Blog-alogue Second Question: What about Lent?

Meredith,

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday!  Here I am, still getting used to the Kindle I got for Christmas, and Lent is here.  Can the Fourth of July be far behind?

My question has to do with Lent — in a way.  Last week, when we started our blog-alogue about using social media, you urged us to think conceptually about social media instead of worrying about technical details.  Look at what we can do before talking about how to do it.

But I think there’s a conceptual issue right there at the beginning.  Many people perceive social media as yet another source of busyness and distraction.  It’s among the burdens of modern life. They report feeling so pressured to keep up with social media, that when Lent comes around, unplugging from the grid seems like a good idea.  Give up Facebook.  Stop reading all those tweets.  Limit email.  Stop texting so much.  Think about God.

My question: is this a helpful way to think about social media–as something you might give up for Lent?

Jim

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Jim,

Simply and bluntly put:  No, it’s not helpful to think of social media as something to renounce for Lent. I think it’s more helpful and more accurate to think of social media as means to:

  • express faith and devotion
  • participate in community
  • receive support for spiritual practices

As people of faith, we’re called to do exactly this during Lent, and I’ve seen social media  make this possible. Many examples of expressing faith, participating in community, and receiving support for spiritual practices can be found right here on dotMagis (Some Other Ideas for Lent), but you and faithful readers already know this.

When it comes to busyness and distraction during Lent, social media isn’t the problem. The problem is how some people will dive into any activity without much discipline or consciousness.  Social media use is only one example. Free will is such a pesky gift, isn’t it?

Instead of unplugging from all social media, why not use it to focus on whatever will enhance Lent and block out everything else? It’s really quite easy to be selective about what shows up on the tiny silver screen. All social media platforms provide ways to block distractions.  Spending too much time playing games on Facebook? Simply remove or block the apps for 40 days.  Spending too much time reading news feeds or celebrity gossip on Twitter?  Block those particular accounts for 40 days.  (And then, consider keeping those distractions blocked for another 50 days during Easter.)  Me? I’ll be pinning images on the Pinterest boards set up for #ChSocM (Church Social Media) enthusiasts.

To generate heightened consciousness, I recommend contemplating these critical questions: Is social media helping to enhance my relationship with God or is it distracting me from my relationship with God? Do social media platforms help me serve and support others?

I believe these are the questions we need to be asking ourselves on a regular basis, throughout the year – and not just relative to social media use during Lent. Over the years I’ve observed well-meaning people get so caught up in parish-based programs during Lent (e.g., parish missions, soup and scripture suppers, Stations of the Cross, community service projects) that they’re still dead from exhaustion long after Jesus is Risen Indeed.

Meredith

About Jim Manney 750 Articles
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is Ignatian Spirituality A to Z. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

18 Comments on Blog-alogue Second Question: What about Lent?

  1. I notice the comments are dropping off — mine included. I think after the initial rush people get sort of — bored?

    Sigh.

    Methinks perchance we expect something New and Different? Maybe God is telling me to DO something New and Different?

    Oops.

  2. I’m trying to increase my social justice work during Lent, which means spending more time on the internet. (=; Meredith, I hope that in one of the future blog-alogues, you’ll talk about internet resources for doing Op Eds, influencing legislators and policy makers, etc. I’m particularly interested in advocating for the DREAM Act and developing paths of citizenship for undocumented folks. I also want to figure out how to streamline my reading and advocacy, so I have time to do my laundry and my examen (thanks for the video on that, Fr. Jim Manney) and time to read DBW’s comments. Just kidding, DBW… I couldn’t resist! (=;

  3. I truly believe you got this one ALL WRONG! We should be giving up the internet which I will include social media, emails, push emails, web site news aggregators and the like for parts of the Lenten season. It can be such a waste, when we could be reading and gaining from inner strength in other ways than on the computer. Lent should be different, not the same web site reading. I would suggest staying with a site if it directly influences your Lenten devotion, so under that category, yes, “An Ignatian Prayer Adventure” part of Dot Magis should be considered, but every other web site or other parts of Dot Magis we come across, should be filtered to a “look at later” folder or not at all.

