A little over two years ago, my book, Unfriend Yourself, hit the shelves. In it, I tried to help people—particularly Christians—see what lurks in the unseen depths of social media, and to think critically about how they use social media like Facebook and Twitter to talk about themselves and to communicate with others.
What I wanted to accomplish was to discover a vision for a Christian use of social media that went beyo
nd posting Bible verses, song lyrics, and blog posts. Thinking about it now, my question has become clearer: is there a ‘holy way’ to use social media in our daily lives?
Remember that ‘holy’ has two meanings: first, perfection, and then something like ‘to be set apart.’ Can we create habits of digital living that are holy—different, quirky, even odd? I think so—and I think one of the best ways we can do this is by giving up social media for Lent.
In case you missed it, Lent began yesterday—an annual journey of denying excess in order to make room for God. In Advent, we sing the song that declares, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” Lent makes a similar declaration, inviting us to give up, to let go, and to press in as we crawl out of winter toward spring, out of the darkness and into the Glorious Light of His Resurrection.
Yesterday, and in the days leading up to it, I saw more and more friends letting their digital friends know that they w
ould be giving up Facebook for Lent—often with a note of apology, or even embarrassment. (Jon Acuff, in his usual cheeky style, wrote a hilarious post on this just today.) I suppose my question is this: why are we embarrassed to give up social media?
It’s no secret that people spend untold hours online—it fills our lives to overflowing. You know it and I know it—it’s not even necessary for me to give you a link to a piece of research. That’s why I’m so confused about being embarrassed about giving up our social media for Lent—in Lent, we’re invited to make room for God, and to do so by removing an overriding distraction. Social media, it would seem, fits the bill.
It’s key to remember that Lent is not only a season of disengagement, but of engagement. To cast something off is to pick something up; the real question of Lent, then, is not what you’re giving up, but what you’re taking on.
In that case, the real question is: How will you fill the time away from the digital world with God?
Or, perhaps: How will the absence of social media in your life make your future use of it more holy?
Don’t be embarrassed by the absence of social media, be gladdened by it. Rejoice in the absence of something so needy, in order that you may know the One Who longs to know you and be known by you. In the Bright Sadness of Lent, be free—repent, and believe the Gospel.