A New State of Mind
February 13, 2013
Today, a Facebook friend posted a comment about how she was going to sign off of Facebook for a while. She said it wasn’t necessarily for Lent, but it was part of an effort to simplify her life.
A few hours later, here I am watching people’s Facebook posts while I watch the president’s State of the Union address. Now many of us multi-task that way. I did the same during the Superbowl a few weeks ago. And even last night while I watched The Bachelor. (Yes, I admit, my husband and I have gotten sucked into this particular season. And I checked my Facebook to see how many people were as happy as I was that the bachelor sent Tierra home last night!) Facebook has made things more complicated, hasn’t it?
My addiction to Facebook actually was facilitated by politics. As I often do with new technology and such, I got dragged onto Facebook kicking and screaming. My grad school friends encouraged one another to sign up as a good way to keep in touch with each other. That was actually a great idea. But I didn’t start engaging actively with Facebook until I decided to use it intentionally to connect with more people and raise my profile as I explored running for political office. It was all downhill from there.
I took up not only a Facebook addiction, but a technology addiction, in addition. I got my first Smart Phone to enable my habit. I could now post on the go. Keeping up with Facebook and e-mails became my commuting routine. It became something I’d do whenever I was bored. While I was waiting for a friend who was running late to meet me for coffee. While I was walking down the street, even!
And, for the next few years, my husband complained. I was never fully present because I was always paying attention to my phone. While we were watching a movie at home. While we were out to dinner. He’d get up to go to the bathroom, and by the time he got back, I’d be in another world. I’d be mad about some nasty political comment I saw on Facebook or responding in my mind to some work-related e-mail.
So six months into my sabbatical from politics, I decided to get what I call a Dumb Phone. No internet access. I can text and call. That’s all. Now I read a book while I’m on the “L.” Or I just think. Or I pray. Or I just plain space out and let my over-worked brain cells rest. And at home, I remain much more focused on my husband (and our mutual enjoyment of The Bachelor!)
It was a bit hard at first. And I have to be a bit more organized since I can’t email someone to let them know I’m running late or look up directions while I’m on the move. But I’m no longer addicted to having constant Facebook and internet access.
It wasn’t for Lent that I originally weaned myself off a Smart Phone. In fact, Lent hasn’t been a big part of my Christian tradition. The personal opinion that I formed over the years was that having an attitude of sacrifice all year round was much more important than eating fish on Fridays for what seemed to me to be legalistic reasons.
But in recent years, I have come to value Lent as a time to get in a new state of mind. I find it a good frame for thinking about how to reorder my life. A good time to think about areas of my life where I’ve been going overboard. A good time to develop new habits. Forty days of reflection and discipline can really change things.
Tonight our country reflects on the state of the union and the possibilities of this presidential term. And some of us put on Lenten reflection and sacrifice. How will you get in a new state of mind?