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SOCIAL MEDIA HELPS USERS REFLECT ON LENT

We wanted to see what we could do if we gave out rather than gave up

‘COFFEE todayyyyyy.’ ‘I get to eat chocolate today!’ Last year, some social media users marked the end of 40 days of going without by posting messages about their return to a favourite food or drink.
After whisking up some pancakes next Tuesday (28 February), many people again will begin the challenge of giving something up for Lent.
Although the idea of a period of fasting in preparation for Easter emerged in the early centuries of the Church, in the 21st century people take note of Lent for a variety of reasons, religious or otherwise – and many now share their reasons on social media.
Some people give up chocolate, alcohol or fast food for the sake of their wallet or their health or as a discipline. Last year, one tweeter who barred themselves from chocolate wrote: ‘Not at all religious, but decided to challenge myself.’
Some are conspicuous by their absence online during Lent. Worried about the amount of time they spend on social media, they forego Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and such networks.
At the same time, social media is enabling people to experience Lent in new ways.
Dr Bex Lewis, Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, says that over Lent many sign up to services in which every day they receive an email containing a spiritual thought and then join in online conversations about it.
‘Interactivity is the big thing,’ she tells The War Cry. ‘People like to feel involved, and digital media has made it easier for people to get involved. They can receive content and then make some kind of response to it.’
Library picture posed by model Response is key to one Lent campaign that has been running every year since 2011 – 40acts uses Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and email to encourage people to carry out simple acts of generosity. Those who sign up receive a daily challenge to complete, such as to find out more about their neighbourhood or to take advantage of a two-for-one offer in the shops and share the extra item with someone else.
Sian Davison of 40acts explains: ‘People are on social media from the moment they wake up in the morning. It has provided us with a platform to reach them and provided them with an opportunity to share their ideas with each other.’ The campaign, Sian says, started with the
concept of flipping expectations on their head. ‘People normally talk of giving up things for Lent, but we wanted to see what we could do if we gave out rather than gave up.’
And ultimately, she says, the campaign gets to the heart of Lent, which ends at Easter.
‘We’re encouraging people to sacrifice a bit of themselves for others – it may not come across like that because generosity can be enjoyable, but generosity is about giving something of yourself for other people. So it’s tied in with Jesus and his sacrifice for us.’ In the end, the message that Lent points towards is that when he gave his time to others and when he responded with forgiveness even to the people who were putting him to death, Jesus revealed the love that God offers everyone. As the Bible puts it: ‘Christ loved us and gave himself up for us’ (Ephesians 5:2 New International Version). Like?

25 February 2017 The War Cry

 

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