I spent last weekend in Philadelphia at a friend’s house, where a group of my old friends and I convened to catch up on each others’ lives. It was a very 21st century sort of gathering: eight of us live across four states, and the weekend was organized through a combination of text messaging, emails, and Facebook. Somehow, despite confusion of train times and places, we all arrived at my friend’s apartment with enough spare blankets and more than enough food to go around.
The subject of Lent came up when, after a friendly reminder that it was Saturday, there was a sigh of relief that we could all eat chicken and pasta with prosciutto. A few of us in the group are Catholic, to varying degrees, and everyone tries to be adaptable.
Only one friend besides myself had made a Lenten sacrifice; she gave up using FourSquare for the forty days. For those who don’t know, FourSquare is a social media tool that has people “check-in” at different locations, usually restaurants and stores, on their smartphones. In addition to telling the world where you are, it also tells you who else is at the location at the same time as you. Some companies offer coupons to users when they check-in, and some have special deals for a location’s “mayor” — the person who checks in at the location the most often. My friend has deemed this the most difficult Lent of her life.
I have to laugh a little at this, because while I use social networking sites like Twitter for work and am admittedly addicted to my Blackberry, I couldn’t really see what was so terrible about losing a mayorship at her local coffee shop. To her credit, my friend is sticking to her sacrifices,
I don’t want to be one of those people who grouses about technology taking over our lives — after all, my friends and I would have had a much harder time organizing our weekend if we had been solely dependent on multiple phone calls as opposed to texts and emails, and my career largely depends on the Internet. But it does amuse me that as technology progresses, we have more potential sacrifices to make that didn’t exist before, with plenty of old vices still surrounding us as well.
While technology makes our lives more convenient, and does away with older occupations, it doesn’t detract from previous indulgences. If you give up watching TV for Lent, does that also include YouTube videos and Hulu streams? “Sharing a drink” on Facebook probably doesn’t count if you’ve given up alcohol. And if your quest is to do more instead of less — attend church, give to charity, spend time with your family — you can aid yourself with reminders from Google Calendars and iCal. As for my own sacrifice with giving swearing up mixing with social media, I write for a lot of outlets that wouldn’t mind if I did swear in a piece — blogs, articles, Twitter updates, and more that I need to specially edit for bad language during Lent, in addition to what I say out loud.
The same friend who gave up FourSquare admitted she couldn’t have handled giving up smoking for the season. Then again, her office requires employees to curtail social media use during office hours; perhaps if she ever needs to give up smoking, Lent would be a nice launch pad for it?
For my part, catching up on friends’ lives, their romantic misadventures, and frustrating job situations meant that in my relaxed setting, I had a couple of slip-ups. In addition to foul language, I had also tried to go to church every week. I didn’t manage last week, the third of week of Lent. I have to try harder. Fortunately, there’s a support group for that, if you haven’t given up Facebook for Lent.
Penalty Box Tally: $7.50
(Amanda has given swearing up for Lent and donates $0.50 every time she slips. Check out all of her posts here.)