7 ways to give up the Internet for Lent.

In case you hadn’t heard, Lent started. And do you know what’s the number 1 thing people will be giving up, based on a short survey I made up in my head? The Internet.

Mark my words: The only thing Christians like more than the Internet is taking a break from it. A digital fast if you will, where you swear off the Internet or a particular flavor of social media for a prolonged period of time. (The irony is that if you are on a digital fast right now you won’t be able to read my helpful article about it. Have a heathen friend read it to you.)

Since you missed the start of Lent, maybe instead you can do a good old-fashioned digital fast. (By “old” I mean circa 2007, which in Internet time is approximately 87 years ago.) But how do you do it? What are the rules? How do you take a really good, really helpful digital fast? The Bible is very thin on the best way to wean yourself off a Twitter addiction. Not once does Peter say, “Follow me on Twitter, I’m @Rock.” Or better yet for all you old school rap fans out there, “@PeteRock.”

So today, in case you’re curious about starting a digital fast, I thought it might be good to review the 7 steps:

Step 1: Go online crazy.
Unless you’re online all the time, it’s really not a big, dramatic deal for you to go offline. So the first thing you’re going to want to do is make sure you’re online 24 hours a day. Tweet everything that happens to you, no matter how insignificant. “Just ate a sandwich. Ever thought about that word? It has ‘sand’ in it. That would be gross if they really have sand in them.” Change your Facebook status roughly every 90 seconds. Update your blog as frequent as Lowell said something dumb in the television program Wings. (Old school topical!)

Step 2: Write a blog post about taking a digital fast.
The irony of writing online about how you are going to take some time from being online is so rich that it’s like a delicious sandwich spread made of boysenberry and irony. Technically, the Bible says we’re not supposed to tell people when we fast. Maybe posts on your blog don’t count. Maybe.

Step 3: Start a Twitter countdown.
You might have missed the start of Lent, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start your own digital fast next week. Every day, in the week leading up to your digital fast, tell people how many days until you take your digital fast. Or start a group on Facebook called “Friends taking a break from Facebook.” The goal is to make sure you get as much attention possible about your very private, very personal digital fast.

Step 4: Go offline.
For a predetermined amount of time, just log off. Don’t check email or fantasy sports scores or Facebook or anything else. And say things like this to your friends: “Oh man, I know how smokers feel when they quit. This is hard.”

Step 5: After a week, go back online.
Make a triumphant return. Maybe write a blog with a headline from Eminem, “Guess who’s back, back again? Guess who’s back? Tell a friend!” Jump back online with both feet.

Step 6: Share the valuable lessons you learned while on your digital fast.
Turn three days offline into 10 days of blog material. Try to use the words, “community” and “fellowship” a lot, as if you suddenly discovered the real meaning of those during your 72-hour hiatus. If possible, post photos of you doing non-digital things, like flying a kite or making a sailboat or getting cats out of trees for people in your neighborhood.

Step 7: Return right back to your pre-digital fast amount of online consumption.
This wasn’t about learning or praying or anything like that. This was about digital showmanship. You were like an Internet David Blaine holding your breath offline for three days straight. Return to the Internet like David Blaine would return to dating models after a three-day hiatus in a solid block of ice.

Hopefully, these steps will help you with your first digital fast. I can’t wait to read all about it online and in the email newsletter you create. Just promise me you won’t do what my friends who are actually giving up the Internet for Lent are doing. Praying, being contemplative, serving people, having long conversations where you actually talk to the people you’re with, instead of texting other people you’re not with! There was no drama in either of those decisions. Where’s the fun in that?

Have you or a friend ever taken a digital fast?

Did you give something up for Lent?

(This is a Throwback Thursday post from a few years ago.)

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Comments

  1. Amy W says

    I’m trying to decide what to say without being totally judge-y. Lol I grew up in a denomination that didn’t observe Lent. It was just Good Friday and Easter for us. My current church (non-denom) observes it and it’s still new to me. They had the Lent service last night but I didn’t go. My thought on giving things up for Lent.
    Why are chocolate, smoking, Facebook, tv, cokes, etc only “bad” during Lent?? :)

    I’m not looking for a debate, so please don’t get offended because no offense was intended.

