Whether it’s for religious reasons, cultural reasons, or whatever, it’s genuinely beneficial to give something up for Lent. Okay, it might not be Lent, it could be any period of abstention at any point of the year. You get my drift. As I am in the habit of giving something up for the forty days of Lent, this year I have decided to give up Facebook, and it has been an odd experience. When I was thinking of what to ‘offer up’ I had thought of giving up all social media, but, as a daily blogger, this wouldn’t be much use. Plus, one has to stay in contact with people. Facebook is different. It consumes far too much of my online time and it is almost completely pointless.
Lent is the worst time to meet new Catholic friends bc if you go to follow up with them on Facebook they probably won't respond till Easter.—
Mark the Sem ن (@mrklbll) March 03, 2016
We’re three weeks into Lent now and I’m slowly getting used to life without Facebook. Week one was grand. I coped pretty well. I didn’t miss it at all. The first week was like being on holiday, which was a shame because this feeling of ease lulled me into a false sense of security. Giving up the endless timeline of other people’s love lives and baby photos was going to be a breeze, or so I had thought. Along came the second week and with it the most absurd sensation of social isolation and loneliness. I’m not a lonely person, and yet I was sitting alone feeling abandoned and lonely. Then the dread set in. Not seeing Kirsty’s selfies or Noel’s inappropriate memes brought a dread upon me, a dread that I was missing out on something.
None of this was real of course. It was all in my head. What I was experiencing wasn’t loneliness and dread at all. I don’t miss Kirsty’s selfies. They’re good for a laugh, and her bemusement at why she’s forever getting friend requests from teenaged boys is even funnier. Noel’s cheeky unreconstructed 1970s humour is amusing in the way that Fawlty Towers reruns are, but most often it’s like a visit to Jurassic Park (Yes Noel, I’m calling you a dinosaur). Rather than loneliness or dread what I was going through were withdrawal symptoms. Hours lost down the rabbit hole of likes and shares had become a habit, and giving it up was how I came to see it for what it was – an addiction.
By the third week I was beginning to develop coping strategies. As Facebook is nothing more than a surrogate for real person-to-person interaction, I decided to start texting and emailing people for coffee dates. It’s right in the middle of assignment season and time is short, but there’s no harm in skipping into town through the day for an hour to catch up with a couple of friends. I was half afraid that my friends would think that I was being needy, but no. They have all been glad to catch up. Maybe when Lent is over I’ll make a point of getting out more often to meet people in person. That wouldn’t be a bad outcome.