It’s Lent and the good Catholic schoolgirl in me loves this season of fasting and rending the heart and not my garments and all that jazz, so I dug deep and asked myself the hard question: what would be the most challenging thing in my life to give up? Since I’ve already given up heroin, cocaine, alcohol, weed, cigarettes and toxic men, two primary substance addictions remain: coffee and Twitter.
If I’m honest with myself, Twitter is the most hardcore addiction I have and it’s also the one that robs me of the most productivity. So. Into the media desert I go…I rip the Band-Aid off around 5 p.m. PST on Tuesday, logging out from my account and removing the app from my phone. Goodbye, my love.
Day 1: Holy Moly. I have a problem.
6 a.m. PST: Ash Wednesday. My first morning without Twitter. I reach for my phone and I’m met with nothingness. No notifications. No snark. No toxic East Coast tweets because they’ve already been at it for three hours and they’re very mean people on the East Coast. I know this morning routine is horrible for me. I know I’m better off without Twitter. Twitter doesn’t miss me at all.
Why does it feel like a break-up?
The black mirror stares back at me, almost daring me to go on and just check out the news. I resist but for how long can I keep this up? Jesus never would have been able to go 40 days in the desert if his followers were on Twitter.
I realize that’s a hilarious tweet. I reach for my phone and remember. Right. I can’t tweet that. I do my daily meditation. It’s not relaxing because I’m crawling out of my skin. I’m supposed to focus on my breath, but I’m focused on why I picked such a stupid thing to give up for Lent. Meditation ends and I reach for my phone, searching for signs of life.
My friend Carol has texted. ‘I don’t know how long Lent is because Jews don’t know these things, so please text me your tweet thoughts so I don’t go through withdrawal. Thx.’
I explain it’s ‘FORTY. DAYS’. And that, ‘I’m already going crazy.’ Carol suggests converting to Judaism and although I’ve considered this before, perhaps it’s time to take the plunge. It’s been 58 minutes since I opened my eyes and every single one of them has been torture.
Holy moly. I have a real problem.
I figure if I’m going to actually give something up, I might as well partake in the ritual of getting ashes at Mass. I convince my aunt to meet me for breakfast and go to church with me. That oughta kill at least three hours.
12:15 p.m. PST: St Monica’s Ash Wednesday Mass. Mass was a good idea. It’s packed and when I walk in and see the devout believers ready to begin their Lenten fast, I feel ashamed that mine is something as pitiful as Twitter dot com. I’m even more embarrassed to admit I wish I could live-tweet Mass.
During the Monsignor’s sermon, he talks about how the ashes represent that we are all sinners, that we are all humans struggling with the human condition. The ashes are a reminder to extend compassion to one another instead of hate and intolerance, kind of the exact opposite of Twitter.
Then he goes on to talk about the meaning of Lent and focuses on the idea of rendering the heart. He mentions that in French, lent means slow. He says something along the lines of, ‘Yes, we are all sinners and human, but Lent is a time to look into our hearts and see where we can do better; it’s a time to notice where we are gossiping or bullying or negative. In French, lent means slow and it’s a time to slow down…’
The Monsignor reaches under his cassock and repeats himself: ‘It’s a time to slow down and put these down.’ And he pulls out — I kid you not — his CELL PHONE and holds it up in front of the parish. The black mirror stares back at me from the pulpit.
Holy moly. We ALL have a real problem.
When a Monsignor is holding up his cell phone in front of the parish and telling everyone, basically, ‘Hey, this is ruining our lives and relationships’, maybe we should do a little reflecting on the fact that our technology is destroying the fabric of society. Suddenly, I don’t feel so alone. Maybe my Twitter fast isn’t so silly after all. I look to my right. My aunt pulls out her phone. She spends the rest of the service checking her emails and texting. She’s my hero.
3 p.m. PST: has it been a year since I’ve been off Twitter? It feels like it. I’m mad because although I’m not tweeting, I don’t think I’m any more productive. I’m just texting and talking to people more and desperately checking my emails, hoping thousands of people are emailing me, saying they can’t live without me and my witty tweets.
That isn’t the case. But one email does catch my eye. The subject reads, ‘St Monica’ and it says, ‘Hey, Bridget. You attend St Monica, huh? I follow you on Twitter and you’re recognizable, so I guess I happened to recognize you after Mass today.’
I got recognized from Twitter…AT MASS. You’ve got to be kidding me. God is laughing at me. Maybe He wants me on Twitter after all.
This article is in The Spectator’s April 2020 US edition.