So we’re a good two months into the New Year and we’ve been working hard at our New Years Resolutions. Most of us have been eating healthy, hitting the gym every morning at 5am and reading our Bible everyday, right?!
Of course not. New Years resolutions hardly ever work. They’re just not sustainable. If you are waiting for an arbitrary date to start to change, you’re not really going to change.
Maybe then, the approach we should take is not to start doing something but to stop doing something. That’s where Lent comes in.
But sometimes this is just as difficult. In fact it’s not as simple as I’ve made out in that many of our New Years resolutions consist of not just taking up new habits or making new goals but quitting things in order to achieve our goals.
So our goal to lose weight may partly require us to go to the gym more but it will also require us to put down the bacon butty. I’ve never been good at achieving new goals. Making goals, I’m great at. Who isn’t? I’ll even do pretty well for a week or two. It’s the maintaining goals that most of us suck at.
I didn’t intend it this way, but I see this post as the final part of a mini blog trilogy on change. The first two focused on why we want to change and how conforming prevents us from being able to change.
But here I want to think about the role that Social media in particular plays in the first two.
At the core of any change is a realization that this is not how it should be. Whatever it is. Maybe it’s something personal, or an injustice that we see that we know needs to be put right. It’s that gut feeling that there is something more here that I want. You don’t even need to know what “that” is, but you feel it.
Right now, that’s enough.
When we think about our motivation for change, a lot of it comes down to how we perceive others perceive us. Do we sound smart, Holy enough, do we look good, do we have enough money, are we married and do we have kids by “now”?
Social media has made it increasingly easier to share every aspect of our lives, quickly and immediately. At least the parts we want people to see. I’ll happily post a picture of Brit and I with Watson in the park loving life. I’m less likely to live tweet the argument we had yesterday about how I’m always on my phone. Maybe that’s why I shouldn’t live tweet our arguments.
The reason I will post fun pictures or try to sound smart is because I care what you think about me. A lot. Like really, a lot. I want all the accolades, without any of the actual hard work. I want you to think of me as a great guy, without actually investing any time in you or your life. I want to stand up for principles without actually going out on the street to quite literally, stand up for those principles.
And this is exactly why Social media is a killer for NYR or Lent or anytime we want to change.
When we post our goals online for the world to see something interesting happens. Every like, retweet or heart on Instagram serves as affirmation for that thing even before we begin. So if I post that I’m going to run a marathon this year, or I’m going to read the Bible everyday or eat healthier, what we’re really looking for is affirmation.
Lent then is our second chance at becoming better people. Our New Years Resolutions didn’t quite go to plan, but thankfully just a few weeks later we have another crack at it during Lent. This is a time when we’re encouraged to give something up, revealing to us unhealthy ways that we’re connected to things or money or chocolate or Netflix rather than seeking a deep connection with our Spirit and God and others.
For many Christians, social media is the drug that we desire to separate from. Which is a great idea because it is probably our most popular way that we create these false ideals of our worth. I love social media but I definitely need to become more aware of the effect it has on me. I’ll post my latest blog post in a million different places because I want you to like me, not what I’m writing.
Social media then has become a popular choice for us to give up over Lent. Many, will also share that they are giving up social media for Lent. When we do that we need to question why we need to proclaim this desire to everyone. There is something about posting on Social Media that you are giving up Social media for Lent, that is counterproductive.
We seek the affirmation from others one last time. It’s the 21st Century tech version of eating whatever you like right before a diet.
Jesus even speaks into this when he reminded his listeners to close the door behind you when you tweet. It’s not that promoting ourselves or sharing how things are changing us are wrong. It’s not about judgement of ourselves or each other. It’s just about the honest realization that what we seek may not truly be growth but feelings that are generated when people affirm our desire for growth.
Like all growth, that which is most productive is not our insistence that we are going to change that one thing over night, which we’ve developed over a long time. Neither, may I add is it by giving something up for 40 days, only to go back to it in full force.
It’s the daily pursuit of connectedness with our Spirit and others. It’s the daily spiritual practices that we use to learn to feel, be present and have compassion.
Lent is good. It is an ancient discipline that is not easy or for the faint of heart. And maybe that is why we need others to affirm our pursuits this Lent.
But let’s use Lent not just to give up Twitter or Facebook or Instagram but to engage with inwardly practices of meditation, contemplation and seeking of God. Of looking for new opportunities for justice and to serve and to Love.
Those may be the key to unlocking what we truly desire.