26/03/2015 8:12 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Try Giving Up The Hardest Thing This Lent--Your Digital Addiction

NOAH SEELAM via Getty Images
An Indian Catholic students offer prayers during an Ash Wednesday service at Saint Mary's Church in Secunderabad,the twin city of Hyderabad on February 22, 2012. Catholic Christians observe Ash Wednesday, the official beginning of the 40 day period of the Lenten season which culminates in Holy Week. AFP PHOTO/Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

Three of my friends have suddenly vanished from our WhatsApp group. Some more from the Facebook messenger and I observed that I was followed a trifle less on twitter. Friends list has a constant ebb and flow but this kind of sudden dropouts needed an inspection.

And then, suddenly a flickering green light next to one of my disappeared email contacts, as if it was the only sign he was alive and kicking, made me curious. I decided to ping him. After a few moments of suspense came the surprise. He was abstaining from the social media and only once in a while checked his mailbox since it was the Lenten season.

Now it was clear why another friend was constantly posting prayers on Facebook!

As my schooling was in missionary schools, I more or less knew about the Lent season which our Catholic friends observed. All we cared for then, and were amazed at, was that they could actually sacrifice eating candies. They were, of course, later rewarded with a whole bunch of these sugary goodies during Easter, once the 40-day period of abstinence was over. We too looked forward to school after the Easter weekend, as we also received treats distributed by them.

"Depriving the self of a habit can be considered one form of fasting but this time around we felt full while we starved ourselves from digital communication."

During Lent, many Christians fast or give up certain luxuries as a form of penitence. But now, whether one is a Christian by faith or not, many have begun to observe Lent, or the season of self-examination, fasting and penance just to abstain from the 'necessities' that have slowly taken over our lives.

Digital detox is the rule of the day. There are several users who have taken this detox route than giving up on food or drinks as was the custom before.

Taking oneself off the social activity sites has helped a friend improve her performance at work by 60%. She says she can concentrate more on her work since she is not constantly checking the apps downloaded on her mobile phone. She is catching up on her reading and also on those face-to-face meetings with her friends and relatives.

This weekend, when we met up for a tete-a-tete, it was a joy to watch friends keeping those little talkative machines inside their handbags. We had decided we would forego getting distracted by the various noises that emanated from that little communication device we had adopted. It was one of the most interesting hour we spent in real time. Depriving the self of a habit can be considered one form of fasting but this time around we felt full while we starved ourselves from digital communication.

A friend revealed that as kids they were asked to cultivate this habit of sacrifice each year. They were asked to give up something more than candy, crisp or chocolates. Any habit that they thought they could not do without in their lives. They had decided to donate their pocket money and squabbling among themselves. This experience of want and bonhomie, however temporary, helped them later to appreciate the true abundance in our lives.

Adhering to the Lenten principles of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, giving up a bad habit like smoking or drinking, is another way of positively turning one's life.

A small positive change observed during these 40 days can have a big impact that lasts beyond Lent. Giving up electronic games did that for my former colleague's son. Its four years since the computer junkie sweats it out in outdoor games.

Lent is one good time to ponder what one might want to give up. Is it the self-drive to the office that you will let go and take up public transport or the air conditioner in the pre-summer heat? Is it that headphone while driving your car? Or being the perpetual late-comer? Take the time now and change the packet of chips to a bowl of fruits just as I have given up biting nails even while watching the World Cup matches. That is quite an achievement for the perennial nail-biter like me.

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