What I am learning as I give up social media for Lent…

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#1 – I seek praise, sympathy, solidarity through social media.  The smallest, most insignificant thing could happen and my first instinct is to post it so that other people will comment and respond.  It is attention-seeking behavior that often slips into a self-centered focus.  Having to constantly fight the urge to post has led me to wonder what I’m getting out of those posts… and what others are as well.  Sometimes, it is an authentic search for community and others to share the journey with.  Sometimes it is  race to see who has the biggest sob story or frustration of the day.  These past weeks have reminded me of my insignificance.  No one  really cares what I had for breakfast or about a stubbed toe or that I shared an article.  I’m just not that important.  And I shouldn’t be.

#2 – Most of my news comes from social media. When I hear of breaking news, I search for the topic on twitter instead of turning on the television.  The variety of sources, the mix of images, video, stories, personal reflections, global perspectives is amazing.  I just don’t get the same depth of information watching one news channel go on for hours at a time about a single event, and when you flip stations between the networks, the information is often similiar with only slight colors of perspective.  As Ukraine and Russian and the Malaysian flight disappearance have made headlines, I have largely been out of the loop of what is happening in the world.

#3 – Many of my conversations with close, personal friends, happen on Facebook.  While texting is part of my communications toolbox, I rarely call or email these individuals.  I never realized how much I rely upon Facebook groups for keeping in touch with a circle of friends – whether they are colleagues or my girlfriends.  I had to write a clause into my lenten discipline that allowed me to continue using the Messenger part of Facebook (which meant I had to download the app), because I realized I would be completely out of the loop on conversations about health, upcoming events, and personal struggles.  Not being on facebook and able to follow posts on group pages has left me feeling fairly isolated from those I am most connected with.

#4 – I pray a lot through Facebook.  Whether they are shared prayer concerns among colleagues or simply reading the everyday struggle and hopes of friends, family, and colleagues, I am frequently moved to pray as I interact with posts and snoop on people’s lives.  Not having that source of prayer material at my fingertips, however, has led me to pay attention a bit more to the people around me… the guy sitting on the park bench, the people in line.  I find myself wondering what their story is, what they hope for…  I haven’t worked up the courage to ask yet, however.  I’m not sure if I’ve always been an “overhearer” of people’s lives or if this is something that a social media culture has developed in me and others around me.  And sometimes I wonder if that extension of ourselves into the public space is good or not.  I hesitate to lift up a prayer out loud on the bus, but I don’t when I’m commenting on a friend of an acquaintances post.  It’s something to ponder.

#5 – I enjoy watching sports with social media.  I enjoy the quick stats and the commentary that is often far better than what is on the television.  I like the sense of solidarity in amazing plays and in bad calls.  Yet, with the Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team being told to stay off of twitter because of the criticisms, I also recognize how brutal it gets out there.  The things we yell at the television in the quiet of our own homes now are the things we post online in public in the heat of the moment, without tempering our emotions and remembering it is, after all, just a game. 

#6 – I’m following the practice of celebrating Sundays as “little Easters” and not fasting from social media on those days.  In the past two weeks, I’ve largely used those days to dump pictures and a quick narrative of the highlights of my week, as well as to quickly skim my group pages, catch up where I can with friends, and have left very few comments.  I might have spent a total of 2 hours on facebook between those two days.  The time I spend in my typical week on social media must be astounding.  I’m sure there is an app somewhere to monitor it, but I’m afraid to look. 

#7 – I use Facebook and social media equally for work and for personal matters.  Conversations with friends and co-workers happen simultaneously.  I’m more aware of that fact as I try to occasionally use it for work-related items (like updating our facebook page for Imagine No Malaria), but the distinction is so blurred that I have tried to avoid it or batch post.  I think it would be worth it to do some hard work of creating new lists on facebook to better discriminate what I post and to whom so I could use it for both in a better way. 

#8 – this is NOT going to be a permanent fast.

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