First of all, I love Facebook. I do not think that Facebook represents the decline of civilization, the root of all evil, or the single most likely factor to destroy our children. I love Facebook! Facebook is fun and I have had a blast getting in touch with childhood friends, spying on my teenagers, finding out the latest news, looking at pictures and generally plugging in to my culture through this new phenomenon of social media. During the recent snowstorm here on the East Coast, FB was a fabulous way of connecting and commiserating while we were all stuck in our houses....even when our power was out, many of us went on FB on our phones! It was fun to see everyone's snow pictures, to share our snow totals with friends in warmer climates, and to generally stay connected with my community. I did not decide to take a break from Facebook because I think Facebook is bad. Furthermore, I do not think everyone else, or for that matter, anyone else should give up Facebook for Lent. In fact, I have no opinion whatsoever about your relationship with Facebook.
So why then, you ask (at least one of you,) did I decide to take a break from Facebook during this season of Lent? It's really none of your business.
Just kidding!! I chose to inform my Facebook friends of my "status" for Lent so that noone would take it personally if I don't respond to their friend request, their comment, their awesome pictures, their inspirational message or any other overtures of interaction that may be directed my way. Before I disappeared, I thought I would alert anyone who checks their Newsfeed every day JUST to see what I am doing :-) Since you (Neil) are interested, here is why.
In my Protestant background, the observance of Lent is largely left up to the individual. We are not required to observe any particular dietary restrictions and noone really talks that much about "giving something up" for Lent. In my church, the youth actually tend to take the lead on the discussion and observance of Lent. Their media fast during Lent last year actually gave me the idea of "fasting" from Facebook this year. In past years, I have been more likely to add a spiritual discipline during Lent, rather than give something up.
For me, Lent is about preparing for the re-birth and renewal of the Resurrection. As Easter approaches, I like to take inventory of where I am in my journey with the Lord. What is working as I seek to hear His voice and see His glory in my day to day life? What gets in the way of me seeing Him at work? My experience tells me that where there is lack of peace in my life, it is there that there may also be a lack of obedience. What spiritual disciplines bring His will and word into greater focus...prayer, study, sabbath rest, worship, fellowship? And where have I blurred that vision with distractions that draw my gaze elsewhere? Am I missing opportunities to be a blessing because I am rushing through my life with my spiritual eyes shut?
As I consider those questions, I naturally had to consider how I use my time. Because I do not work outside the home, I have a large degree of flexibility in how I plan my days. Taking care of my family, fulfilling my volunteer obligations, serving in my church, spending time with friends can all be done in the order and with the priority that I choose. Because of that, I often find myself "working" without any clear deadlines. It is awfully easy for me to get distracted by things that, if I thought about it, are not a priority for me. And that brings us back to Facebook.
Facebook, FOR ME, is a huge time waster (re-read my first paragraph if that statement causes your to feel defensive or protective of FB.) FOR ME, much of what I do on Facebook is useless. While I love connecting with my friends, I have to honestly admit that 75% of the time that I am logged into my Facebook account is primarily a vehicle for procrastination...again, FOR ME. Checking the FB newsfeed numerous times a day has become a habit that is no longer about community or connection, but rather a way of putting off folding the laundry, paying the bills or other mundane tasks that I may be putting off. And FOR ME, that procrastination contributes to me feeling too busy, too rushed, and spread too thin when that really isn't the case at all. So time management is one reason I am taking a break from Facebook.
The second reason is really more important. FB, FOR ME, can serve as a shortcut for my attempts to meet really important needs in my life...ways in which I take care of my emotional and spiritual well-being. Because I don't work in an office and my kids are gone all day, I am alone a great deal of the day. I have my afternoons at the Lamb Center and occasional meetings with church committees or school obligations, but I spend a lot of time alone. Alone is good...sometimes. I think sometimes I go on Facebook to connect to friends and find fellowship when what I really need to do is call a friend to meet for coffee or lunch. FOR ME, it is like being really hungry and choosing to eat a candy bar instead of sitting down for a healthy meal...it satiates the hunger for the short term, but it doesn't really provide much nutrition. Yes, FB can be part of community, but it can't become a substitute for community. It is a shortcut, a quick fix for my need to connect to friends, for my need to share my thoughts through my writing, for my need to see into my children's world. Disconnecting from FB for a while is my way of choosing to do my connecting face to face during this Lenten season. Face to face with my family, face to face with my friends, face to face with myself through more writing, and face to face with God through more study and prayer.
My blog automatically posts to FB, so many of you may actually be reading my ramblings on FB and I love that!! And I still get all my FB email updates, so I am not completely cut off. I would love to hear your thoughts or comments about your relationship with Facebook...what are the good things you get from Facebook and what are the not-so-good things? Also, what are the ways that you observe Lent that you find most meaningful?