The temptations of Facebook

I’ve given up Facebook for Lent.

Lent is a time of fasting, introspection and soul-searching, with brief respites on Sundays. The season of Lent actually ends with Maundy Thursday, but I traditionally break my Lenten fast with communion on Easter Sunday, this year on April 5.

The 40 days of Lent symbolize the 40 days spent by Jesus in the desert. Like Christians for hundreds of years before us, we go through Lent to prepare us for the coming celebration of Holy week, the Passion, death and resurrection of Christ.

During the season of Lent, we look hard at who we are, and who we aren’t. We reflect upon who we are, we repent and turn from the things that distract us, and we try hard to remember who God created us to be.

All of this reflection, repentance and remembrance is intended to fill the void that remains when we forgo things, in my case Facebook.

Lent is 40 days, but including Sundays, I’m on a Facebook fast for more than 45 days. That’s a long time to not do something that I’ve done consistently, everyday, for years.

In the time I’ve been on it, Facebook has grown to be valued at around $200 billion. That’s more than the GDP of Kenya, Bolivia, Iceland, and Lithuania, combined.

And Facebook doesn’t produce anything. It has no products. Nearly everything on Facebook is as fleeting as morning fog. Few Facebook posts are important, and many are usually worthless. (If you followed a Facebook link to this post, this is the exception to the normal Facebook rule.)

And yet nearly all of us go to Facebook. According to Facebook, more than one billion people use the site each month – reading lists, watching videos, playing games, and working virtual farms, investing time in something that will never pay dividends.

There are some benefits of Facebook of course, including the opportunity to learn the happenings of past friends from college and high school or to connect with current acquaintances, friends and family. But in many ways this ‘connecting’ is artificial, and doesn’t replace face to face fellowship. Facebook can be comfortable for some types of personalities, but insidiously, comfort can sometimes turn to complacency.

Facebook has all the characteristics of an addiction and in too many ways is of the same value.

And so I’ll turn away from Facebook, and take up the Lenten season of reflection, repentance and remembrance. I’ll give up something of little value in exchange for more time to reflect upon my priceless relationship with God and with others. I’ll also have additional time to read and write more.

Traditionally, Lenten fasts are considered sacrifices, but the more I think about my Lenten season, the more I’m enjoying the time with God. Perhaps my Lenten fast isn’t much of a sacrifice after all.

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