    • Mary Beth says

      I grew up in (and am still a member of) a denomination that observes Lent. You don’t necessarily have to GIVE UP something for Lent. God might be calling you to take something ON for Lent. The idea is to be prayerful about the choice and the choice (taking something on or giving something up) should create a meaningful sacrifice.

    • Jenni says

      It’s not that they’re “bad,” it’s that they are important to me (or you, or whoever.) And by giving them up for this season, I’m saying (more to remind myself than to remind God, if you ask me) that he is more important to me than chocolate, tv, or coke, even though I like those things a lot.
      Lent acts as a season of humility, repentance, and reflection, and of recognizing our humanness and vast inability to earn our salvation.

      The fast isn’t nearly as much about the thing you give up, as the act/process of giving it up.

      I hope that helps! Lent is a new thing for me too, but the more I learn, the more I like it!

    • David says

      They’re not bad, of themselves. The point is to control yourself, rather than letting the world control you.

      I’m Catholic, and for Lent, Catholics shouldn’t eat meat on Friday. But I extended this practice to every Friday, so what can I fast from during Lent? Besides which, I love fish, so it’s not really a sacrifice to give up meat. Anyway, I’m fasting from wine on the Fridays of Lent.

      This practice is sort of a short-term New Year’s resolution…I hope that helps!

  2. Amy W says

    (The following is said in jest. No offense intended)

    And if you’re going to give up social media/internet for Lent…go hardcore! Cut it out completely!! No checking in at 5am-6am or just on Mondays at 10pm. And throw the tv in there too because tv time can be bible reading time. Right?? :) :)

    • Scott says

      You say that in jest, but it’s exactly the point. The giving up or doing more during Lent is about sacrifice. If I only drink 1 coke per week and give up coke for Lent, that’s not really sacrificial and therefore I’m not fully engaging in the purpose of Lent. Along those same lines, if I give up facebook for Lent, I can’t spend the Monday after Easter going through the past 40 days of posts on my newsfeed; that’s not sacrificing, that’s procrastinating.

      • Patti says

        “That’s not sacrificing, that’s procrastinating”…one of the greatest things I’ve read today. Awesome perspective.

  3. Kristi says

    Like the others here, I grew up in a church where Lent was observed but I don’t remember as a child even as a teenager being told we were to give something up for Lent. And then we had a new Pastor and he encouraged us to make a meaningful sacrafice during the Lenten season. And about five years ago, I thought why does it have to be something that I won’t do or eat! Why can’t my sacrafice be something I WILL do for the Lord! So every Lenten season, I pledge to do something good for myself and/or others!

    • David says

      Exactly. Also, why just for Lent? Why not carry it into the rest of the year? 5 years ago, I started doing something extra. I prayed the Divine Office during Lent, and then carried it into the rest of the year. The next year, I started reading the Gospels, and carried that through, though since fell away from it. Then I started going to daily Mass every day. This year, I walked a mile each way to and from Mass, but lately have fallen off due to work requirements. For Lent, I’m walking to the Church, whether there’s a Mass at that time or not, just to pay a visit to Jesus.

  4. LarryTheDeuce says

    A friend of mine said her boyfriend wasn’t going to drink as much for Lent. I’m not going to tweet as much. Going to drop it down a notch from near Twitter jail to just plain annoying.

  5. Chanel says

    We don’t do lent in our church. However, I find this actually very challenging. People, relantionships, serving (among others) have been on my heart the past couple of days. Thanks for sharing this. Most people these days have their electronic devices glued to their hands (including me). How cool would it be to have a change of scenery? Once again, thanks!

  6. Lazarus says

    When people I know observe Lent, it becomes its own thing. In other words, I think they are worshipping their Lent or fast, and not focusing on what they should be focusing on.

    Lent is often a fad they are really excited about. And after 40 days, the fad is dead.

    Like Swatch Watches or Menudo.

  7. Dori says

    You could write a million more SCL posts, but I will always say, “Yeah, it’s funny. But remember that time he referenced Lowell from Wings?” Classic!

  8. Bret says

    It’s not that Lent is a magical time where you get double points with God for sacrificing something. In fact, it’s not the only time in the year when you can/should sacrifice something. But Lent is a reminder. It reminds us that Jesus fasted for 40 days. It reminds us that things get in the way of us following Jesus. And so maybe it’s a chance to put those things aside to focus more on Him.

