This Lent I would finally like to follow the pope’s suggestion that we fast from our dependence on technology. I am taking a 40-day fast from a particular social networking site, which I suspect I’ve become slightly addicted to.
I knew I was spending a lot of time on the site, but I realized the issues went deeper than time wasting. I became uncomfortable when my friends and I would collectively trash a musician, mock some fallen celebrity or engage in negative political discourses.
In the words of one of my favorite Jesuits, Rev. James Martin, I feel I’ve become one of the people who forgot “Jesus’ words in our digital age, when snarky blogs, terrible texting, snotty Facebook posts and mean-spirited Tweets zip around the Web and cause serious harm.”
This perfectly encapsulates the discomfort I felt. I tended to think of celebrity-trashing as a victimless crime, because obviously famous people aren’t reading my posts. But it’s a matter of being charitable and empathic in speech, no matter who is being discussed.
My quasi-addiction to social networking also revealed another issue: It served as a painful reminder that I had time to waste because I had no spouse or children to attend to. In a sense, I felt stuck in a second adolescence, having time to hang out online with no responsibilities.
But I’d often had a distant, nagging feeling that I should be doing something more useful. Of course, that feeling usually faded the minute a friend logged on to chat or posted a video clip that interested me. And while the teenager within me was satisfied, the adult remained unproductive…and unmarried.
Knowing that the Lenten season is a threefold attempt to remind us of Christian ethics, I also plan on adding to my prayer life and to works of charity. So I’m going back to the practice of Centering Prayer.
My work schedule doesn’t allow me to attend the weekly meetings – and I’m lucky to live near the parish where Centering Prayer began – but I will try praying on my own for Lent.
Finally, I plan on visiting Potter’s Field, a cemetery for homeless New Yorkers. I’m going with a non-denominational charity who goes bi-monthly to pray before the unmarked graves for all the souls of the forgotten.
Reflection question: In what way have you extended adolescence?