There has been some serious conversation about social media among Dominican sisters lately. Should we, or shouldn’t we, shut down our congregational social media accounts for Lent?
Ultimately, we’ve decided to keep these channels for communication open, the critical argument being that ceding our place in the media sphere, as modest as it is, would mean our voice for kindness and justice might be filled by a less discriminating replacement.
Cutting Back for Lent
You will see fewer posts from us this Lent, however. We will take the traditional fast days off from posting, and we’ll focus on the spiritual and justice concerns that come with this 40-day journey of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Though breaking the iGadget habit is becoming a real thing, a quick, unscientific poll of Springfield Dominicans has revealed that few of the sisters are choosing a personal social media fast for Lent.
“I will stay connected during Lent so that I remain aware of the needs of my friends and the needs of the world,” Sister Judine Hilbing said. She added that it is her practice to review her social media news feed before bed so she can bring the concerns of the world and her family and friends to her prayer.
For Sister Rose Miriam Schulte, it’s about better boundary-setting. “I don't intend to give up social media, but am resolved to practice better boundaries as to when I use social media, i.e., never during a time I've already pledged to prayer or spiritual reading, nor at a time when I am committed to the service of others in my ministry,” she said.
For Sister Kathleen Kenny, whose family spans the globe, the access to her loved ones lives via social media is too precious to abandon.
Opting for the Both/And
One sister said she intends to take a both/and approach. Sister Bernice Juip will intensify her use of social media “to keep up with my family, community and friends’ needs and respond in prayer” and to respond to “pressing social justice issues so that I can pray about them and be actively involved in an appropriate way,” she said. At the same time she intends to curb her social media use “when I am or should be in conversation with others who are physically present.”
Other sisters said they weren’t giving up their internet fix because they already use it rarely, or not at all. Still others were unclear about what constituted social media, as might be expected among our older demographic.
Giving it all up
It appears that only one theology teacher and the community’s communications staff is doing a techno-purge for Lent.
Sister Mary Jo Sobieck, who teaches at Marian Catholic High School, Chicago Heights, Ill., says she’s done this every year. “It frees me up to be more intentional about the good things and more productive with my time,” she said.
The congregation’s communications director, Sister Beth Murphy, says she’s deleted her social media account aps from her devices and is looking forward to immersing herself more fully in her community life, spiritual reading, and opportunities for service during Lent. “I’m curious to see what this does to the rhythm of my day,” she said. “Because it is my responsibility to monitor our social media and that of other religious and social organizations, it often feels burdensome to be connected all the time,” she said.
Her colleague Aaron Tebrinke and she will share the responsibility of monitoring social media feeds during the workday from their desktop computers, but both plan to forsake the apps on their devices for the duration of Lent.
“Twenty years ago, after completing many years in a ministry that required consuming tons of media—print, radio and TV back then—I gave up news for Lent,” Sister Beth said. “At first, I had real withdrawal symptoms, but soon I found it freeing. I learned about what was happening in the world from those around me and became reflective about my un-mediated life. I realized that I didn’t need to know everything that was happening to be mindful of the world’s needs. This led me to a deeper, more contemplative prayer. I anticipate that might be one effect of my social media fast, too.”
There are valid reasons for choosing a social media fast, as well as for not choosing one.
Here is a thoughtful essay on why a fast isn’t a good idea.
This one offers advice on how to escape your social media habit.
Which might you choose?