Facebook fast, media fast, digital fast

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Christians nowadays not only fast from food but from television, video games, and Facebook too. Oh my!

definition of Facebook fastBack in the Bible days, fasting took one of two forms: there was plain old fasting, which meant you subsisted on water alone, and then there was fasting from rich foods, which is described in Daniel 1:8-16. Nowadays we call this diet of vegetables described in Daniel 1 a “Daniel fast.” It’s a pretty popular way of introducing a fast into your spiritual life without worrying that you’ll suddenly go light-headed as you’re changing lanes on the freeway.

Nowadays, in addition to those fasts, we also talk about juice fasts, which is where you fast from solid food but you’re allowed to drink fruit and vegetable juices. And aside from these general fasts, people also fast from specific foods, such as chocolate or ice cream for a period of time. You ever try to give up junk food for Lent? We’ve all been there.

Anyway, in all these cases, the goal is pretty much the same: give up something we’re accustomed to so that we can remind ourselves how dependent we should be on God. After all, how does that one verse go? Man does not live on bread alone, or something along those lines? Jesus says it in Matthew 4:4 (and Luke 4:4), and he was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. So there’s some Biblical precedent for reminding us and our cute love handles that God is more important than any of our sweet or salty guilty pleasures.

Well fast-forward to the twenty-first century. Now we need a new proverb that says, “Man does not live on Facebook alone…” because, brother, it seems to be the thing we can’t live without! Between Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, we’re spending more of our lives in the digital world than in the real world. Can I get an Amen to that? Or at least a “Like”?

And so the ancient tradition of fasting has been updated to take into account the modern times we live in. Christians are going on media fasts, technology fasts, digital fasts, electronic fasts, and even Facebook fasts.

These new fasts are very similar to each other. The media fast is the broadest fast: people use this term to describe fasting from popular media and popular culture. Ever feel like you’re being supersaturated with advertisements and news stories and merchandise? A media fast might be just what you need to detox and set your mind upon higher things.

Or what if we get right down to brass tacks. Or should I say silicon tacks: how about a fast from the electronic gadgets and other digital technology that inundate your life. If you take a digital fast, or an electronic fast, or a technology fast, then you still get to read a book or pick up the newspaper (so you haven’t gone completely off the media grid), but your pace of life slows way down. Maybe in all the newfound silence and slowness you’ll find some time to send up a few more prayers or count your blessings.

It’s a sign of how omnipresent Facebook is in many of our lives that people have started to use a special term just for when they fast from Facebook: the Facebook fast. What’s especially interesting is how many Christians decide to give up Facebook during the 40 days of Lent. Christians seem to recognize that taking some time off Facebook not only has social repercussions but spiritual ones as well.

Media fast is the oldest of these terms, arising in print in 1990. The digital/electronic/technology/Facebook fasts are all products of the 2000s. I can only imagine that these terms will continue to rise in popularity and usage so long as social networks and digital gadgets become an increasing presence in our lives.

All these new kinds of fasts make me wonder how Christians will be fasting fifty years from now. How about holo fasts? That’s when you take a break from holographic entertainment and try to appreciate God’s goodness in a strictly three-dimensional world. If I’m right about holo fasts becoming a thing someday, then remember that you heard it here first in 2013!

I’m lumping in one more fast because, like these digital and technology-related fasts, it too is a product of the modern world: a carbon fast. This is where you modify your lifestyle so as to use up less carbon. Or, to put it another way, it’s where you deliberately try to reduce your carbon footprint. Going on a carbon fast sounds like it might bring into play other Christian terms such as prayer-walking (which means just what it sounds like: praying while walking) and creation care (which is Christian slang for Biblically informed environmentalism!).

Have you gone on any of these media and technology related fasts? What was your experience like? Do you know any new ones? Have you heard of carbon fasting?