    It would be awesome if we practiced this more often, stripping away things that slow us down (Hebrews 12:1), whether they’re good or bad. Author Bob Goff has made a practice of quitting something in his life every Thursday. Might be big, might be small, but the point is it calls for reflection and action. What is slowing me down in my life? Why not quit it? If you give up something you love during Lent, you might realize you love it too much and need to cut it out of your life permanently, or at least trim it down, if it’s taking God’s place.

    One problem with how Christians observe Lent today is that we skip the part about Jesus and go right to the sacrifice. Because the sacrifice shows off my piety, my devotion. Look how devoted I am during these 40 days! I’m a true believer.

    If we look at it as a way to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, then our focus is on his footsteps, not ours.

    And I’m not telling you if I gave up something for Lent. I’m shooting for double points rewards in heaven. ;-)

  9. Jeff says

    As someone that has observed Lent for a number of years I was fortunate enough to have Lent and the giving up of something for Lent explained to me this way. It is a time of year where we practice and strengthen our self control. The idea of giving up something is to exert self control over our lives. And it is a time to examine our lives to see if we have acquired any habits that we need to exert self control over.

    • Grace says

      Agreed! My understanding as well…that Lent is not about the fasting as much as the resistance to temptation.

      Jesus didn’t just go out into the desert and fast…he was tempted by the devil. I always thought the point was that in his weakened state due to the fast he was still able to keep his wits about him and stay on purpose.

      So to me, Lent is not about “giving up” as much as it is about “lining up” and strengthening my spiritual priorities. Because…and don’t forget the last line of the story…the adversary promises to come back “at a more opportune time.”

  10. ClintM says

    I gave up Facebook for lent in March 2012. I have yet to return. The first month was very hard to break the habit because every time I picked up my phone or opened my laptop it was a natural instinct to open Facebook.

    But honestly, after the first month I never looked back. It’s amazing how quickly we can adapt.

  11. Grace says

    My commitment for Lent is to START and SEE THROUGH a Lenten devotional study/small group via email for those of us who cannot attend in person. Right now I have five people who volunteered to try it out. I take our church’s study guide and break it down in daily email pieces — similar to Jon’s 30-day email challenge. The best part — of course — is that it forces me to follow along with the devotional because I’m facilitating it! (And — it makes good use of digital communication.)

  12. Steve Rosberg says

    Why are christians giving up anything for Lent? Lent is for catholics and its a false doctrine. Stop being fooled christians!!

    • Cheryl in France says

      bgb Lent originated in the Catholic church, and at its basest ‘definition’ it isn’t teaching false doctrine (it’s not really ‘doctrine’ at all, if doctrine is defined as ‘a creed or body of teachings of a religious, political, or philosophical group presented for acceptance or belief; dogma’). It’s an observation, more precisely, it’s the 40 days period leading up to Easter (which represents the 40 days Jesus fasted and was tempted in the desert).

      Observing this period is meant to help us conform to be more like Christ, by experiencing a tiny fraction of the suffering and temptation that He did during that time by self-denial of things that are precious to us. When we are then tempted by those things, we are reminded of what Jesus did.

      I grew up Catholic, am a Protestant missionary now- I think that the roots of Lent are accessible to every Christian. Where it gets tricky and stuff are the little rules that people have added along the way (Sundays aren’t part of Lent, therefore you can have the thing you gave up or ‘I gave up beer and wine, so I’ll only drink whiskey’- true story of a friend of my parents!). Anyway, I think it can be a valuable tool in helping someone feel closer to God and really having a better understanding, however small, of what Jesus actually did…

  13. Christy says

    I’ve fasted Instagram numerous times. The longest I went was for a month & I fasted make up too because I wanted The Lord to help me work on my self image. It was a really awesome fast. And every time I fast IG, I’m less stressed out, more clear headed & less concerned about me in the sight of others’ approval. I think the time away has made a difference in using it now, but sometimes I wish I could just be off the grid completely.

    Totally agree about people doing the fast & posting about it or just saying they finished & can’t wait to be back & be distracted again. Really?

  14. D V. Aguiar says

    GD wants mercy not sacrifice. Regenerate people do not believe in mocking their savior by “SACRIFICING” some trivial thing for forty days as if this will please the Father. The Holy Spirit will reveal to anyone willing to follow that we are to honor GD daily which is our spiritual duty and not give something up for forty days . WARNING- GD in His holy word tells us HE WILL NOT BE MOCKED!!!

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