Sandy Springs: Ditching my social network for Lent

I’m not one who annually surrenders something for the season of Lent, but I just did and I’m surprised at the feeling I have ventured out onto thin ice.

When we’re kids and the notion of giving something up for 40 days is mentioned we usually offer up child-minded options. At various times in the past I’ve offered to give up green vegetables, cleaning my room and homework — cue laugh track. One year I thought about giving up attending church, but that was the kind of thing mom and dad would not see the humor in, nor forget quickly.

Later in life I pledged to give up sugar, which didn’t take. Another year I gave up alcohol and made it through the season. This year I decided to follow suit with some other friends and give up Facebook.

At first it almost seemed to border on sacrilege. It sounded like the immature self-serving sacrifices of my youth. At the age of 53 did I really want to be pulling this stunt connected to a religious holiday?

On my FB page I typed in: “Signing off for Lent. If you need I have this old thing called e-mail that still works just dandy. See you at Easter. God bless & HECK YEAH!” But as I was about to hit the “submit” key on the keyboard I froze. And that bothered me.

Social networking — by that I mean anything other than e-mail — has not been a fact of my daily life all that long. I’m not sure I’ve been active on Facebook for more than 18 months. But there I was hesitating on making a public commitment for something I thought was inconsequential.

Today we communicate by phone, text, e-mail — and social networking. I can’t do without the first three for business as well as personal reasons. However, why such a sense of ambivalence over putting Facebook in neutral?

Perhaps it’s is the facility of being in touch with so many friends. I have a link to my community and am used to knowing what is happening in their lives a sentence at a time. I know when their kids announce their engagements, or their latest dessert recipe using bacon, or that they just ran a marathon in a record time.

It is strange to think that I have gotten to know so much more about so many friends without spending time with them face-to-face. Do I really want to shut that channel off for 40 days?

Will I miss it? No doubt. What will I do to fill the void? Maybe have a few more actual conversations. Maybe I will take pen to paper and write some real letters.

Hopefully, I’ll spend some of that time with the God of my understanding in contemplation and meditation. Put that way, perhaps I’m not giving much up.

Jim Osterman lives in Sandy Springs.