CHOCOLATE and alcohol have traditionally been two of the main vices people give up for Lent. But new research suggests that more people are fasting from Twitter this year.
An analysis of about 300,000 tweets from 19-25 February, carried out by Stephen Smith, a blogger for Christianity Today, found that 13,937 tweets mentioned giving up Twitter for Lent. This was followed by chocolate (13,001), swearing (11,737), alcohol (9998), soda (9942), and Facebook (9025).
Last week, the BBC reported that David Jones, a minister in the Welsh Office, had signed off from Twitter for the 40 days of Lent. The use of social-networking sites such as Twitter has become widespread among MPs.
But not all Christians believe that giving up social media for Lent is helpful. The Christian musician Vicky Beeching wrote on her blog last week: “I believe what’s really needed at the moment is for us to learn the adult skill of self-control when it comes to social media. . . Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water, by going cold turkey for 40 days, why don’t we actually invest in learning how to control our use of the internet rather than letting it control us?”
The Vicar of St Paul’s, Weston-super-Mare, in Somerset, the Revd Andrew Alden, is inviting worshippers to tweet him as he delivers his sermons.
“Social media are God’s gift to the Church today to get the message out to as wide an audience as possible,” he said. “I know it’s what young adults and teenagers do. So if I want to reach them with the good news, which the Church desperately needs to do, I have to change my behaviour in a way that will hit them.”
He already uses TV monitors in the nave to show PowerPoint slides or videos to support his sermons, and has asked the technician to run the tweets in a banner at the bottom to the screens.
“I see the screen, and can work what I read into what I am talking about. It’s mostly from people sitting in front of me, but other members of the congregation who are away can see the points people are making on Twitter, and join in.”
He believes that the method is close to the way Jesus taught. “Quite a lot of his teaching was in response to people’s questions, or things that he saw as he walked round. I am not sure that the model of preaching we have today, where someone prepares and delivers a talk, really reflects the way Jesus taught — and it’s not the best way of engaging with young adults.”