media fast n. A fast, usually for a set period of time such as Lent, from the use of popular media and culture such as television, movies, video games, the Internet, music, magazines, and newspapers.
Since the 2000s, a popular kind of media fast has been one from the use of modern technology. Such fasts are variously called *digital fasts; *electronics fasts; and *technology fasts. Some fasts relate to a specific form of technology, such as *Facebook fasts.
See also *fasting.
1990 Hubbard Reporting Religion: Facts and Faith 129 : Media symbols and images are inescapable, even during a media fast. 2000 Andriacco Screen Saved: Peril and Promise of Media in Ministry 76 : [You can] go on a media fast for Lent. 2003 Thrasher A Journey to Victorious Praying 143 : Therefore, one might benefit from a media fast, or fasting from such dthings as recreational shopping. The purpose of all such abstinence in the words of Norwegian theologian O. Hallesby is “to loosen to some degree the ties which bind us to the world or material surroundings as a whole in order that we may concentrate all our spiritual powers upon the unseen and eternal things.” 2004 lakeviewchristiancenter.com (2 Jan.) (sermon notes) : There are a variety of ways to fast and durations of fasting in Scripture. Fasting from something distracting in order to pursue the Lord: Media Fast—TV, movies, newspaper reading, etc. 2004 Dean Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church 206 : Mennonite teenagers at a church I know in Ontario sponsor “media fasts” during Lent in which they swear off television, music, movies, video games, and the Internet (unless required for homework) as a way to renounce media images that may impede their journey to the cross. 2005 Parsons A Clearing Season: Reflections for Lent 107 : A media fast involves abstaining from watching TV, listening to music, or even reading. You might choose to eliminate only certain media, such as television. Or you might restrict your fast to certain hours of the day.
digital fast n. A fast, usually for a set period of time such as Lent, from various kinds of digital technology such as television, computers, music players, and the Internet.
For more information, see *media fast.
2009 George Godology: Because Knowing God Changes Everything 83 : Food is not the only substance we can fast from. In a culture that is obsessed with entertainment, a digital fast is a refreshing way to return to God the glory we offer to the Internet, television, movies, video games, and electronics. A digital fast is a temporary abstinence from all digital entertainment for the purpose of growing closer to Christ. 2013 Samson The Sky Beneath My Feet 256 : One of the leadership blogs Rick kept up with had recently an article about something called a “digital fast.” You unplugged your phone, stopped checking e-mail, shut down Facebook and Twitter.
electronic fast n. Also electronics fast. A fast, usually for a set period of time such as Lent, from the use of electronics such as television, computers, video games, and music players.
For more information, see *media fast.
2010 Cooper Gentle Dove xvii : No Facebooking or Myspacing or videogames. No iPhones, iTouches, or iPods or iPads. I wonder, can you really unplug from it all? This will really be a great test! Think of it as an electronic fast.
Facebook fast n. A fast, usually for a set period of time such as Lent, from the use of Facebook and possibly other social websites.
For more information, see *media fast.
2008 O’Neill allfacebook.com (19 Feb.) : There has been a significant amount of buzz over the past few days about the concept of a “Facebook Fast.” I have heard about people fasting from social networking for Lent and other spiritual holidays and it doesn’t seem like too bad of an idea. 2009 Rice The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community 167 : In a bold attempt to answer for herself whether or not “online life gets in the way of … offline life,” Jackson submitted herself to a “Facebook fast.” 2010 Shook Love at Last Sight 11 : For the next month, commit one day a week to a Facebook fast. That’s when you go a whole day without using social networking sites, limiting your use of technology to essential work or school-related work. 2012 Batterson Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge 000 : But while the most obvious kind of fast involves food, a media fast can be just as powerful. If we want to hear the voice of God, we’ve got to get rid of the white noise in our lives. A television fast or Facebook fast may be precisely what we need to hear God’s voice more clearly.
technology fast n. A fast, usually for a set period of time such as Lent, from the use of modern technology such as television, computers, video games, music players, and possibly even modern appliances (see 1999 citation).
For more information, see *media fast.
1999 Kinkade Lightposts for Living 11 : Some days we have gone on “technology fasts,” unplugging appliances and enjoying life by candlelight. We have gone on spending fasts, challenging each other to ferret out fun activities that cost nothing at all. 2009 Claibrone, Perkins Follow Me to Freedom 175 : Some members in our community lived without the Internet as a sort of act of solidarity or a technology “fast.”
carbon fast n. An effort, usually for a set period of time such as Lent, to alter one’s lifestyle in order to reduce one’s carbon footprint.
See also *fasting.
2008 The New Yorker 84/1–7 44 : Bishops of the Church of England have just launched a “carbon fast,” suggesting that during Lent parishioners, rather than giving up chocolate, forgo carbon. 2010 Giacalone, Jurkiewicz Handbook of Workplace Spirituality 170 : The faithfully green try a “carbon fast” for lent. 2010 Simon-Peter Green Church: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rejoice! 57 : Just as many churches observe a “carbon fast” at Lent, at which time they reduce their carbon footprint over the course of forty days, you and your church group might try a “low-carbon sabbath.” 2013 anglicancommunion.org (7 Feb.) : Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has invited Anglicans around the globe to join him in a Carbon Fast for Lent. “Lent is a time of repentance and fasting, of turning away from all that is counter to God’s will and purposes for his world and all who live in it,” he said. “This year, I invite Anglicans to focus their Lenten ‘acts of love and sacrifice’ on our contribution to climate change, and on those most impacted by it.”
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