It is Lent, and this year, I am doing something that I have never done before. I have given up Facebook.
I have been a Facebook member since 2007. I joined on recommendation of one of the youth leaders in my team as a way to connect with the young people in my Parish (where I worked as the Youth Minister). From the moment I began Facebook, it became my addiction. I used it not only to connect with those young people, I used it to reconnect with old friends, create groups, play games, post photos, share personal and ministry information, stalk the young people I was ministering to… and well, waste time. From that day onwards, I did not go for more than 3 days without checking into Facebook. When I got my first Smart Phone, I started logging in several times a day.
So, giving up Facebook this Lent was not an easy decision. I believed it would be difficult, that I would miss learning about the mundane activities and opinions of my friends, family and acquaintances. The reality has been much different. In fact, I haven’t missed it at all. I have, however, learnt a thing or two along the way that has opened my eyes to the impact Facebook has been having on my life. So here they are in no particular order
1. Status Mutterings – I spent an inordinate amount of time considering my next status update. Every moment of the day was a potential status update. I would toy with how it might be worded to make it more entertaining so that I would get more likes. Once decided upon, I would spend the next hour watching how many people would like it. My real validation came when some friends of mine who I rarely see, said that they love my posts because they always make them laugh. Since my fast began, I have only spent one day considering status updates…. the first day. It took me just one day to overcome that particular addiction.
2. Phone Focus – I’m actually not addicted to Facebook at all… I’m addicted to my Smart Phone. Although I have removed the Facebook App from my phone so that I don’t get the notifications anymore, I still check my phone a fair bit during the day. Although I have to admit, it has more than halved since my fast began. Perhaps a WordPress fast might be in order?
3. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) – there is this little saying amongst mothers, that all babies suffer from FOMO. Since my fast began, I have noticed that I have strong FOMO. I fear that I won’t hear when that baby is born, the minute it is born. I fear someone will announce something big, and I will hear it weeks, or months down the track. I fear someone will invite me to a party and I won’t hear about it any other way. I am afraid people will forget me.
4. Picking Fights – ok, so I’m a fight picker on Facebook. When someone has said something that I outright disagree with, I don’t just let it sit there (unless they are a valued friend). I get into fights about faith, about netiquette, immunisation, Climate Change, TV shows, parenting and politics. Anything really. Its draining and simply pointless. I have lost count of how many times I have lost sleep because I’ve been Facebook fighting with someone who’s opinion really means nothing to me.
Last Lent, I gave up on TV after 5pm. Since then, my evening TV habits have changed considerably. I no longer HAVE to watch TV before bed, and can engage myself in a number of different activities to occupy my time. This has given me more balance and allowed me to be more productive. In the same way, I am hoping that my Facebook fast will help me to re-evaluate how I use Facebook. Already, I am determined not to re-install the app on my phone which will significantly reduce the temptation to check my account whenever that delicious little bell rings.
I’m not entirely certain how my fast has helped me come closer to God, however I am sure that it cannot draw me further away. The less I am occupied with the mundane of my life (and that of others), the more room I will ultimately have for God.