There are certain things I can count on as Lent approaches. Without a doubt, “What are you giving up for Lent?” is the most popular question to ask and/or be asked.
Now that social media has become such an important part of our lives it’s natural to consider whether or not to give it up for 40 days. I have several friends who engage in this practice, problem is most of them don’t use social media that much anyway. So is it really that sacrificial or are they really getting any benefit from it?
A point worth considering, but not the one I wanted to make right now.
As I write this there’s a snowstorm outside (I’m a write ahead & schedule blogging type). In fact at one point it was snowing so hard that it was snowing sideways. Thus my plans for the day have been canceled and I’m attempting to stay occupied indoors. In a way it’s going to make the point of this post much more poignant, at least I hope so.
The internet, and social media, has opened up everyone’s world. What I don’t think a lot of people realize is just how much it’s opened up the world for those with disabilities.
I wouldn’t be friends with many people if it weren’t for the internet, or at least I wouldn’t be as good of friends with people if things didn’t start on the internet. Let’s just say as an introvert with a disability it’s nice to get the “getting to know you” stuff out of the way when you only get to see people in person a few times in your entire life.
I can’t forget to mention Sara. If there’s anyone who taught me that just because you have physical limits doesn’t mean you can’t create solid friendships and an intentional community. Our friendship may have been short but it left me forever changed.
I don’t suggest giving up social media for Lent for one quasi-simple reason:
You may be part of someone’s community, and it may be the only community they have access to (especially in the winter months).
Giving up your social media routine for 40 days may seem like a good idea and in some ways it can be beneficial but if you do consider who you’ll be leaving behind for 40 days.
Here are some thoughts to consider:
How much can happen in 40 days?
Also consider your group of friends, do they also give something(s) up for Lent?
Do you all give up the same thing for Lent? If so, do you still have that same sense of community because you have other ways of keeping in contact or are you able to see each other in person?
Do you have one friend (or maybe more) that seems uncomfortable with your plan for a 40 day social media fast?
Have you ever stopped and really considered why someone is resistant to give up social media (especially if you “only” know them virtually)?
Lenten sacrifices are meant to make you a better person, but not at the expense of other people. If your sacrifice is harmful to someone else than are you really working towards a greater communion with the Body of Christ?
Alternatives to consider:
Cut back on your social media practices. Check in once a day or once a week.
Post the same thing on all of your social media accounts (idea borrowed from Pat Padley FYI).
Keep community connected through email or text, or an old fashioned phone call.
Make your intentions known early on, as in before today, so if any of your friends have reservations or objections you can engage in thoughtful conversation.
Have a way to contact you on your social media profiles and make it easy to find. Have you ever received an “out of office reply” with a contact email or number included? Like that.
I’m not saying that you absolutely shouldn’t give up social media for Lent.
I’m not God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit so I can’t say such things with absolute conviction. But I wish people wouldn’t make the decision as easily as they seem to. Virtual community isn’t the same as in person community but it’s still a community that needs nurturing, attention, and people to take part in it.
*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on February 10, 2016