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Facebook, smart phones and a Lenten lesson

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“The fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing or activity” – so says the dictionary on the topic of addiction. In recent months, I began to notice some life patterns that were beginning to feel an awful lot like unhealthy dependency. They weren’t the kind that require a daily meeting, but nonetheless were working a level of distraction and destruction in my life.

I grew up Baptist. Lent and the practice of “giving up something” were foreign to me until more recent years. After a short stint in the Anglican church and a settling into a Methodist community, Lent more fully entered into my consciousness. This year, I threw about 4 ideas up against the Lenten wall, and one in particular stuck. The commitment was to check Facebook only once a day – down from a level that on some days felt utterly compulsive. Lessons abounded during the 40 days. Here are just a few:

  • Owning an iPhone is dangerous for me. There are apps that make life highly convenient – google maps, yelp, to do lists, npr podcasts and an ever available camera sometimes enrich life. Facebook and email access on same device are a huge distraction and can easily tip over into compulsion.
  • Facebook has a connecting role in life, but checking it once a day is sufficient. During Lent, I had a genuine, heartfelt interaction with a college friend that I haven’t seen in 25+ years. I learned that her husband had died after battling ALS. Sincere condolences were offered, her amazing faith and spirit were shared – all on facebook chat. Really.
  • Limiting my facebook access leads to a significant increase of peace and presence in daily living. Less time is wasted on facebook bunny trails and black holes
  • I can feel like the “late to the party” girl when interacting, but 24 hours after a post is not too late to join in a conversation. My true friends are willing to engage at a slower pace.
  • Email access on the smart phone is the next frontier. If I start slipping into old patterns, there are options. I can take facebook and mail off of my phone – then there is no temptation to check anything, except an incoming text, while I am driving. Or if I really can’t get a grip, the flip phone is still an option. Putting the phone into the glove compartment or the trunk when I get into the car has a lot of value.
  • I have two sets of eyes watching me regularly interact with my phone in the car. If I want to teach them about the dangers of texting and driving, I’d better stop picking up that phone while in the car.
  • In a discussion with one of our two 20 something smart phoneless sons, he expressed a deep sadness over the fact that as he rides public transportation, 80% of the people have their heads bowed – not in prayer or meditation, but bowing over their smart phones. That is deeply tragic on so many levels. We are missing the incredible gift of conversation with strangers on a bus, or in a line or in our families. We need to lift up our heads and be with the people around us.
  • During this “facebook fast”, my creativity and ability to be present increased exponentially. I have blog post ideas galore and I have enjoyed my husband and children more fully.

So overall, the lesson was that if I don’t thoughtfully manage this piece of technology, it is going to control my behavior on some level. Do I really want a rectangular computer that fits into my pocket or purse running my life? My Lenten answer is “no”. Check in with me in a few months and ask me how I’m doing. I am going to need some accountability and support.