Ash Wednesday: I can do this. I can give up Facebook for Lent. I can wait until Sunday to upload the day’s photos, to play Scrabble, to proclaim how I feel about Victor Plushenko getting silver in men’s figure skating.
As a student, I spend a lot of time in chapel, Bible study and church, but I haven’t been prioritizing slowed-down, non-required time with just God and me. So in the hopes of improving my spiritual routine, I will sacrifice a time-consuming distraction – Facebook.
It’s not a huge sacrifice. Facebook isn’t a big deal. Nowhere in Genesis does it say, “And then God created Facebook, and called it good.” Maslow didn’t include it in his hierarchy of needs. Einstein, in all his genius, didn’t invent it. People have survived without Facebook for thousands of years; so can I.
Day 1: Instinctively, when I open Firefox, my fingers punch in the URL for Facebook, ready to sign into CIS and be on my news feed way.
As editor of Hilltop Online, I have to log onto Facebook to update the fan page. I train my eyes not to linger on my homepage, with all its relevant updates about homework overload, crappy cafeteria food and sunny weather. But I can’t help noticing, as I click on “Ads and Pages,” the little red boxes tempting me with 2 messages and 17 notifications.
Day 2: After 48 hours, my Scrabble opponents must be frustrated. I ponder whether ethics demand I log on to play my turns in the eight games I have going, or whether that’s Satan luring me into the abyss of social networking. Thank God I don’t have Farmville.
Day 4: The day of the Lord is finally here, and I’m ready to rejoice with a good round or eight of Scrabble. Unexpectedly, though, I log on and get bored pretty quickly. I don’t feel like stalking my wall through three days’ worth of news feed, so I “like” a few statuses, glance through some Winter Formal photos, and move on with my life. Absence, apparently, doesn’t make the heart grow fonder – at least not of Facebook.
Day 8: It’s working. Less distraction, more focus. It’s a simple matter of time and choice: when I have fifteen minutes of free time, I can’t squander it facebooking; instead, I devote it to less corporeal things: writing letters to friends, drawing, praying. I am investing my time, not spending it.
Day 11: Sunday again. I procrastinate more than I should clicking through photos, but I have a good conversation with a friend and score an 84 point word in Scrabble. And when midnight comes, I’m ready to log off for the week.
Day 13: I don’t want to read 130 pages of David Hume. I don’t want to fold my laundry. But neither do I want to admit I’m wasting time by watching “Glee” reruns. Mostly, I want to take a break from productivity for twenty minutes reading stalking my friends. But I can’t.
I read David Hume, grumpily.
Day 18: All that spare time I discovered 18 days ago? It’s gone. I’m not sure how I got things done with Facebook, because I can’t even get them done without it.
Day 21: They say it takes 21 days to break a habit. If I was addicted to Facebook, I guess I’m sober now.
Day 24: It’s Friday night, and I’d like to veg. The week was long, and I didn’t save the mental energy to spend my evening praying, feeding the homeless or helping lepers. I’m not Mother Theresa. I want to be lazy – preferably online.
Day 33: It’s the third day of spring break, and I’ve cheated three times. While this isn’t about working my way to salvation – my parents’ opinion of Lent – I am showing a lack of self-control. It’s not a sin to log on, but it is defeating the purpose of Lent, or at least part of it. I determine not to cheat anymore, even if it is spring break.
Day 41: There’s nothing to do online. So I read the news, some celebrity gossip, and my mom’s blog.
Day 43: Like any absence, the pang and thrill of living without Facebook has faded, as has my legalism. I’ve been logging on pretty much every day to check for event invitations and important messages. But I don’t linger. It’s four days till Easter; statuses can wait.
Day 46: I celebrate the resurrection of Christ with a good dose of social networking. But as soon as I flip through the 40 pictures I’ve been tagged in, it happens: I get bored.
Afterword: I won’t delete my profile. I like my pictures too much. I like bantering wittily on people’s statuses and stalking people I haven’t seen since junior high summer camp.
But I won’t go back to checking my profile ten times a day and surfing photo albums between class. Maybe I’ll only log on every other day or on weekends.
After all, I like having more time. I like valuing journaling, drawing and praying more than facebooking. I like remembering to pause and think during the day. I like pursuing God outside the classroom.
If there were a “like” button for Lent, I’d push it.