Lent 2016 was a Lent to end all Lents. Gone were the days of sacrificing chocolate and Dr. Pepper – this Lent I wanted to go all in. So I gave up something that I knew would be both a sacrifice and a challenge: Facebook. Here is what I learned from the seven stages of a Facebook free Lent! — and some tips if you ever give Facebook a rest.
1. Stage One: Shock
The first week of transition from an everyday Facebook user to a inactive user was not a pretty one. There were many instances of catching myself just before hitting the login button.
Hints & tips for stage one: I would highly recommend deleting the Facebook app from your phone and telling your computer to forget your passwords to log onto Facebook. This will serve as a reminder to you when your instinct of logging in takes over.
2. Stage Two: Withdraws
This stage was when I realized how addicted I was to Facebook. I even asked people (in real life) what was going on in the social media world.
Hints & tips for stage two: Let those who you interact with regularly on social media know that you’re logging off for the liturgical season. I’ve seen some users change their profile picture to a sign that says “Gone for Lent – Be Back on Easter!” That way people know that if you are unreachable via social media, it’s not because you’re ignoring them…it’s because you’re trying to update your status with your top friend: Christ.
3. Stage Three: Panic
The constant worrying of what I was missing because I wasn’t logged onto social media plagued me for the first weeks of Lent. I wouldn’t hear about the get-togethers, engagements, and birthdays. Then I realized I hadn’t even informed Facebook work groups that I was logging off for a while.
Hints & tips for stage three: As it turns out, there are other ways to contact people other than their Facebook profile. Another handy tool (although depending on your strictness of your social media fast, you may object) was Messenger.com. This website allows you to log onto your Facebook messages but not your Facebook profile. So you can still contact people, but not be tempted by the posts on Facebook.
4. Stage Four: Resolution
At about week two of Lent, I decided that I had two options: 1) I could either mope about what I was missing by logging off of social media; or 2) I could really enjoy my time without distraction. It took some time in adoration and some life chats with Jesus to come to that realization, but once I hit the resolution stage, things became much easier.
Hints & tips for stage four: If the temptation to log back onto Facebook becomes strong, I would recommend an accountability partner. Ask a good friend to check in on you – and if they see you on Facebook, to say something about how Lent is supposed to be a sacrifice.
5. Stage Five: Determination
Once I had resolved to do throw myself all in to the Facebook fast, the next step was determination. Actively deciding to appreciate and value my time off of social media was a day by day (okay, sometimes minute by minute) decision. It would have been easy to give into temptation and log onto my profile, but determination helped me push on.
Hints & tips for stage five: Don’t forget about your friends the saints! I leaned heavily upon Saint Jude (Patron Saint of Impossible Causes, which seemed appropriate at the time) for intercession, but also Saint Clare (Patron Saint of Television, which I applied to social media) was a great help to me as well!
6. Stage Six: Substitution
Spending my time bemoaning the loss of Facebook wasn’t a productive use of my time. So I decided to substitute some activities in for my normal social media time slot. I read a lot of books, caught up on the homework that was breathing down my neck, and spent genuine time with my family during my logged off time.
Hints & tips for stage six: Writing down what you would like to accomplish while on your Facebook fast is a great way to truly reap all the rewards from your sacrifice. Do you miss the interaction with a certain friend or group? Put together a real life hangout to enjoy face-to-face interaction and conversation with them. Or maybe the time you spent on Facebook in the evening can be substituted with reading a book you’ve had on the reading list forever, or catching up with God through intentional prayer time. Whatever it is, make sure you fill your time with something and don’t just sit around thinking about what Facebook must look like while you’re not logged on.
7. Stage Seven: Recovery and Success
Easter Vigil rolled around and I logged onto Facebook for the first time since Ash Wednesday. And while I enjoyed seeing the news of what people in my life had been up to, I also realized that those closet to me had kept in touch without the use of Facebook. I hadn’t really missed much…and actually was bored with Facebook after the first fifteen minutes of logging back in.
Hints & tips for stage seven: Just like you wouldn’t gorge yourself on Krispy Kreme and grease-slathered pizza after not eating for forty days, you don’t have to jump all the way into social media again after your Lenten journey. After your first log on for forty days, you can limit yourself to how much social media you intake. You made it for forty days without anything, remember? Maybe logging on for only a certain amount of time during the day, or just logging on in the weekends is another great option!