    I’m frankly surprised I am the only one so far on this thread who feels this way. Come on, there needs to be some critical thinking here.

    I have many tech friends who shy away from social media and push type emails, and even personal emails. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Dot Magis, but consider all the content that comes by a person in a typical day. I believe reducing this content, will allow us more time to personal devotion. If we don’t have our devotion methods down by now, it may be too late. Give up the internet and go to Eucharist Adoration for an hour. How about that!

    • DBW, it’s all life and life is inside of God and no matter what we do it does not slip outside the GodNet. Not even the InterNet.

      He watches everything and you never know when some bon mot will strike you right in the heart of your own matter. It is good for the soul to see that others think and feel the same way we think and feel and that no one is alone in the spiritual scheme of things. I don’t usually waste time blogging or anything else but something kept me here and that is cool.

      You gave it up? How’d you manage to see us?

      Have a good weekend.

  4. Thanks, Meredith! In making choices about my on-line time, I find I have to connect all my interests to Facebook. So, your second link (for church social media) had a Facebook page I “liked.” I guess at some point, I’m going to have to choose which pages I visit. Otherwise, it will take too much time to scroll through my newsfeed! I’m already doing that with FB friends. My interests & connections change over time, but I still have the option of visiting all those special pages when I want to!

  5. Working in a girls High School, I could overwhelm you with the negative and postive aspects of social networking and I am incredibly grateful to it for putting me in touch with so many resources, prayerful practices, spirit friends and enables me to publish my thoughts and images.

    I do agree with William Morris though, that all technology is a tool and it is up to the human being to use tools to make the world more beautiful – I guess that means more sacred too.

      • Yes we have a lot of problems with that up here in Canada. Young people are wonderful but they lack the foresight to appreciate that a word posted is a word forever, a photo indelible. And some grownups too.

      • Me too, Linda. I seriously doubt he’s hunkered down in front of Tweetdeck or HootSuite. From the article, it looks like tweets will be extracted from Lenten messages, etc. he’s writing/proclaiming. Raises the whole “who tweets for the account” issues. For now, I’m just thrilled that it’s not taking 400 years for the Holy See to realize something important and valuable is happening to and for and with the People of God. Amen?

        • Using the media to spread the word was the Pope’s proclamation a couple of years ago so I guess that word is out. Amen! He indicated that if the evildoers can infiltrate it (and the police too now thank God) so can the people of God.

          This is a good thing even in my anti tech opinion!

  6. Even within one site including this one there are pathways to other sites which have their own links to other sites ad infinitum. Social media are fine if you have discipline to pick and choose your content within, like deciding how to have your daily sugar if you’re diabetic, or selecting which treat you want if you’re on a diet. For me it’s the core lesson of the day (from each of my Catholic web sites including Sacred Space of Ireland), no videos, and a scan of blog entries. Sometimes I post and often I don’t. If I didn’t write or work my job using the computer I would likely never turn it on.

    The key is to take what we learn and use it throughout the day, not sitting idle (poor veins and capillaires popping away!) but moving among the masses of our lives.

    • You’re right, it can be hard to wade through all of the great (and not-so-great) stuff out there. I do social media for Forward Movement, our goal with our Facebook page is to make it a little easier to access the lectionary, saints, ACP and, of course, our meditation. Our community is growing; it feels really wonderful to be a part of such a rich, vast online presence. I encourage all of you to join us during this holy Lenten season.

  7. As with all opportunities in life, it is our decision how we use them and whether they will enhance or distract from our relationship with God. I feel so very blessed every day when I’m able to read the posts on various blogs and then reflect on my relationship with God. It is my responsibility to make the choices and to limit myself. Thank you for providing spiritual nourishment for so many.

  8. I find that social media provides me with so many spiritual resources. Because of Facebook I am following the Ignatian Prayer Adventure. I also find it a way of reaching out to people. I can skip the much of the dross – although, I have to admit, not all

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