I discovered something almost three years ago: Facebook is not just for high school and college kids. It’s a really neat tool to keep in touch with your family and friends of old. It’s a convenient way to share pictures of your family – whether growing in numbers or simply in size – with far-flung cousins stationed with the Marines in Texas, Florida, Afghanistan, with aunts and uncles living thousands of miles away, with dear friends you’ve known more than 1/3 of your life but who live too far to have coffee with.
I also learned that there are games! And, oh, how those games suck your time. If you have even a smidgen of competitiveness combined with a touch of addictive nature, you can discover that your “quick couple of games” at Bejeweled Blitz have turned into an hour. Seriously! I mean, how can I let Rachel continually beat me at this game? I can beat her this time. Just one more …
So last year, I gave up Facebook for Lent. I had also been playing some other stupid game that was fun for a while but had become way too addictive. When I returned after Easter, I had no idea how to play because they’d updated and changed it. And so I stopped.
Time was gained back! I did slip back into Bejeweled occasionally. Okay, a bunch by the time Lent rolled around again this year.
Which is part of why I did the same thing as last Lent: I gave up Facebook. My family can reach me still via email, and I changed my avatar to let people know I would be off Facebook until Easter. (The only exception is that my blogs auto-post to Facebook, but I do nothing to make that happen, nor do I go and check if it’s actually posted.)
But I discovered something else in the last year: Twitter. I’d tried it before, but was quite limited in my uses. I didn’t “get” it. Until I tried again, being a little more open and following some bloggers and writers I like a lot. (Hello, Sarah!) I figured out that Twitter can be a very interesting way to find news, to learn about things happening as they happen, to find interesting articles on topics I really like. I even learned how to use a hashtag – both seriously (#Catholic #prolife #40DaysForLife) and jokingly (#whyaremykidssobig #whendidIgetsoold #doespeerybinglemissmeontwitteroramijustbeingegotistical). It was FUN!
A bit too much fun at times.
I suddenly realized that I was checking it WAY too often, wondering if I had re-tweets (which is, for the uninitiated, when someone likes what you say enough to pass it on – it’s basically an electronic “ditto!” that reposts your comments). I wondered if I had more followers, if I had less followers, if I could say something witty that someone famous would respond to … for the introvert that I am, it was a way to socialize.
Now, I have actual and real socialization on Twitter. I have made some friends there who I’d love to meet in person. People I pray for, who (I hope) pray for me. But I also know that there is some very fake socialization that I’d love to pass off as real, but isn’t. Things that amount to shouting into a crowd of people who do not know me at all, thinking that someone might be paying attention to me.
And being addicted to that is not a good thing. (Really, what addiction is good, save the addiction to God I ought to have but fail to nurture enough?)
And so, due to my own slightly addictive nature, I pulled the plug on Twitter as well as Facebook. Again, my blog is auto-posting on Twitter, but I do nothing to make it happen. I don’t go to check the news. I did leave the Twitter extension at the top of my Safari browser, but mostly I don’t even see it. I’m definitely not clicking on it!
I do sort of miss the back-and-forth that I occasionally shared with friends, but overall, I’m trying to use the time I was spending on these social networks to socialize with Someone more important. I’m trying to read the Bible each morning, or at least the Mass readings for the day, and to focus more on my vocation and less on myself. (My vocation requires me to focus on others first.)
I’m basically trying to live in the real world a bit more. Which, left to my own devices, I was tending not to do as much as I ought to.
One of the other things I’ve noticed is that constantly writing things in 140 characters can change the way my mind works. There are some benefits: I have to express myself more succinctly, I learn to be more direct about what I’m saying.
But there are pitfalls, too. I tended to feel more frenetic, less calm. The speed at which things can move on Twitter and Facebook can really make you jumpy. It’s as though I’m expecting everything to be in short soundbites. I was having troubles really reading anything deep for long periods of time; for someone who loves reading as much as I do, that is a serious problem.
I wanted to break that a bit. I wanted to force calm back into my life and sooth my mind so it’s able to contemplate, to be at peace, to meditate on the great mysteries of this life.
One thing I’ve discovered is that I’m a bit more able to concentrate lately, and to write longer things. I’m doing so with more clarity and with (I hope) less rambling. But I think this break from the short, punctuated writing that takes place on Facebook and Twitter is helping me think more clearly.
