Lent means saying ‘bye-bye’ to Facebook, iPhone

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 12, 2011

A status posted by a Facebook friend last week connected with me because what was on her mind was also on my mind. She had typed, “Taking a break from Facebook for Lent.”

Her announcement, only seven words, caught my attention because I’d been contemplating abstaining from social media during the 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday of Easter week.  Though I’ve never attended a church that observes Lent, I’d been doing some soul-searching and researching about the Christian tradition. I learned that Lent is an annual time of sacrifice and simplicity, or a period of fasting leading up to the feast of Easter.

The 40-days represent Jesus’ 40-day fast in the wilderness (Matthew, Ch. 4), according to church-year.net.  It’s a season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, almsgiving, penitence and prayer; also described as spiritual Spring cleaning.

“Lent is a good time to develop or strengthen a discipline of daily prayer,” the website goes on to say. It’s about giving up something, but also “putting something positive in its place. The best way to remove a vice is to cultivate a virtue. Lent has been a traditional time to help the poor and doing acts of charity and mercy.”

When I read what was on my friend’s mind, I wondered if she knew why it was on my mind. It’s about time and how many hours a day I spend on social media. The Nielsen Company reports that the average user spends seven hours a month on Facebook.  As of 2011, per Digital Buzz, Facebook has more than 500 million active users or 1 in 13 people on earth and half of them are logged in on any given day. Some 700 billion minutes a month are spent on Facebook.

WebProNews states that the average person spends 13 hours a week online, teens spend an average of 31 hours online. A recent survey found that the average child spends an hour and a half texting each day. Adding up the hours I spend online, as in Facebook and checking email, etc. has caused me to consider a technology fast to spend more time connecting with God through Bible reading and prayer.

Then I read a column by Chuck Colson who referenced a book by author Susan Maushart titled The Winter of Our Disconnect, describing our addiction to media as “infobesity.”

Colson asked if it was time for a tech-fast, “Don’t use your iPhone; don’t sign in to Facebook, whatever your tech weakness is, just withdraw for a while and see what happens.”

Lent teaches a lesson in priorities that hopefully will last a lifetime. Jesus must become more important, so I must become less important.  “If anyone desires to come after Me,” Jesus commanded, “Let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

Bible teacher Colin Urquhart has written, “The cross that Jesus tells us to carry is the one that we willingly take up ourselves – the cross of self-denial in order that we might live for the glory of the Father.”