Fasting From Facebook
Well I’m down to my last three days… On the 31st of December I signed off of my Facebook account and I haven’t been back on since that time. During this time I’ve still used email, and I’ve talked with friends and colleagues on the phone, but for the past few weeks my social networking done specifically via Facebook has been on hold. You may ask why I have made this decision; the answer is really quite simple. Every year during the month of January I fast from something for an entire month. Every year is different, and some are more challenging than others. For example, last year I gave up coffee; which was without a doubt the most challenging fast I’ve ever done. In fact when I gave up the coffee I had friends tell me that I was insane, and by the end of that month I was beginning to wonder if they were indeed correct. This year when I announced that I was going to fast from Facebook one of my friends, who shall remain nameless, asked me why I didn’t give up something that was a little easier to live without. My response to that question was this; “giving up something easy is pointless.” I’ve always figured that for the absence of something to have any effect on me it must be something of value. Making the decision I did this year was difficult because Facebook has always been my connection to those whom I’m geographically separated from.
As hard as it was for me to do, I’ve always seen giving up something in January as my as a way for me to get back to my spiritual basics, which is something that has been so necessary for me at the moment, being that right now I’m feeling completely burned out, both physically and spiritually. My goal for the time that I would normally spend doing the social networking thing was to not only ask, but more importantly answer this question; how can I engage more deeply with God during this time? In asking this question over the last three weeks I’ve found that the answers are as varying as the times that I ask it. Here about a year ago I came to the conclusion that having 3 social networking accounts was more of a hindrance than a benefit. So I looked at the situation and decided that 2 of them had to go. Being that Facebook was the one that I used the most it was the one I kept, and the other two got the boot.
I thought it would be a hard thing to do, but truly it wasn’t… it was actually a breath of fresh air to my soul. What I thought I would miss, I didn’t. The fact that I didn’t miss Xanga or MySpace somewhat surprised me at first. But when I thought about it I rediscovered something about myself, something that I had known all along but chose to ignore; that I’ve always been a person that prefers actual face to face communication. I would much rather meet for coffee and visit with a person than send an email or talk on the phone. As a society we, and those in ministry are no exception, try to cram so much in our lives that we end up abbreviating when and how we communicate with people.
I find that I get so tired of electronic forms of communication; did I mention the fact that I hate my cell phone? Anne Jackson is absolutely correct when she says that “the web creates connection, but not community.” Connections are good, and many times necessary, but the fact remains that God created us for community, first with Him and secondly with others. Social networking can be a positive thing, but that which can be used for good can also take a form that is anything but good; we must never forget that a genuine relationship requires genuine face to face contact with another person. For me the biggest lesson I’ve learned from this whole experience is that I’ve found that fasting from not only social networking, but technology in general strips away the clutter of modern life. I’ve come to the conclusion that unplugging yourself, for awhile anyway, from our multitasking obsessed world is a healthy thing to do, for both our physical and spiritual wellbeing.
For me there have always been days that my computer doesn’t even get turned on, but it happens more now than it used to. If we’re accessible to others 24-7 the potential exists for us to put ourselves and others, rather than God, at the center of our lives. Intentionally unplugging, even for brief periods, really does help us realign a healthy balance in our lives. So am I going to shut down my Facebook account after this fast is over? No, I’m not planning on it, but there’s a part of me that wants to. This whole process has impressed upon me the importance of valuing my time with God and others more than I was accustomed to doing. If you’ve never done a fast from social networking or technology in some form or another, I encourage you to consider doing so… it may be hard at first but I guarantee that you’ll reap true benefits in the end.