The biggest benefactors of this break are my children, who get my undivided attention far more than when I’m busy joking with someone on Twitter. And I’m a better mother for that.
So that’s why I gave it up. It’s why, despite others who have said they couldn’t give up Facebook for Lent because it’s their biggest connection with others, I think it’s a good thing for me.
For some people, logging into Facebook and Twitter is a fifteen-minute activity. It’s not usually that for me, or at least it eventually grows to be much more. When I go back to it, I’ll try to limit my time better, but if it gets too hectic – if I’m finding that it’s too “important” to me, I’ll break from it again.
And maybe I don’t need Lent for that, either.
What are your thoughts?
Do you use Lent as a way to eliminate bad habits or to lessen activities that seem to take over your life? Do you take breaks from those things at other times of year?
You are absolutely right about Twitter changing the way you write – and even think. I am reading a book called The Shallows, which has a subtitle to the effect of “how the Internet is changing the way we think.” it’s kind of scary when you think about it.
I give y so much credit for giving up FB AND Twitter for Lent. I gave up Farmville in hopes of reigning myself in, but still find myself on Cityville way too often.
Great post! I happened by because Sarah is teaching a blogging workshop at the Catholic Writers Conference…sure glad I did!
I am resisting! the! urge! to makr that book as to-read. Because my pile is
quite large enough, tyvm. 🙂
Glad to have you stop by and comment! Thanks for that! 🙂
And, I have to note, I did NOT give up Twitter and FB for Lent, I only
stopped posting from my phone. That’s made me SEEM like I’ve given them up,
though, and it’s also really freed my mind quite a bit. I think I’m going to
do a whole post of my own about it! 🙂
This was a most interesting post. I’m pretty sure I’m one of the only women out there missing the “game-playing” gene, because all my friends play at least SOMETHING on the computer–if not Bejeweled Blitz then at least Solitaire. However, I would get sucked into FB by link-clicking. I’d read somebody’s comment with a link attached, and click that link, which would often lead to further links and voila! Hours are gone!
I’ve successfully transitioned to a 15-minute-a-day Facebooker and I’ll tell you my secret: a timer! Yes, I actually set a timer and when it goes off I have to get off! I do the same with Twitter. I still get to see pics and check up on my friends, but it is no longer the time-suck that it once was. Good luck to you this Lent!
Holly, I’m right there with ya on missing the game playing boat. I just know
that if I get started…there goes everything else that needs done! That,
and I find FB to be one of the hardest websites EVER to figure out!
The link-clicking thing, though…ah, guilty as charged.
Good for you on sticking to 15 minutes a day. That setting-a-timer thing
reminds me of Flylady.
I find that if I check FB statuses on my iPad or iPod touch, I’m less likely
to spend as much time. I’ll have to try the timer thing. Thanks for that
Well, I’m a different generation but I agree with you….the internet in general and computers especially take up so MUCH of the modern woman’s time…in addition, to the T.V., your cell phone…not to mention actually cooking, cleaning and perhaps working outside the home…when do our children and grandchildren actually have our total attention??? This is a great concern to me as I watch one of my grandchildren learn to talk and socialize! One of the only competitions for my complete attention was the T.V., and I recognized that as the great evil it can be and limited my childrens’ viewing time…if not taking it away completely. I found they interacted better together without it completely. I shudder to think what future technology will bring us as I watch younger adults interact with each other…or rather, fail to interact and communicate! Yes, they think they are communicating….but between their games, videos, phones and computers, when do they actually pay attention…complete attention…to what those around them are saying????
Everything can be evil, though, right? I think the challenge we face is
being fully present, as you say (complete attention).
And then I wonder…without all this other stuff, what would distract me?
Because I think that’s a challenge I will always face.
Good points, all of them.
However, I would point out that there is always hope. And there is always
room for improvements. For some of us, we can’t just pitch the technology.
We can, however, be cognizant of how it’s impinging on our vocations and
pray for the wisdom to know when to turn them off, limit them, etc.
Love you! (That’s my MOM, everybody!)
for Lent I am doing fb once each Sunday…and trying to check email once a day.
I just got back from a 4 day silent retreat…where there was NO computer, cellphone, ipod, etc. Such a great treat.
I have found since Lent began I have so much more time for the truly important things. Daily mass, prayer, letters to friends, etc.
I think you highlight just one of the many reasons Lent is so important!