So much for forgoing sweets for Lent. Many of the Christian faithful are opting for a sacrifice of a different sort. Namely, giving up social media for the 40-day stretch.
Lent, which starts today on Ash Wednesday and runs until just before Easter, commemorates the period in which Jesus Christ fasted in the desert. It is widely observed by Catholics, though other Christians mark it as well. Making a sacrifice of some sort is indeed a cornerstone of the observance.
And the sacrifices can take many forms, from giving up your favorite candy to vowing not to engage in any late-night online shopping. But these days, saying bye-bye to Instagram
and/or TikTok is becoming increasingly common.
“Today” show anchor Savannah Guthrie is among the people making that sacrifice this year — specifically, she recently posted on Instagram that she’s giving up, well, Instagram for Lent. “I’m doing it to challenge myself: to be more reflective, to not just reflexively scroll [I]nstagram and instead use that time for something more productive and life-giving to myself and others,” she shared.
There’s good evidence that Guthrie isn’t alone. As far back as 2014, 16% of those who observed Lent said they were curtailing their use of social media, according to a survey by the research firm the Barna Group. In 2021, another survey, from the YouGov website, found that 14% said they were giving up social media.
To be sure, the most common Lenten sacrifice remains sweets. In the YouGov survey, 24% of respondents said that was their sacrifice. Giving up soda came in second — at 20%.
Still, New York City resident Lori Jung, an observant Catholic, says taking a break from social media during Lent has been her sacrifice of choice for three years running. She notes that it gives her a fresh perspective and lessens any feelings of jealousy she might have.
“I’m not looking into the lives of all my friends for 40 days and comparing myself with them,” she told MarketWatch.
But not everyone says they can take a break from social media. For metro Detroit resident Elizabeth Robbins Sabourin, her work as a publicist and marketer requires her to be on all the big platforms. “There’s no way I could give that up,” said Sabourin, a practicing Methodist. So, instead she says she’s foregoing her daily visit to Starbucks during Lent.
Ultimately, the idea of giving up social media can stretch beyond Lent for some. Or, at the very least, the Lenten sacrifice can teach them to moderate their social-media use, especially when it comes to engaging in gossip on the various platforms or other hurtful and harmful behaviors.
At least that’s how Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese for New York, sees it. “It might help them recalibrate their approach,” he said.