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Hello my name is Josh Sommermeyer, and I’m… Addicted to Facebook

Let me roll this back a couple of months to Ash Wednesday 2017. Like many Christians I was debating as to what I might give up for Lent in some small symbolic gesture of the sacrifice that Christ made for us on the Cross of Calvary. Chocolate, adult beverages, TV, Netflix, sugar, coffee, and video games are all popular choices. However, this time around I chose to give up Facebook for the season of Lent. (Coffee? Seriously? I’m glad God has lots of grace, and doesn’t demand real sacrifice for Lent). On a great many levels I think worrying about what I give up for Lent is just plain silly. What am I going to give up that bears any comparison to what Christ did?

But I digress…

Note: Let me say that I believe there is immense value in not only Facebook but also in social media. It allows for relationships (real relationships) to easily continue and thrive even when you do not get any face-to-face time. It also allows for a much broader range of colleagues to collaborate on ideas, projects, and initiatives — professional development. It also allows for professionals to network and share ideas or perhaps find new opportunities. It allows for broader support of organizations seeking to work for public good, or for a family to seek help with funding an adoption. Social media did not invent ANY of these opportunities, but it does make them simpler. For all the good it does, there are also evils that social media supports as well. When I say support I do not mean directly, but it certainly provides the tools to support good as well as evil. Perhaps in a future blog post we can talk about those dangers. The danger I found in Facebook is the attention I gave it, and therefore didn’t give to other things, like my health (sleep) and my more present relationships.

So, I gave up Facebook for Lent. I deleted the favorites on my browsers, deleted the apps on my phones and other devices, and went about ignoring that virtual world for the 6 weeks of Lent. What I found was just how addicted to and how much time I spent on the service. For the most part I was REALLY GOOD about ignoring Facebook for Lent. My only times on the service where the 5 or so times I started typing facebook.com in my browser bar as a habit (scarily), but I quickly closed the window, and when I had the opportunity to brag about my wife, who made the local paper. In general I felt really good about my effort to purge the service out of my life.

Some may ask why not purge all social media? To be honest I am really only involved in Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. For me Facebook is the one that was the biggest “time sink,” and it crossed over from work life into home life the most. I also tend to use Facebook more socially than professionally. So I did stay on Twitter and LinkedIn but pledged no Facebook for Lent.

Here is what I found:

  • I got better sleep. I usually wake up about once a night, and like many people, my phone sits right next to my bed. On a regular basis I’ll grab the phone and start browsing around, news, email, fake news, then social media (not necessarily in that order). Before I knew it, I’d spent an hour of time that I should be sleeping stimulating my brain with blue LED light (like that from a cell phone/tablet) and content from the internet. When I was off of Facebook, I tried to make a more conscious decision to keep my phone shut off, and just roll over and fall back asleep.
  • I read more. I checked out a few books from the library and bought a few books and read both professionally and for pleasure.
  • I was better about my at-home relationships. I still have a long way to go, and my phone especially still has too much of a grip on my time at home, but I continue to work to figure out the right balance. I’m not even sure balance is the right word, but I was more present at home while I was off Facebook.
  • I feel like my post-Lenten fast has me at a much more healthy relationship with Facebook. I don’t check it near as often, and I don’t spend as much time on it when I do check it.

What is really interesting is when I look back at my discoveries of being off of Facebook and my reasons for being off, I feel like I’m at a better place than where I was prior to the “sacrifice” of giving it up for Lent. Could it be that God works through our earthly Lenten tradition to put us in a better place to hear His word, discover His purpose for us, and see those in need around us that need serving?

Perhaps the choice wasn’t that silly after all.

Josh Sommermeyer,
Assistant Head of School