Lent and Facebook

Last year, several people told me they were planning to give up Facebook for Lent. (Other friends of mine have “fasted” from Facebook at other times for varying lengths of time.)

To the extent that any discipline provides some benefit to us, I can’t quarrel with those who pick this particular form of Lenten discipline. But I came across what seems to me a potentially far batter Facebook Lenten practice in a short piece by a Jesuit named Jim McDermott in a rectne issue of a Jesuit newsletter.

Fr. McDermott suggests sitting in front of one’s computer and beginning (as we always begin our prayer) by becoming aware that one is in the presence of God. He then suggests wandering through the status updates and walls of your friends without any particular aim in mind. Just be aware and let your self be affected by what you read, sitting with whatever reactions are stirred up.

After doing this for 10 or 15 minutes, Fr. Mc Dermott suggests turning off the program and just sitting, noting where your attention is drawn and what emotions are stirring. Allow whatever desire is in you to surface. It may be a desire to say a prayer for someone. Perhaps it is a desire to reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Maybe there is a kindness you want to perform for someone. “Whatever you desire, commit yourself to doing it.

End your practice with a prayer of gratitude.

My recommendation with all prayer practices that are new to you is to try it. If you like it, keep doing it. If not, don’t. But it strikes me that this offers a potentially more meaningful way to turn Facebook into a spiritual practice than simply staying away from it for a period of time.