Today is Ash Wednesday, also known as the first day of Lent. As all good (and even bad) Christians know--not to mention many atheists, agnostics, and followers of non-Christian faiths--Lent is a 40-day period of self-denial leading up to Easter. Devout Christians often give up something they enjoy to commemorate the forty days that the Bible says Jesus spent fasting in the desert before starting his public ministry.
With the abundance of technology in our daily lives, more Christians are choosing -- or perhaps being prodded -- to give up their favorite online activities and tech gadgets as a Lenten sacrifice.
The denial of tech isn't necessarily a 2011 phenomenon. CNN reported four years ago that some young Christians were abstaining from social networks for Lent, which back then meant Facebook and MySpace. (In fact, MySpace was more popular than Facebook at the time.) Today, Twitter would likely be a more popular choice for Lenten self-denial.
Fast-forward to today, and tech-oriented sacrifice remains popular. The Augusta Chronicle in Georgia reports that Cristina Rangel, a member of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Augusta, plans to take a 40-day break from her favorite social network.
"We, as Catholics, already can't eat any meat (during Lent)," Rangel told the Chronicle. "Only fish on Fridays ... But this year, I'm trying to give up more addictive things, like Facebook."
And the denial-of-tech movement isn't tied necessarily tied to Lent. According to a Miami Herald report last month, some members of the Trinity church in Miami Gardens chose to "fast" from mobile phones, TV, and the Internet as part of a larger, traditional fast led by leaders of the South Florida evangelical church.
Other faiths are participating too.
Just last weekend, a non-profit group of Jewish artists called Sabbath Manifesto held the National Day of Unplugging 2011, an event designed to help over-connected folks "reclaim time, slow down their lives and reconnect with friends, family, the community and themselves." Participants were instructed to abstain from mobile phones, Twitter feeds, Facebook updates, and other tech distractions for a 24-hour period.