Giving up screens for Lent

It’s Lent again. The season where Catholics (and probably some other folks too) give up something they like to mirror the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, practice almsgiving, go to confession, pray more, and occasionally fast. For me, it’s a nice reset at a time of year (late winter) that is really frigging hard to deal with, a time to re-focus on the most important things in my spiritual and daily life.

This year, instead of giving up something like meat (been there) or alcohol (done that) or cursing (half-worked) or sugar or chocolate (sounds like that restriction-binge-restriction-binge road that I’ve been down way too many times to count), I’m giving up screen time.

Yes, I know I’m typing this up on a screen. And I know I’m going to come home after work and either a) watch the second season of Ozark b) watch the next series of Great British Baking Show c) start Binge of Thrones. I can’t completely give up screens, and the idea behind the abstinence portion of Lent – at least to me – is causing a mild to moderate inconvenience with something that you don’t need anyway and maybe, possibly, should be reducing anyway if you’re honest with yourself.

So, clever girl I think I am, I broke screen time down into some alliterative categories to figure out where to draw my line:

  • Conversation – social media, texting, email, those Facebook hiking groups that I’ve just joined
  • Creation – blogging, digital drawing, looking up recipes and sewing instructions
  • Consumption – zoning out and taking in information or entertainment

Consumption is fine, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but it’s the type of screen time that I want to reduce because it does interfere with what’s important to me. I’ll spend hours playing solitaire or in Wikipedia loops learning about cheese or people that I really don’t even care about. That’s what I’m looking to cut out during Lent. I don’t think I can cut out much TV consumption since my husband watches a lot of it, but I can definitely cut out stupid internet surfing on my computer/smartphone. It makes room for other things, like reading, and reading scripture and theology, which I amp up during Lent because it’s also about adding something instead of just taking something away.

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