Rejoining the ranks of the digital disciples

Published March 30, 2012

What awaits the author after Lent: “There is only the rank and file of the digital disciples with whom I shall merge again on life’s busy highway-albeit in a much slower lane than the one from which I exited on Ash Wednesday.” Photo: Vianney Carriere

As the end of my Lenten digitial detox approaches, I feel none of the eagerness that I have experienced in prior years. The time I gave up sugar I literally counted down the minutes to the Lenten finale that was the unbridled consumption of one of my Auntie Marilyn’s butter tarts, which I’d squirreled away until I had God-given permission to pounce on it.

Alas, no long-awaited sweet treat awaits me this time. There is only the rank and file of the digital disciples with whom I shall merge again on life’s busy highway-albeit in a much slower lane than the one from which I exited on Ash Wednesday.

And in spite of waxing philosophic last week about the need for balance, the truth is I don’t have the faintest idea how to achieve it-nor do I trust my ability to set boundaries and stick to them. I feel like Al Pacino’s character, Michael Corleone in the third installment of The Godfather franchise. Like the reluctant mobster, in spite of a profound desire to get out of the digital business altogether I am terribly afraid I will get “pulled back in.” How will I handle all those “pending notifications” and the reminders from Facebook that I have faithfully deleted these last few weeks? Isn’t getting sucked back in just completely inevitable?

Lent was such a relief. It gave me both the spiritual and cultural framework for the sacrifice and restraint that I desperately needed. And there was so much strength in the solidarity of friends and colleagues who were denying themselves all kinds of earthly pleasures and distractions too. Actually this year, more than any other, I felt a profound sense of buoyancy from being part of this community-based rite of sacrifice.

In spite of my fear of failure however, I have taken some time to formulate a post-Lenten plan to keep some of the elements of the detox in place. This includes a promise to my husband and son that my computer will remain powered off from sundown on Friday until sunrise on Monday. I’ve also promised my family Doctor-and the pharmacist at the drug store in Napanee who knows me better than he would like to I’m sure-that I will not go online to diagnose illnesses I don’t have. The internet is no match for a trained medical professional.

I have also made a promise to God that no matter how acutely I feel the desire “to like or be liked”-utterly Shakespearian when you think about it-I will resist the urge to go online first thing in the morning. Preserving this hour for prayer and meditation is probably my greatest hope for restoring the kind of non-digital equilibrium God intended for humankind.

Perhaps the best way to avoid getting pulled back in is to carry these simple but important lessons from my Lenten journey with great intentionality into the days and weeks ahead and to pray for the best. With God’s help, maybe the balancing act won’t be so impossible after all.

Michelle Hauser is a parishioner at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Napanee, Ont., and manager of annual giving for the Anglican Church of Canada.


  • Michelle Hauser

    Michelle Hauser is an award-winning freelance columnist and freelance writer. Her work includes contributions to The National Post, The Globe and Mail, The Kingston Whig-Standard and numerous other publications. She and her husband, Mark, live in Napanee, Ont., with their son Joseph, and worship at St. Mary Magdalene. She can be reached at [email protected]

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