For years now I’ve resisted giving up social media for Lent. Who want’s to miss out on the latest viral video or witty Tweet to bring a smile to your day? Not me.
But when I really look at my heart, I’ve begun to wonder if I feel more affirmed by the Lord’s love in my life or by the little endorphine-hit I get when someone retweets me. So this year I’m giving up social media for Lent. No Valencia-filtered selfies. No “Let it Go” covers. No check-ins at my favorite coffee shop. Instead, I’ve got five reasons why giving up social media for Lent is going to be great for my life.
1. Less Digital World. More Spiritual World.
I don’t love getting up in the morning. It’s a hard time of day for me to be awesome. And after hitting the snooze button a few times, the next thing I reach for is my phone. “Who’s texted me? Any crazy emergency emails? What did Justin Beiber get himself into last night?”
This Lent I want to stop plugging into the digital world before first connecting into my relationship with God. I set my day up for failure if my first act isn’t prayer focused on my end-goal (cue up Coldplay’s “Paradise” in your minds). So I’m going to put my phone far away from me and grab my Life Teen Lent Companion instead.
2. Less Consumption. More Creation.
I love that my job is all about creativity. One of the great things about being a “creative” type person is that social media is a fun and quick outlet to share my work. But when I’m consuming every last Tweet or browsing YouTube for some funny “fail” video, or craving a new Grumpy Cat meme, I lose touch of what it means to create.
Blessed John Paul II, aka almost Saint JP2, aka “the man,” said this about artists (and by extension creative people):
“With loving regard, the divine Artist passes on to the human artist a spark of His own surpassing wisdom, calling him to share in His creative power… That is why artists, the more conscious they are of their “gift,” are led all the more to see themselves and the whole of creation with eyes able to contemplate and give thanks, and to raise to God a hymn of praise. This is the only way for them to come to a full understanding of themselves, their vocation and their mission” (Letter to Artists).
You see, creating is in a deep sense part of my vocation. It’s part of the fabric that makes me Ryan. And when I lose touch with creating I get caught up in consuming. When I’m just consuming needless amounts of information, I lose touch with God. I’m not able to hear Him speak into my life. I’m not able to live out my vocation of love. I become less of who God made me to be and more an empty shell. This Lent, I’m taking a break from consuming other people’s creativity and spending more time making something of my own that has deeper and lasting meaning.
3. Less filled-up. More being full-filled.
A priest friend used to share in his homilies, “don’t constipate the Spirit.” I’m not sure what spiritual-constipation looks like but I know how it feels and it’s not pretty. I want this Lent to fill me up with God, not fill me up with negative messages that limit the Spirit within me.
Social media is really good at making us feel bad about ourselves. Who doesn’t want to look more like the Cross-fit guy who can do a handstand pushup, or have the wit of a Ryan Gossling meme, or party like a celebrity who has a yacht the size of your house. Social media says you’re not interesting enough. You’re not thin or ripped enough. You’re not good enough for anyone to like you, or retweet you, or validate your existence.
We need to stop being filled-up with all these negative messages that the devil just loves to shower on us and be full-filled in all of the TRUE and REAL messages God gives us. No one is immune to bad days, but when you are filled by His grace in the Sacraments, in Scripture, in community, in prayer, in serving others, and in the knowledge and understanding that you are LOVED, then your life starts to look really awesome.
4. Less looking down. More looking out.
Besides looking the Hunchback of Notre Dame, most of us don’t think twice about flipping out our phones, zoning out from real world conversations, and turning our heads down at our screens. I was over at a friends house the other day and noticed myself looking at my phone while my friend was talking. That’s totally rude and totally not cool.
It’s time to stop looking down and start looking up. I want to appreciate someone’s presence by sharing my own presence. And I can’t start to see Jesus in the other person if I don’t even look at them. And I can’t start to see the world around me if I’m always looking down at my phone. We forget about the kid eating lunch alone, the girl who is pregnant and feels lost, the fearful friend who needs your comfort, and the homeless man who doesn’t just need a handout but needs you to know his name. And it all starts with looking at the other person in eye.
5. More Jesus. More Whole Life.
Lent isn’t about what we can’t do, or what we give up, or what extra things we might be encouraged to do. Lent is about growing in relationship with Jesus. When I grow in relationship with Jesus my life, my friendships, my time all start to look differently. When I begin to love Jesus more, I begin to love others more. And when I love others more, I begin to love myself more.
If Lent was just about giving up stuff then I wouldn’t find any grace giving up social media. I would feel like I’m giving up a significant part of the way I connect with others, experience culture, and find value in my life.
But because Lent is about life with Jesus Christ, these crosses, these small inconveniences or struggles help me grow in virtue and holiness. They help me become a whole person. They make me come alive.
Whatever you give up this Lent, make sure it helps you grow closer to Christ. Enjoy and embrace the sacrifices that make you grow closer to Christ and to others. These are the moments that help you become a saint. And if you’re done taking a picture of latte art, why don’t you put your phone down and join me in giving up social media this Lent.