It’s Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday as Anglicans call it. “Maundy” is such a funny-sounding word, an idiosyncrasy in normally-impaccable Anglican taste. I was told by my bishop in his sermon on Wednesday that it’s an English corruption of the Latin “mandatum” or commandment. I live for little tidbits like that; don’t you?
I’m not quite up with my mandatum today; we are committed to an evening Good Friday service and are going to try to attend an Easter Vigil, so it seemed prudent to give the nearly-fourteen-month-old a night off before that marathon. We had a little foot-washing service with just the three of us, a plastic bowl, warm water from the sink, and a collect or two. It was just right for our little family. Tomorrow we join our church family, and the day after that our wider Christian family.
Anyway, this seemed like a good moment to stop and reflect a little on my lenten Facebook fast, before it’s quite over.
The first week was pretty rough. I kept finding that I thought in Facebook statuses. Do you know what I mean? My guess is that our brains get trained to formulate thoughts in the shape that we normally express them, and I was translating my experiences into pithy bits of shareable cleverness. I would have these thoughts, and without the ability to “share” them online, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. It felt kind of awful, to be honest. Quickly I realized I could deal with this by actually saying these status-sized thoughts out loud – saying them to my husband, or texting them to someone. That took the edge off. It was a little odd sometimes, but as often as not it led to a real conversation – turning the same content into more valuable social currency! Hoorah!
Practically speaking, my life hasn’t been that much different. A few extra-loyal friends got around my fast by sending me things on Pinterest (looking at you, Mackey!), which I finally figured out how to use efficiently. But my usual Facebook scrolling on my phone or computer was, to a large extent, just replaced by scrolling through my Feedly (my mostly-adequate replacement for the late Google Reader; may it rest in peace). It wasn’t quite the same, though, because it wasn’t such a bottomless pit of addictive time-suck like Facebook is for me. Catching up on blogs and webcomics is limited (I didn’t add any new feeds, and deleted a few) and while I often link to highly edifying articles on Facebook, my Feedly has limited inputs and is focused around my specific interests. So I don’t end up with as broad a pool of incoming information, but that pool goes a little deeper. That was restful for my easily-scattered brain, and brought some back-burner interests to the front. I caught up on my favorite farm blogs, for example; without that inspiration, I might not have dived into locavorism and food justice for my final Christian ethics paper. (I’m having a delightful time going through a pile of forty-something books; I’ll probably post it here when it’s done in a couple weeks.)
Still, the problem of distraction remained, and that’s pretty major. I struggle, like I suppose (or hope?) many other moms like me do, with wanting to noodle around on my phone while my kid is playing with blocks. Which is all well and good; sometimes Naomi really does like to play by herself. But not that much! A few weeks ago I got accepted to a summer chaplaincy internship, which means I will go from full-time stay-at-home-mom to full-time working-mom for ten solid weeks. I realized all at once last week that my time just sitting around with Naomi while she plays with blocks is limited. It was always going to be limited, but I wasn’t so acutely aware of it before. So I started giving up my phone entirely on Sundays, and tried to stay more aware of it the rest of the time.
But really, when it comes to Facebook itself, I’ve been surprised how little I’ve missed it. I do miss the people I only connected with that way; I haven’t done as good a job keeping up with y’all on Messenger as I’d hoped. But I have made some more in-person connections, which I’m quite grateful for.
It took a while, but the status-sharing urge wore off almost completely. In time my thoughts got longer, especially as the things I was reading got longer. First longer blog posts, then articles, then during the last couple of weeks I’ve been swallowing multiple books whole on a daily basis for paper research. I’ve had plenty of writing to do as the semester has wound down. I’ve had some wonderful opportunities for longer conversations with different people, and I’ve been learning a lot about listening. I haven’t thought about it before now, but I’m starting to wonder if this isn’t all the feeling of my attention span coming back.
I won’t stay off Facebook after Lent, but I expect I will keep my FB presence relatively scaled back. I do think my kiddo deserves more internet privacy than I’ve been giving her, though I’m not going to be a Nazi about it. And after all – I’m seriously hoping at this point to become a priest. It’s just a reality of the profession that my social media presence will have to be pretty controlled if I work with a flock someday! Thankfully I am surrounded by many good examples, so I’m not too worried about learning how to do that authentically and appropriately.
I guess I realized that my issues with Facebook are much less about communication and being “social” and more about technology. After all, in the end, Facebook is just a website, and the relationship it gives me to my phone is way more intimate than the one it provides me to any actual humans. It’s useful, and I intend to keep on using it … but hopefully more as a tool to facilitate real relationships with the people I’m connecting with, rather than as a replacement for the same.
How have y’all’s Lenten fasts gone?