In case you hadn’t heard, Lent started last week. And do you know what’s the number 1 thing people will be giving up, based on a short survey I made up in my head? The Internet.
Mark my words: The only thing Christians like more than the Internet is taking a break from it. A digital fast if you will, where you swear off the Internet or a particular flavor of social media for a prolonged period of time.
Since you missed the start of Lent, maybe instead you can do a good old-fashioned digital fast. (By “old” I mean circa 2007, which in Internet time is approximately 87 years ago.) But how do you do it? What are the rules? How do you take a really good, really helpful digital fast? The Bible is very thin on the best way to wean yourself off a Twitter addiction. Not once does Peter say, “Follow me on Twitter, I’m @Rock.” Or better yet for all you old school rap fans out there, “@PeteRock.”
So today, in case you’re curious about starting a digital fast, I thought it might be good to review the 7 steps:
Step 1: Go online crazy.
Unless you’re online all the time, it’s really not a big, dramatic deal for you to go offline. So the first thing you’re going to want to do is make sure you’re online 24 hours a day. Tweet everything that happens to you, no matter how insignificant. “Just ate a sandwich. Ever thought about that word? It has ‘sand’ in it. That would be gross if they really have sand in them.” Change your Facebook status roughly every 90 seconds. Update your blog as frequent as Lowell said something dumb in the television program Wings. (Old school topical!)
Step 2: Write a blog post about taking a digital fast.
The irony of writing online about how you are going to take some time from being online is so rich that it’s like a delicious sandwich spread made of boysenberry and irony. Technically, the Bible says we’re not supposed to tell people when we fast. Maybe posts on your blog don’t count. Maybe.
Step 3: Start a Twitter countdown.
You might have missed the start of Lent, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start your own digital fast next week. Every day, in the week leading up to your digital fast, tell people how many days until you take your digital fast. Or start a group on Facebook called “Friends taking a break from Facebook.” The goal is to make sure you get as much attention possible about your very private, very personal digital fast.
Step 4: Go offline.
For a predetermined amount of time, just log off. Don’t check email or fantasy sports scores or Facebook or anything else. And say things like this to your friends: “Oh man, I know how smokers feel when they quit. This is hard.”
Step 5: After a week, go back online.
Make a triumphant return. Maybe write a blog with a headline from Eminem, “Guess who’s back, back again? Guess who’s back? Tell a friend!” Jump back online with both feet.
Step 6: Share the valuable lessons you learned while on your digital fast.
Turn three days offline into 10 days of blog material. Try to use the words, “community” and “fellowship” a lot, as if you suddenly discovered the real meaning of those during your 72-hour hiatus. If possible, post photos of you doing non-digital things, like flying a kite or making a sailboat or getting cats out of trees for people in your neighborhood.
Step 7: Return right back to your pre-digital fast amount of online consumption.
This wasn’t about learning or praying or anything like that. This was about digital showmanship. You were like an Internet David Blaine holding your breath offline for three days straight. Return to the Internet like David Blaine would return to dating models after a three-day hiatus in a solid block of ice.
Hopefully, these steps will help you with your first digital fast. I can’t wait to read all about it online and in the email newsletter you create. Just promise me you won’t do what my friends who are actually giving up the Internet for Lent are doing. Praying, being contemplative, serving people, having long conversations where you actually talk to the people you’re with, instead of texting other people you’re not with! There was no drama in either of those decisions. Where’s the fun in that?
Have you or a friend ever taken a digital fast?
Did you give something up for Lent?
(This is a Throwback Thursday post from a few years ago.)