Disconnect To Reconnect

As the sun shines and the wind blows on this chilly Sunday in Connecticut, I stand at the cusp of Day 5 of Lent and my social media diet. This diet is comprised of no Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for the 40 days of Lent…and I will confess that list clearly does not include Snapchat since I find it silly, fun and not nearly the level of distraction that those other apps prove to be. It’s my social media diet, damn it and I will do it how I wanna.

This isn’t my first ever foray into doing this kind of social media clear out for Lent since I also did this with just Facebook several years back. Not surprisingly, the first few days are the most interesting and the most telling.

It’s funny to begin to truly notice how often when a moment of delay, boredom or small time gap in my days occurs, I reach for my phone for instant distraction before even realizing I’m doing it. It’s only as the phone effortlessly slides into my hand from my pocket and I get read to click the Facebook app do I then realize… ohhhhh, right. I deleted that sucker on Fat Tuesday.

Or the moments where I have a thought that pops into my head, whether an observation about the day or something utterly silly to share for a mild guffaw…and I remember that I won’t be doing that.

And even more importantly than the idea of I won’t be doing that, I begin to think “Huh…why do I feel the need to always do that?”

By virtue of writing this blog post for others to read, I clearly am not against the sharing of thoughts and ideas to the world at large. Heck, that’s something I enjoy doing quite a bit…but the reasons behind all of this do matter. Am I doing it because I have something to say, regardless of whether there is a defined response? Or is there a desire to have someone validate my ideas? Like most things, it’s probably a combination thereof.

The time away from these social media platforms is spurring me to reconnect, live and in-person, with my family and friends to a great extent. If for no other reason, this alone makes it worth it. Sure, I could have done this while keeping up my steady stream of inane babble on Facebook about Lord only knows what, but there is something impactful about combining the time away from one with the concerted effort to be more connected with the people I care about. This has been lunches, dinners, phone calls and any a number of ways of being with important people and truly present in those moments without a temptation to check what else is going on out there.

And as the photo suggest, I’ve also found a lot more time to read and catch up on news straight from sources and without the argumentative precursors that have become the norm in my Facebook feed the last year.

I encourage anyone else thinking about this to try it (and this article from the always excellent Eric Barker at Barking Up The Wrong Tree has research-backed ideas). The hardest pull is a combination of fear-of-missing-out (the weird acronym of FOMO that prompts an eyeroll from me every time) or thinking you will lose touch with people. You won’t – you just adapt to a different way of connecting. (But the irony of the fact that when I post this blog it will automatically post to my Facebook page is not lost on me.)

And perhaps the greatest thing I am noticing in this period of time? That maybe… just maybe…when Lent comes to a close for 2017…that I will stop, look around and realize the fear-of-missing-out was just a fear…and I should have been far more concerned of missing out on the important things right in front of me…not on my phone screen.

Giving Up and Doing Good

Photo on 2-22-12 at 7.55 PMI thought I would try something extra nutty this evening and keep my blog post fairly short and to the point.  I know, I’m sort of doubting that will happen too as I type this, but by God… let’s give this crazy notion a whirl.

Today is Ash Wednesday, hence the snappy picture of our blog hero to the right, looking dapper as ever in pointing out the incredibly obvious ashes mark on my dome.  Because you wouldn’t have noticed it otherwise, right?

I’m a fairly private person when it comes to my own faith, hence I ‘m not going to spend a lot of time going into the details of that… however, I think there is something about Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent generally that is a positive in our hectic modern world.  Basically, it’s meant to be a time to stop, reflect and realize there’s much in life that’s a lot bigger than you and your individual problems.  Separate that from the particular religious aspects of the season and it soon becomes a valuable lesson for anyone, regardless of belief, or lack thereof.  It’s a bit of my mission for the next several weeks to make reflection a better habit than I have.

In addition, I am also looking to do something this year for Lent in addition to the “giving up” piece that so many people tend to associate with the season (although I am doing a bit of that too).  Inspired by a Facebook post I saw from author Robyn O’Brien, I remembered what my Mom always would say about Lent when I tried to think of what to give up.  “Kevin, you don’t have to give something up… you can just do something instead.”  As usual, Mom had the wisdom I am usually only able to feign.

So this year, my goal is to try and make someone’s day, every day by paying a very sincere compliment… and not repeat anyone for the entire period of Lent.  Sounds doable, right?  I think one way I will do this is just to post a Facebook status update each day on one of my friends (especially on days where I cannot think of a specific compliment I gave… like today).

Will this change the world?  No, probably not… but honestly, I think we live in a world of sorely in need of people saying nice things about each other and really meaning them.  It’s simple to do, costs absolutely nothing and you never know who might need that lift, maybe even more than you know.

Off to start my do-gooding… and these 40 days may turn into something a little bit more than just a short window goal.  Wouldn’t that be something?

