Thursday, March 19, 2015

Facebook Lenten Lessons

Lent has come to symbolize a time of sacrifice.  At church on Sundays, the conversation these days tends to center around what we are giving up or taking on for Lent.  You can eliminate fried food from your diet, give up chocolate, promise to exercise 3x per week, or make a vow to read the Bible every day.  Whatever your flavor of Lenten sacrifice, bravo to you. 

My sacrifice this year is the same one that I tried (and failed) last year.  I deleted the Facebook App on my phone.  Perhaps that's not the most earth-shattering sacrifice on the planet, but it has brought some surprising lessons.

Last year, the struggle was REAL.  I was addicted.  I was on Facebook an obnoxious number of times each day browsing photos of my friends' kids or clicking through to dumb buzzfeed articles about nothing.  Truly.  It was ridiculous.  Those two minutes waiting for my kids to get out of school, or the five minutes in line at the grocery store became the perfect time to lose myself in the frivolous world of Facebook nothingness.  It only took about a week before I was using a clever "work around"...accessing Facebook not through the App, but via the web browser on my phone. 

Hey!  My only commitment was to delete the App!!  I never promised to give up Facebook entirely. I woke up on Easter morning and re-loaded that app before breakfast. 

Fast forward one year, and things have changed.  My attitude toward Facebook and social media in general has changed.  Trying to give up Facebook on my phone last year (and realizing how much of a struggle it was) opened my eyes a bit to the ugly truth about how much time I was spending wasting staring at that little screen, gleaning bits of trivia about random people in my life, most of whom I hadn't spoken to in YEARS.

Lesson #1
Not everyone in your life needs to be your Facebook friend.   There is a thrill that comes from gathering up as many friends as possible when you first get onto Facebook. That random guy from high school that sat behind me in Geometry.  Friend!  That mom I met once at a play date with a mutual friend.  Friend!  Lady that goes to our church but I've never spoken to.  Friend!  Co-workers, casual acquaintances, former classmates, old boyfriends....Friend, Friend, Friend!  I had hundreds of Facebook friends.  But soon the excitement wore off and I realized that I didn't really need everyone I've ever met in the history of my life to be showing up on my newsfeed.  It was sensory overload.  Garbage overload.  Set some parameters and friend accordingly.  My rule is, if I wouldn't invite them over for dinner at my house, they don't need to be my Facebook friend. I've cut out about half my friend list and the de-cluttering feels good. 

Lesson #2
You can use Facebook without allowing it to own you.  Have it on your computer, check it out once a day to see what your friends are up to.  Read a frivolous article or LOL at a stupid photo once in a while.  It can be a fun, recreational tool.  Just be careful that it doesn't become all-consuming.  If you find yourself hiding in the kitchen hoping your kids don't catch you trolling Facebook....that's a good sign that your priorities are getting a little jumbled.

Lesson #3
The most important people in your life aren't on your phone.  They're in your house.  They're your family, your friends, your neighbors.  The important people are the REAL people that you have human interaction with on a daily basis.  Not that Facebook people aren't real.  They are.  But if you're like me, those Facebook 'friends' are mostly not really friends at all.  If we could spend half as much time talking to our neighbors as we do ogling Facebook stories, I believe the world would be a happier place. 

Lesson #4
Even stupid, seemingly insignificant Lenten sacrifices can yield true lessons.  When we take time to alter our "norm" it gives us a different perspective on the world.  We see our life through a slightly different lens.  It clears the dust and clutter from our brain (Even perhaps just a very small corner of our brain) so we can process our experiences in a new way. 

So, carry on with your Lenten practice, whatever that may be.  Look for the lessons.  Power through the pain, the withdraws, the sore muscles or aching sweet tooth.  Revel in your small, human, inconvenience and be humbled by the struggle as you prepare to marvel at the true sacrifice of the Easter story. 

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