Athena in Progress

Giving up social media for Lent: a digital detox

Giving up social media for Lent: a digital detox

What’s up with the weather this year?

It’s complete insanity.

It’s briefly snowed here twice in Las Vegas in the past few weeks.

That’s incredibly unusual, especially this late in the winter season.

Father Bill joked at mass this evening that he’s been dreaming of a white Ash Wednesday!

In case you couldn’t tell, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent in the Catholic Church.

Lent is a time of reflection, sacrifice, and self-discipline for Catholics worldwide.

There are three aspects of Lent that Catholics are strongly encouraged to practice: fasting, praying and almsgiving.

Doing so lets us practice self-control and focus on spiritual growth, which informs our personal growth.

So when someone says, “I’m giving up X for Lent,” they mean they’re fasting from sinful behavior.

Now, “sinful behavior” sounds like a loaded term; depending on who you are, it can be.

To me, conscious transgressions are the sins you should give up for Lent.

Those are things that you can train yourself to be aware of, prompting you to make the conscious effort to change.

This graphic from Catholic-Link is an excellent starting point.

Things to give up for Lent that aren’t chocolate: gossip, hot showers, bread, electricity, saying “I think,” making excuses, and sleeping in

This Lenten season, I chose to give up social media.

One persistent mental health concern is my relationship with social media.

It’s a crutch, a brick wall between what I could be doing and what I end up doing.

It doesn’t bring me joy, but I’m addicted to the cheap, bombastic thrill of peeking into other people’s lives and feeling like I’m not alone in my weirdness.

And I love a good dog video.

I’ve completed digital detoxes several times over the years, but somehow, it’s different when it’s for Lent.

Let’s break it down together, shall we?

Benefits of giving up social media

Let’s talk about social media’s role in our culture right now.

The mechanisms of social media are a ubiquitous part of our lives.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

There’s no argument about that.

We use social media to connect or reconnect with friends and family, disseminate news to many people quickly, stay informed about breaking news, learn what you didn’t learn in a classroom, and market our businesses.

However, excessive use of social media can negatively affect our mental health and well-being.

It’s tough to admit, but I’m one of those people.

Studies show that social media use can lead to anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness.

The MIT study I linked was for college students, but it applies to most of us.

Giving up social media for Lent can be a way to break this cycle.

Walking away from sinful behavior for a more meaningful cause can be a difficult decision, but it can also be empowering.

By taking a break from social media’s constant noise and distractions, we can focus on important causes and make a real difference in our spiritual lives.

Many people have used social media to spread negativity and hate, and walking away from it for 40 days and 40 nights can be a way to promote positivity and kindness instead.

It seems silly to say it that way, but who doesn’t want more genuine positivity and kindness?

Alternatives to social media

Giving up social media doesn’t mean disconnecting completely.

There are many other ways to stay connected with friends and family that don’t involve social media.

You can try the following:

  • schedule a phone or video call,
  • send handwritten letters or cards, and
  • plan in-person meetups when and where it’s safe.

These alternatives can be more meaningful and fulfilling than the empty gesture of simply liking a post or commenting on a photo.

Of course, this all depends on if you have the emotional bandwidth to want to make those connections.

I enjoy solitude but am not entirely against wanting to connect with another human.

I didn’t get this far in life by being an emotional hermit.

Whether volunteering, donating to a charity, or simply spending more time with loved ones, walking away from social media can lead to a more fulfilling and purposeful life.

It’s all about how you approach it.

Final thoughts

Who doesn’t get addicted to the dopamine hit of strangers and your distant cousin acknowledging the blurry picture of your latest meal?

I know I do.

We should be questioning why, though.

Why are we, as human beings on this Earth, addicted to that feeling?

I’m interested in identifying and exploring ways to heal from it.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t give up blogging this year.

I don’t see blogging as social media, although they’re often grouped together.

To me, blogging is a different experience.

I don’t do this for the comments.

If someone reads this and never returns here, I won’t lose sleep over it.

Meanwhile, my heart jumps over the moon if something I posted or reposted on my timeline gets traction.

If I post something that I think should get traction – and doesn’t – then I can feel my energy sinking.

I used to take it personally when this happened, but I don’t let it stop me anymore.

I’ll always be a tiny fish in the big social media pond, and competing with others was draining my emotional bandwidth.

I know that giving up social media for Lent will be a challenging but rewarding experience.

I’m trying to break the wheel here like Daenerys Targaryen within the constraints of my faith.

By focusing on personal growth, I know I will walk away with a more critical eye on my relationship with social media.

Hopefully, I’ll be feeling spiritually renewed and emotionally refreshed too.

So why not try a digital detox this Lenten season?

You might be surprised at how much you gain from giving up social media.

Published by Guilliean Pacheco

Guilliean Pacheco (she/her) is a Filipino-American full-stack writer by day and raconteuse by night. She earned her M.F.A. in Writing from the University of San Francisco and is an Anaphora Arts poetry fellow. She's also a member of AIR, IWW FJU, and Uproot. She’s a misplaced California girl who lives in Las Vegas normally, if one could call living there normal, on Southern Paiute land.

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