Thoughts from a Social-Media Free Lent

During Lent, I observed a fast from two of the most popular forms of social-media, Twitter and Facebook.  My Twitter feed did post an occasional automated update from my blog, but other than that I didn’t use either site throughout Lent. To make it easier on myself, I deleted each of those apps off of my iPhone and removed them from my bookmark tabs on my web browser.

I promised to share a few observations about what I noticed during this social-media free Lent, so here are a few notes I jotted down as they occurred to me during Lent and some of my quick thoughts on each of them:

  1. I read more. As many of you have probably experienced, social-media can be a big time waster. When I had free time, I’d often take a few minutes to check Facebook and Twitter, and those few minutes would turn into thirty very quickly. In the past, I spent a lot more of those moments reading whatever book was lying around. During Lent, I found myself reading a lot more, which is something I really enjoy.
  2. I found my way back to blogging. One of the strangest things about social-media is the way it reshapes the way you think. During the time I’ve used Twitter, I’ve blogged far less. Over the course of this fast, I have had more extended thoughts and even waded back into the blogging world. I think Twitter probably forces you to atomize your thinking into bite-sized pieces. While this might force you to be more clear, concise and precise, it does not encourage longer and deeper development of ideas. 
  3. It changed the way I communicated with my family and friends. My wife (who is not on Twitter or Facebook) really appreciated my fast. She told me she enjoyed knowing things before the rest of the world did. There were times she would run into people who knew things about me before she did. She said she really enjoyed being the first to know stuff and running into people who had no idea what I had been doing by reading my Twitter and Facebook updates. I’ve noticed it has been rewarding to share my “interesting thoughts” with my family before I share them with the world. This was pretty eye-opening for me and will change the way I use these tools in the future. I think I allowed social-media to be a substitute for good communication in other relationships too. During the fast, I texted and spoke to friends and colleagues far more than I had been doing. That has been refreshing and good for me.
  4. Less public whining – my fast caused me to whine less. It’s as simple as that. During Spring Break, I took some vacation time, and my kids were sick for several days. Had I been on Facebook and Twitter, I know I’d have posted things like, “great vacation, except for the kids being sick every day…” For whatever reason, we’re quicker to whine via social-media than we are in real life. I’m not going to do that anymore. I’ve also noticed that I’ve had a higher opinion of others who I’m close to that use social-media as a place to vent in their lives. I’m not saying we have to only post positive things, but we have to be careful or we can craft a persona online that doesn’t capture the complexities of who we are as people.  For example: there are people I feel a little closer to because I don’t follow their posts and updates. Maybe that says more about me, but I think I appreciate them more as people and not as the caricature they present online (intentionally or accidentally).
  5. I need to think more before I Tweet – being off of social-media reminded me of the importance of a “cooling off” period for a variety of situations. It’s easy to post something you find funny in the moment that you regret saying later on. Other times, people (myself included at times) will post something cryptic in the heat of the moment of disappointment or frustration that they then regret later on. This fast has reminded me of the importance that our words have and will help me be slower with my Tweeting “trigger finger.”

Altogether, I found more time to do things I enjoy and noticed some of the unique temptations that social-media has to offer. My Lenten fast was a good discipline and taught me some important lessons. I’d love to hear your thoughts below.  Also, if you fasted from social-media over Lent, I’d love to hear what you learned in the comment section.