent when I realized that the practice was not serving the intended purpose. Additionally, it has seemed ridiculous to give up something as commonplace as sugar or gluten or other dietary items.
However, I realized that I had been using Facebook too much over the last year, especially since the Presidential election. It was taking my peace of mind with it because of the gossip and half-truths that are ubiquitous. I had also gotten out of the habit of academic writing that is vital in my career. It’s easy to waste an hour reading Facebook feeds that are worse than mental candy. The friendships, while a nice way to remain connected with family and old friends, tend to be superficial and as unsatisfying as a diet of candy bars.
So I gave up Facebook for Lent. It was tough for the first 24 hours or so, but I’m finding now that I don’t truly miss it all that much. Instead of becoming anxious about governmental issues because of what I hear on Facebook, I’m now subscribed to the Congressional Record and other governmental feeds. Instead of hearing the spin, I’m reading the original documents about which people worry. Some of these initiatives that I see being proposed in Congress scare the daylights out of me, but a lot of them are fairly innocuous. I’ve also learned a lot about how Congress members spend their days: generally a lot of votes about small items like national rare disease day and committee meetings that don’t conclude until about 10 p.m. on some days. Although I could not imagine wanting that kind of life, it is good to know the facts.
I’ve also found that I can put more time into what really matters, like yoga and preparing work for publication. I can also be more present for my family and am calmer in general. I think that is the purpose of the Lenten sacrifice: To cut something from our life that binds us to the world and separates us from God.
I haven’t decided that I want to re-add it to my life at the conclusion of this season. We’ll see.