Fasting from foods is a struggle for me. Before I became an Orthodox Christian, it was fairly easy to make up my own rules and only give up beef and pork during Lent. Dairy and fish became my dietary refuge. However, even these are to be abstained from in our weekly (Wednesday & Friday) fast as well as the major periods throughout the year. We still can eat shellfish. But with fresh oysters at $17 a pint, passing over a $3 pack of hot dogs is kinda rough. I find most vegan cheese substitutes abysmal in flavor and texture. I can cook some tasty bean and vegetable dishes. However, as soon as the fast is over, there will be a piece of dead animal on my pit being bathed in hickory smoke.
I didn’t have the same response with the end of my self-imposed fast from Facebook. If anything, my church has inspired me to continue to keep my distance from it. My priest and I did meet on the platform. But, he was off of Facebook for years as he grew tired of the shallow and toxic post by many users. He does very little posting these days. My fellow deacon also uses the platform sparingly putting up the occasional family or dog photo. Most of the leaders in the Fellowship have accounts. But, they spend more time doing the work of ministry instead of posting about it.
I watch the “Be the Bee” series from the Greek Orthodox Church’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry Department from time to time. The recent episode #176 underscored another reason why I have all but left Facebook. The host, Steven Christoforou, quoted something that was quite disturbing. We are no longer consumers. We have become the product. This is quite scary that social media platforms are using us as money making pawns with no control over the content we receive and that our identities are merchandise for advertisers. Of course, Facebook, Twitter, and other culprits can use us even if we don’t have accounts with them. But, by absconding from chronically scrolling and using them two and a half hours a day, we can symbolically protest their abuse and turn our souls to something (anything) more spiritually nurturing, healing, and healthy.
Father Seraphim Rose was a big believer in reading the ancient wisdom of the Church. Even if it is no more than a few sentences a day, putting something from the Desert Fathers to the Northern Thebaid was far more preferable than wasting one’s mind on silly television programs. How much more is it better to scroll through a few lines of the Philokalia and ignore the shallow and toxic memes posted on Facebook? Words of Evagrious of Pontus or Maximos the Confessor can help us overcome our secret sins and grow closer to God. Many post on social media are there only to stir us up to anger and suspicion.
I have shared some photos of my work activities on the Friends of York River State Park page. And this post will probably find it’s way on someone else’s. I just want to avoid wasting time counting “followers” and “likes.” God will bring me to the people he wants me to serve.