In previous generations, chocolate or candy was probably one of the most popular things to "give up" as a penance for the 40 days of Lent. Today, a growing number of U.S. Catholics are choosing to give up Facebook.
In the past week, I've read (on Facebook, ironically) about a number of friends who are unplugging for 40 days from social networking or even the from entire Internet, or at least personal use of it.
Good for them. I'm not questioning or debating anyone's individual choice about how best to practice the spiritual disciplines of fasting, prayer and almsgiving during this spiritual season. And, for many, social networking can be an unhealthy distraction that takes away from work, in-person relationships or prayer time. Certainly worthy of fasting from--at least temporarily.
But let me tell you why I won't be giving up Facebook for Lent.
I just finished scrolling through my friends' Facebook status updates from this morning, and about three quarters of them mention Ash Wednesday or offer a link to some spiritual sustenance.
"Many years ago, when this cub reporter was covering religion, the first edition of a brave, feisty, independent publication called National Catholic Reporter showed up at my desk. From that day forward, NCR became my template for excellent reporting. It has become one of my trusted spiritual guides, as well."
- NCR contributor
* My friend Mary DeTurris Poust linked to this cool idea from the Archdiocese of Denver of wearing black wristbands to remind us of our sacrifices during Lent.
For those of us who network with spiritual friends, social networking can be a religious resource, even an occasion of grace. I would hate to miss out on that for 40 days.