How to grow in humility in the social media era this Lent

By Fr. Geoffrey A. Brooke Jr.
When I was in college, a classmate posted on Ash Wednesday that she was giving up Facebook for Lent. Thursday, she joined Twitter. Funny? Yes. Inconceivable? No.
This begs the question, What was she hoping to get out of giving up Facebook for Lent?
When I was younger, it seemed like everyone gave up chocolate for Lent. Now the popular thing seems to be giving up your social media platform of choice. Perhaps that’s merely a reflection of my aging and maturing, or a reflection of the social media dominated “millennial era,” of which I find myself right in the middle.
Just as we can ask the question, why give up Facebook? We could ask the same of sweets. Are we giving up those things because we want to lose weight in time for the summer? Are we giving up Facebook or candy because they are the easy and popular thing to do? What’s the point?
Lent is a time of growing closer in our relationship with Christ through purification from sin. Giving up candy could be a good way to build up self-discipline in avoiding more serious or debilitating temptations. Giving up social media could help you to reprioritize your relationship with God in your life.
In turning away from sin, we are called to seek virtue. Part of the problem with our societal dependence on – or dare I say, addiction to – social media is that it blinds us from the virtue we should be seeking, humility.
Social media has a tendency to force us into broadcasting ourselves. Our laptops and cellphones become very expensive self-promoting bullhorns.
Humility is the opposite. It seeks to put others first and ourselves last. For the Christian, it is about putting Christ first.
Humility recognizes that same sinfulness in need of purification during Lent, whereas social media recognizes our accomplishments worth posting for the world to see.
While various social media platforms haven’t been around all that long, it’s safe to say they are here to stay. The particular names might rise and fall – remember Vine and Myspace? – but the phenomenon is permanent.
So what are we to do? How can we grow in humility in the social media era?
Fleeing social media completely neglects the exhortations of both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. We must figure out how to embrace and use social media for good, for Christ.
Fr. Brooke writes for the Catholic News Service.