Every year, Catholics around the world observe the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness before his death by fasting or giving up something for Lent. Some will forgo mild sins, like consuming fast food or soda. But others are being encouraged to give up a more entrenched vice: their phones, technology and even the media.
The Archdiocese of Hartford encouraged parishioners to “fast” from their phones for the two most holy days of Lent: its start on Ash Wednesday and near its end on Good Friday. Archbishop Leonard P. Blair told the Hartford Courant that the proposed cell phone fast is “just a contemporary new twist” on an old tradition.
“The technology by which we have all these communications and social media and instant communications are all very good and positive things, but I think we all acknowledge that ... sometimes it's good to set those things aside for the sake of some interior silence and recollection, and a chance to put us back in touch with God and one another,” he said.
Blair, who has his own Twitter @ArchbishopBlair, used the account to encourage his followers on the platform to put down their own smartphones.
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“Shut off your phone and let God call your heart,” read a graphic he shared in a tweet.
The Federalist suggested to readers they should give up media entirely for Lent — television, radio, and social media — though the Washington Post reported that Catholics have opted for such digital detoxing for nearly as long as such platforms have existed. Pope Francis, who acknowledged the beginning of Lent with a tweet of his own, has also criticized technology as an isolating force before.
Last week, the pontiff urged believers to set good examples rather than seek out retweets or other social media validation, and days before that called texting during meals “the start of war because there is no dialogue.”
Blair’s more subtle encouragement to put phones aside, however briefly, for Lent seemed to have some converts, according to the Courant. Clara Mund, a junior at East Catholic High School in Manchester, told the paper she thought that the attempt to disconnect was important.
“Sometimes we're too reliant on technology and we have to remember there's other ways of communicating with people,” she said.