Forty Facebook-Free Days

Every year when Lent rolls around, I try to figure out what in the world I’m going to do for those 40 days that will be meaningful of the season.  As Mom always says, “You don’t have to give something up.  You can do something instead.”  She makes a good point (as Mom usually does), but it always seems easier to pick something to forgo instead of doing something.  This year, I’m looking to do both.  Why?  Apparently I’ve been bitten by an ambition bug.  Nasty little suckers.

Now, I could look to subtly build the message of this blog post through an increasingly clever and layered set of paragraphs, delving into heretofore never seen nuances… umm… but the title of the post pretty much gives the whole damn thing away anyway, so why bother?  So, yup… I’m giving up Facebook for Lent.  I know, I’m fairly cutting edge in my approach to most things, Lent included.  I’m sure I will be a 2011 Time Magazine Man of the Year candidate on this alone.

I’ve gotten a bit of pushback from a few friends of mine, especially those who no longer live close enough by me to hang out with on a consistent basis.  They make a good point: Facebook is the easiest way for them to know what I’m up to given the busy pace of their lives.  I actually agree with that.  I know it can be supremely easy to bash Facebook for any varied number of reasons, but it’s allowed me to reconnect with old friends, family members and just keep up with what a lot of people I know are doing on a daily basis.  Plus, I’ve seen some interesting articles and pretty amusing pieces of YouTube genius as a result of The Book of Face.

So why give it up?  Two reasons, really.  One: I like it and doing so is a sacrifice for me.  That’s sort of the easy one to explain.  Second: I feel like I can make much better use of my time for Lent than addictively checking Facebook on my laptop and on my phone, or reading the updates that come via e-mail.  They are not inherently bad or anything like that, but I know I’ve become a little too preoccupied with the Facebook life and not enough focused on… well… regular life.  The Facebook time is time I could use reflecting on Lent, doing some reading, writing for this terribly neglected blog, finally getting serious about improving my flexibility (seriously) or even just spending time with people… like face-to-face.  You know, like in ye olden days of yore.  And if you are wondering whether I crafted that sentence strictly for an opportunity to use “yore”… damn straight I did.  That word gets far too little use, my friends!

KMK Facebook

The real hope I have is to unplug for a bit and not withdraw at all, but rather to engage in a more meaningful fashion with the people I care most about it.  Facebook should be a tool for that, not some kind of crutch and while I don’t think I’ve gotten to that crutch-like point, I must confess I’ve come to rely on “The Book” a lot more than I would care to.  Hence, I am pulling away from Facebook for 40 days and seeing what it all brings.  I expect a few withdrawal symptoms over days 1-5, but probably smooth sailing after that.

The only potential bummer is actually using Facebook to announce any new blog posts I do.  I will definitely be using Twitter for that and if there was a way to auto-publish to my “Fierce and Mighty” Facebook page, that would be nice too.  If I can’t, then so be it.

Don’t feel bad, Facebook.  We had a good run and I just need some time apart.  It’s not you… it’s me.  I’ll be back… I think.

Do You Forgive For Someone Else or For Yourself?

As the nice little Catholic boy that I am, the fact that Lent begins on Wednesday has been on my mind.  Lest anyone rolling across this post is not entirely clear on what Lent is all about, it’s essentially the 40 days that lead up to Easter.  It kicks off with Ash Wednesday and although Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday” is the day before, it’s not an official part of Lent, per se.  It’s more the “Let’s get all that sinning out of the way now! WOO!”

There are usually 2 traditions associated with Lent that most people know:

  1. No meat on Fridays; and
  2. Giving something up.40DaysAnd40Nights

Heck, there was even a movie with Josh Hartnett that was all about a guy  attempting to give up sex for the 40 days of Lent.

Now, my Mom would always point out that you don’t need to necessarily give something up for Lent, but you could do something instead.  Maybe volunteer or make some kind of a positive change.

Well, this year I have been fresh out of ideas so I did the logical thing and turn to the magic of the Interwebz to see what was out there. I did give some thought to giving something up, but anything I thought of was something that would be good for me to give up, like caffeine. So coming across this post caught my eye a little bit and, in particular, 2 suggestions on it’:

  • Create a good habit; and
  • Forgive.

I like them both, but as I give it more and more thought, I cannot help but feel that the truly worthwhile thing to do would be to forgive any grudge or slight I’ve held for too long.  Perhaps it’s the fact that forgiveness… and I mean real forgiveness… is possibly one of the most difficult things in life to do.

In the combination of “forgive and forget”, most of us can do a fair job of putting a hurt caused by another out of mind or jamming it deep within the gray matter of our subconscious… but to really and truly forgive?  To recognize that someone else did something something awful to us?  And what if that person never even said they were sorry?  Is it possible to forgive in that situation too given the fact that forgiving the unrepentant might be giving a gift to someone who simply doesn’t deserve it?

It’s a fascinating notion to consider because one of the potential benefits to the person doing the forgiving is the release of a lot of mental or spiritual weight by letting go of resentment and anger.

So is forgiveness for the person who committed the slight… or for you?

Maybe it’s just the perfect blend of both.

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