Lent: How Technology Became the New Alcohol

For years, Lent was about depriving myself of gastronomic pleasure.

I’ve given up sugar and chocolate and fried foods. I’ve given up wine and beer and all alcohol For years, a poll of anyone I know would have revealed the same top picks. For 40 days (plus Sundays) let’s give up our comfort foods, the ones that we turn to at the end of a long day or when the kids have pretty much But Mom‘ed you out of your last ounce of sanity.

But the tide is shifting. Whereas food used to be my generation’s most oft-selected vice, now technology has become the serpent we require a religious proclamation to ignore. On Fat Tuesday, my Facebook feed was filled with people signing off for the Lenten season. In 2012, Twitter was the No. 1 habit to be scorned (according to a list based on Lent-related tweets), followed by Facebook at No. 6. In 2013, “social networking” came in fourth on the list (following soda, swearing and at No. 1, “being pope.” Oh, those witty tweeters.) So far this year (as of 10 a.m. March 5), social networking is No. 3, followed by Twitter at No. 4, beating out swearing, sweets and soda.

Staring at our social media feeds has become the equivalent of that third glass of wine — you know you shouldn’t but wow, that was fun.

Maybe what people are giving up for Lent is changing because where we seek pleasure is changing. At the gym I see people tapping away at their phones while working an exercise bike. How many times have I told my kids “give me a minute” while I am so immersed in a text conversation that I can’t help my son spell “treasure” or watch my daughter’s latest dance move?

So this year, I’m joining the masses and giving up my work email and my phone outside of work hours. I’ve pledged not to check my work email before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. And when my kids need my attention, Facebook will be shut down.

I’m one day into this and see already that it will be hard. I am used to turning on my phone as soon as I wake up to check my work email. I’m also used to Facebook’ing whatever cute, interesting or strange event I just experienced or noticed. And I’ve realized that the urge to post isn’t about getting information out — it’s about seeking feedback. How clever can I be? Can I make someone laugh? Can I elicit “oh, your kids are so cute!” validation? I’m taking myself out of the moment and have become a voyeur on my own life. It’s fun and there’s nothing wrong with that, but when I realize my kids have called my name three times before I come out of the zone — yeah, maybe I’ve taken it too far.

Social media is to 40-year-old me as alcohol or sweets were to 30-year-old me. I used to give those up with the hopes that I’d lose a few pounds. Now I’ll be putting my cell phone in solitary with the hopes that I’ll gain some more insight into the world and people around me.



What do you think?

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