Why I’m giving up Twitter for Lent
posted at 12:08 pm on February 13, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the observance of Lent for Christians around the world, when we recall the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and reflect on our faith through our own small sacrifices. The observance is common enough that nearly everyone understands the concept of “giving up [something] for Lent,” whether it be certain foods, activities, or perhaps even time in order to study and reflect more. Wikipedia has a pretty decent description:
The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer—through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death and resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday, which then culminates in the celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
During Lent, many of the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence. The Stations of the Cross, a devotional commemoration of Christ’s carrying the Cross and of his execution, are often observed. Many Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches devoid their altars of candles, flowers, and other devotional offerings, while Crucifixes, religious statues, and other elaborate religious paraphernalia are often veiled in violet fabrics in solemn observance of this event. In certain pious Catholic countries, the consumption of meat is traditionally yet varyingly self-abstained by the faithful, while grand religious processions and cultural customs are observed, and the faithful attempt to visit seven churches during Holy Week in honor of Jesus Christ heading to Mount Calvary.
Lent is traditionally described as lasting for forty days, in commemoration of the forty days which, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by the Devil. However, different Christian denominations calculate the forty days of Lent differently. In most Western traditions the Sundays are not counted as part of Lent; thus the period from Ash Wednesday until Easter consists of 40 days when the Sundays are excluded. However in the Roman Catholic Church Lent is now taken to end on Holy Thursday rather than Easter Eve, and hence lasts 38 days excluding Sundays, or 44 days in total.
This year, I have decided to give up Twitter for Lent. Not too long ago, I wrote about Twitter on the main page, explaining its value to me as a social outlet:
I see it more as a water cooler experience rather than an alternative medium for argument and debate. Yes, I tweet links to my posts, but now the Hot Air admin site does that automatically, so even that need has disappeared. I mainly use it for personal connections to friends and readers, touching on politics but not as a means for conducting debates.
However, it’s also very tempting to become negative on Twitter. People try to provoke others, and the format makes it easy to respond in kind very quickly without considering whether (a) it’s useful to do so, and (b) whether it just makes the situation worse. Perhaps especially during Lent, we should be considering how to best express love for our neighbors rather than anger or snark at them, and I think a break will be valuable.
So, I won’t be tweeting at all during Lent, nor watching my timeline or mentions column at all until after Easter. I’m hoping to use the time for improving my study and prayer life, and to think about how to put my faith into action. And I have to tell you, just five or so hours into it, it’s already apparent to me that it will be extremely difficult to stick with this commitment, which is perhaps the best argument in favor of the decision.
What are readers giving up for Lent, if anything at all? I’ll be curious to see your answers in the comments.
Update: One commenter raised the question of even discussing this, as it tends to dilute its impact. I thought about that, but (a) I haven’t disclosed all I’m doing to observe Lent, and (b) I wanted to give my Twitter followers some kind of heads-up about my status.