Thoughts on a Lenten Fast

Twitter logoFor the first time in a few years, I decided to give up something for Lent this year (I have done Ash Wednesday and Good Friday food fasts the past couple years). I had been feeling the urge for some time to take a social media break anyway, so this gave me a good excuse.


First, some of the miscellaneous observations so far:

My BlackBerry battery lasts about twice as long. How much of that was directly from the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram apps operating in the background vs how much was because the screen isn’t on as often for me to check it, I can’t say for sure, but I would guess the former because of the next point. If we’re talking about practicalities of living a bit more simply, this is a more significant one than I thought – I don’t have to worry about my phone being dead by the end of a work day plus Home Church, for example.

I do still compulsively look at my phone a lot. I often open my Feedly app the same way I have with Twitter in the past. That doesn’t get far, because the odds of a new article appearing in those 30 seconds is pretty tiny, but it seems to be my main compulsion to fill the Twitter habit.

I have accomplished a lot more, at least in the obvious practical sense (I don’t want to downplay the value of relationship-building on social media). Usually after compulsively checking Feedly three times, instead I go to BlackBerry Remember, the core task list app. I feel like my task lists are much more organized than they have been in a while – not counting my day job’s, which I’ve always kept fairly organized.

That’s resulted in good work done for MennoNerds, mainly with podcasts and the next edition of the website. That’s also resulted in me reviving my small business and picking up at least one more freelance project, with one more likely in the wings. That’s resulted in me organizing the terabytes of data on my computer – I may not be a hoarder of physical goods, but I am a digital hoarder, and it felt good to purge videos from 12 years ago I haven’t watched since. It’s resulted in me reading more, not necessarily books but at least actually reading from my Feedly instead of only skimming titles.

An Easy Fast?

The strangest thing for me is probably how little I miss it. Lenten fasts aren’t supposed to be easy, but this one actually hasn’t been that hard for me so far. Yeah, I probably still have 10 times a day when I think “I should tweet that,” but to be fair, I probably already had that many and didn’t tweet most of them then either – whether because sober second thought kicked in and made me realize it was a bad idea or because I wasn’t near a phone or just plain laziness.

During the recent MennoNerds panel, I did go on Twitter, but only to the MennoNerds account. The fast was from my personal social media, so it doesn’t count as breaking it. I don’t think it crossed my mind once that I may as well just take a look at my account while I was in there. I went in, did the job, and left. I wonder if I can get my personal account usage to be more like that.

That gets to another point that I’m not quite sure what to do with: I’m past the stage of my life where I feel like I need to have my voice heard on the Internet. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve likely noticed that I retweet others about 10 times as often as I tweet anything original, and I automatically post new articles on MennoNerds as well. My own posts sort of get drowned out. And I’m completely ok with that.

For the fans of the enneagram, I’m a 2: I find my worth primarily in helping others. I like being the support system, not the guy who you’re actually listening to say brilliant things. I organize MennoNerds podcasts, run the tech off-camera, edit them and distribute. I maintain the MennoNerds website. I’m fine being the vocal leader when that’s what’s best for the community in question, but that’s usually going to be at the local level, not in declaring my attempts at wisdom to the strangers of the Internet. Tweeting and Facebooking doesn’t fill that desire for me, at least not anymore.

Usually we say that Lent should be a hard sacrifice. I thought this would be, but I realized instead that I tend to put a lot more energy into something that really isn’t worth it to me. That’s not to say I’ll give up social media entirely for good – that’s not practical for a young I.T. professional – but it is definitely a bit more perspective on its place.

What About This Blog?

That leaves an obvious question for this blog: why do I still bother? I’m still chewing on that.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.