You can take our tweets. But do not -- do not -- take our pins.
Lent is upon us. For the next 39 days, Christians (and non-Christians who find appeal in the idea of strategic self-denial) will give up something they love -- or at least something they tend to over-indulge in -- in the name both of sacrifice itself and of self-and-social-improvement.
Traditional sacrifices include: meat, sugar, coffee, booze, TV-watching, snacking, gossiping, lying, procrastinating, complaining, and complaining about procrastinating. And while, recently, Lenten forfeitures have come to include additions to, rather than subtractions from, people's daily routines -- "I'll exercise more," "I'll eat more vegetables," "I'll make a point of paying someone a compliment every day" -- for the most part, the sacrifices made during the 40 days before Easter rely on the classic dialectic between addiction and destruction. You give something up both because you love it ... and because you know it's bad for you.
So it's interesting that the list of Lenten sacrifices has recently expanded to include another category: social media. People, taking the digital sabbath concept to a days-long level, are giving up Facebook. They're giving up Twitter and Tumblr and Foursquare. And if the love it/leave it dichotomy holds true, their self-imposed abstinence from those platforms indicates not only sacrifice, but also the general sense that the services being sacrificed are, on some level, destructive. Their popularity as sacrifices suggests, actually, the negative feelings people have about social media services.
Lenten abstinence, in other words, can offer an unscientific-but-still-revealing insight into how people are feeling about social media. A Big Mac Index for our feelings about Facebook.
So how are our current popular services stacking up? I did a search of tweets posted over the past day; and, within that day, there have been tons of references to giving up Facebook.
Giving up rice, McDonald's, Facebook and KFC for lent.-- Belieberauhl.(@SexifiedBiebs) February 23, 2012
Giving Up Facebook For Lent.. So I Will Be Back On Twitter Alot More!-- Syanna Reyes (@SyannaaaReyesss) February 23, 2012
Giving up Facebook for lent! :X Let's see how this goes....-- Laura Janis (@EL_VEE_JAY) February 23, 2012
I'm giving up swearing, facebook, and sarcasm #finaldecision-- Ngan Nguyen(@ngannerz) February 23, 2012
In addition to giving up facebook..I'm gonna try and give up saying 'sorry' never realized just how much I say it..-- Lindsay Nitishin (@lindsayyy_loo) February 23, 2012
Making sure you have a perfect profile pic before giving up Facebook for lent. #TSM-- Total Sorority Move (@totalsratmove) February 23, 2012
There are fewer, but still substantial, references to giving up Twitter.
For lent I'm giving up Twitter & Facebook, so later all see ya in 40 days!-- Shemeka Levine (@ShemekaLevine) February 23, 2012
Starting tmrw I'm giving up twitter and lying for lent #nojoke-- Loading... (@_oddmentality) February 22, 2012
I know sooooooo many people giving up twitter for lent... Yea, I'm not about that life. lol-- †hat boy. (@nicktheweirdo) February 22, 2012
Foursquare got a few sacrificial shout-outs, as well.
And so did Tumblr.
Im giving up tumblr for lent-- Carolyne Marie ✌(@Heartsparx) February 23, 2012
Giving up Tumblr for lent..This is going to be hard-- Eve Reeves (@Eves_By_U) February 23, 2012
But! Take a look at the results for Pinterest. Some people are, indeed, giving up the service:
For Lent this year I'm giving up: liver, Pinterest, cat-petting, and Lifetime Movie Network. Call me the "Religious Self-Discipline Ninja."-- Kevin Childs (@rockconway) February 22, 2012
Better late than never, but I am giving up all forms of social media for Lent (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest).-- Ashleigh Finley (@ashfinle) February 23, 2012
But the general consensus seems to be that Pinterest is too valuable to give up, even for six weeks:
Someone said they were giving up Pinterest for Lent!!!!! I'm hyperventilating just thinking about that. #nojoke-- Belle Living (@BelleLiving) February 21, 2012
What am I giving up for #Lent? Not Pinterest.-- Bridget Marie Forney (@BridgetForney) February 22, 2012
Giving up shopping and sweets for Lent. So, really, I should be giving up @Pinterest.-- Hilary S. Cocalis (@hilary_SC) February 22, 2012
So people can happily spend 40 days deprived of TV and dessert and (yes, even!) coffee, and of Tumblrs and tweets and Facebook's photos and messages. Pins, on the other hand? That's a sacrifice most aren't willing -- or able -- to make.
Image: Shutterstock/Pan Xunbin.