When you hear the word ‘Lent’, automatically one thinks of not eating sweets or meat as a form fasting and abstinence and many consider it time to go on a ‘diet’ and lose weight. But lent is much more than that, it is a time of introspection; and abstinence and sacrifice are a means through which we come to know ourselves.
I remember an incident from last lent when a group of friends of mine went to see a performance at the NCPA. We’d ordered a cab to get there and the driver couldn’t find the pick-up location, it took him 15 minutes to get to us and this made us late. From the time we got in until we reached our destination, one of the guys berated the driver despite my other friends telling him to stop. The driver looked visibly upset as my friend belittled him throughout the journey and though we apologised to the driver, the damage was already done. After the performance we went out to dinner where this friend refused to eat meat because it was a Wednesday in lent. All of us made it clear to him that it would have been better had he been nicer to the driver rather than not eat the meat.
His abstinence had become ritual rather than a ‘sacrifice’ losing its true purpose.
Looking closer at the situation I realised that we have such quick-paced lifestyles where we can get things literally at the click of a button causing us to learn to love things and use people.
We are so addicted to our phones and other devices that we have forgotten how to just be, so last lent I decided to uninstall Facebook and reduce my usage of WhatsApp (I use it for work so I couldn’t uninstall it) and it was one of the toughest things I’ve done. I don’t use other social media like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat because I’ve realised that it is a lot of what I don’t need.
The first couple of days were difficult but I became aware that I was needlessly flicking through my phone and aimlessly scrolling through my newsfeed. I realised that I was distracted and even dismissive while interacting with other people because I constantly wanted to check my updates.
One of the other things I learnt was time management and something that struck me was that we make the time for what is important to us, and now that I was not stuck in the minutiae of checking what other people are upto I found that I had more time to devote to other activities.
This digital detox of sorts also helped become a calmer person, I found that I was no longer anxiously awaiting replies to my WhatsApp chats or counting the ‘likes’ that I got on Facebook.
Technology isn’t inherently good or bad but it is the way that we use it that matters. I’ve heard people be dismissive of Facebook or Twitter without having actually used these. The truth is that these are just the medium and we control the messages that we view and more importantly the messages that we spread. We need to be mindful of how we use technology, so we need to figure out what it is we are conveying when we send that forward on WhatsApp or upload that image onto Instagram.
Lent is a time for us to get closer to God and there are many channels through which we can do that. For some it might be through prayer and fasting, for others through service to the poor or it could be spending time with your family or even being eco-friendly. It is up to you to find out what works best for you and consider how it brings you closer to God.
One of those ways can also be through the use of technology.
The Pope in Laudato Si states, “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral.”
We can use technology to our advantage because there is so much that we can do with it.
While I used my Lent to spend more time with friends and family, one of the things I did was to install the Archdiocese of Bombay app and to read a bit of scripture from there. We can use technology to teach ourselves or other people. We can use it to spread the word of Christ by uploading holistic messages. We can teach the aged in our community how to use technology to communicate with their families. Media and technology can be used in a myriad ways for our betterment as long as we are cognizant of how we use it.
Lent need not be an arduous experience because we have set ourselves insurmountable goals, rather we should set ourselves smaller attainable goals that bring us closer to one another while we give glory to God.
By Wynrica Rodrigues Gonsalves