I’m giving up Facebook for Lent. It’s not about sacrifice; it’s about making room for something better.
Lent, that buildup to Easter so famous for inspiring people to “give up” something they like, begins on Wednesday, March 1. As a Catholic I will mark the occasion by getting my forehead marked in ashes by the parish priest. During Lent I will go to confession and confess some carefully edited sins. I will celebrate the end of this period by attending Easter Mass and making our family’s traditional Easter gumbo. I’ll also decorate eggs with the children and help the Easter Bunny hide them the night before.
I’ve blindly followed these rituals my entire life, and poorly most of those years. This year is different.
My husband, Stewart, and I have been attending Family Faith classes with our children for the past two years. This is the New Catechism, where we participate with the children, rather than dropping them off at the church once a week to be terrified and confused by the towering nuns like I was as a child. We discuss what the children are learning, both with them and amongst ourselves when the children break off into their grade levels.
Last month, in preparation for Lent, we rehearsed what good Catholics do during Lent: give alms, pray, and sacrifice. “What will you sacrifice?” we asked each other.
That sacrifice, we learned, isn’t just about suffering. It’s about making room in your life for something good like more prayer, or works of service. What could I jettison from my life, even for the 40 days of Lent, to make room for something better?
I thought about what I waste my time on the most, and I instantly knew: Facebook.
I go through this love/hate thing with Facebook periodically. I suppose if go back through my history online I can even map a pattern, see how long the cycle lasts. I’m not going to do that.
I’ll just admit it here: I have a problem.
I pop on to Facebook to see what’s going on. Sometimes I can do just that. I scroll through a few things, click “like” on photos and updates, see who has commented or liked my own posts and photos. I like checking in on my friends’ updates and hearing from them in these small ways. It makes me feel in touch and acknowledged. It’s nice.
For many years I have also been using Facebook as an amplification tool for my freelance writing, social media work, and blog posts. My blogs’ posts get a lot of their traffic through Facebook. It’s a wonderful tool for spreading the word.
The problem comes in when I can’t stop scrolling. I scroll and scroll mindlessly, seeing what other people are posting, clicking on a post and falling into the internet rabbit hole. I “popped in” to see what’s going on. Thirty minutes later I’m reading a Wall Street Journal article about banana bread. Interesting, but not something I needed.
I also get jealous. Yeah, I said it. I’ve said it before. Everyone else on Facebook has a great life. They’re doing great work, they’re going great places, even their sad or mad updates are supported by great amounts of people. I don’t even want that for myself, but I feel jealous.
I know! I said it’s a problem.
I have two vague goals for all of this found time I won’t be spending scrolling through your updates. Do good things like pray more, write more, spend more mindful time with my kids and the people around me. Also, maybe during the separation, my relationship with Facebook can be reset to something healthy again.
It’s not going to be easy, because I can’t simply eliminate Facebook from my life. I use it for work in my day job and in my continuing work as a blogger. I have a loose plan (another vague goal) to access Facebook for work only, and that challenge begins Wednesday. I’ll also still use Instagram. I don’t have a problem with Instagram. As much.
This “sacrifice” might be a disgustingly first-world challenge, and a quick search shows it’s not even original. That okay, I’m not trying to break new ground. And I’m writing about it here not because I want you all to know about my temporary absence and miss me, but because I wanted to explain. Maybe others out there are looking for something similar, or have a similar Facebook co-dependency. There are almost 2 billion other users, so it’s possible.
I am making room in my life for something good. I’m not sure what that’s going to look like, exactly, but whatever it is, I won’t be posting it on Facebook.