I’m not yet two weeks into my Lenten fast from Facebook (or, FB to those in the know). I suppose I should tell you that I really like FB. Most days, most of the day it sits on the alert, standing post next to Gmail and my Biola email account in case I should need a distraction. Such faithful friends, these applications. As good friends do, I return the favor with plenty of face-time. I’m almost shocked when it occurs to me that less than two years ago I hadn’t heard of FB. (Just as my students are shocked when they hear of the hazy days of yesteryear when we didn’t have email or cell phones. That we survived at all is cause for celebration.) So giving up one of my three technological BFF’s means something.
Or at least, I thought it would mean something. In reality, saying adios to FB has been remarkably easy — and this is anything but a sly mid-Lent moment of self-congratulation. I just don’t really miss it. I mean, I miss the occasional scan through my friends’ status updates. After a long day, if I’m feeling a bit disconnected relationally, I might miss the guarantee of an instant online connection with an old friend. (The most significant pain and pleasure has come in loosing myself from this guarantee, thus creating space for quiet, reflection and something a little bit closer to true solitude.)
With me as accomplice, FB insinuated itself into my life to the point that it came to be a need. Being off it, I am discovering how needless it is. They call it quitting ‘cold turkey’, but this has none of the shakes, dry heaves and moments of desperation. Where the addictions do parallel, though, is in a similar sense that I just have to do this, that a day without FB is a day where something’s gone wrong, maybe a day where I can’t be happy. I likely would have told you that I don’t ‘need’ FB, that it’s just something I enjoy. Fact is, I think it’s become a felt need in my life. Three cheers, though, for fasting — a practice in which we learn the different between felt needs and real needs. A practice, indeed, where we learn that what we really need is not FB, is not even bread alone.