Friday, 11 March 2011

Facebook fast

So, how do you like your pancakes? I like mine bigger than my face with bacon, banana, cheese and maple syrup. Yum yum, yes please, ding dong. This year the most glorious annual day of cakes in a pan fell on the anniversary of my birth, but I didn't feel the need to honour it with pan flipping agility, since the Dutch eat pannekoeken all year round in restaurants dedicated to the flat and versatile delights and I have frequented them these past few weeks. (I thought this pancake definitely merited the feature of my first photo in the blog - it's massive like!)

I nevertheless had my fair share of sweetness, don't you worry, hosting a High Tea for my birthday instead. I managed to bake some delectable and quintessentially English scones in the excuse of an 'oven' housed sheepishly in our kitchen.

Now I don't know for sure, but I think pancake day has something to do with lent. Traditionally I believe we had to use up all our rich ingredients before the chastity and abstinence from all things nice began. Rather than fighting over which family member should assume the daring responsibility of flipping the pancakes, which in the land of pannekoeken must have lost its novelty way back when, the Dutch instead drink their faces off at carnival. Strange that the English have a reputation for lager-loutishness, when its the Dutch that seem to like to party at every opportunity from what I have thus far experienced.

I am not a huge drinker, so I didn't feel the need to go out on Tuesday evening and get wasted before a 40 day alcohol strike (even though it was my birthday, I managed to stay almost sober -Dutch beer is pretty weighty). This year lent didn't creep up on me as it sometimes does and in the weeks approaching, I thought about whether there was anything I should try giving up. Given that I never do anything for the sake of it, I wanted to consider whether there was anything that I was wasting my time, money or effort on, or something that was in some way detrimental to me, or that I had become ultra-dependent upon...

Almost immediately it became clear that facebook was this thing. The social networking sight has always been a welcome distraction from study, but since being here, away from the majority of my friends, it has posed as somewhat more of an attraction, offering cyber company when I have been momentarily bored or my study ethic has see-sawed towards futility. I hereby announce that until Easter Day I am on a facebook fast. I will have one day a week off, this is tradition (see wikipedia if you doubt me) but also because facebook does still remain a vital link with home and I'm not sure I can bare to be out of touch with you all completely.

Whilst I will permit myself a sign-in a week, what I will no longer tolerate is the sheer amount of hours that I pour away, signing in almost hourly to scour for little red notifications or message alerts; trawling through my homepage to see what my friends and acquaintances, some I have barely seen recently (or in more extreme cases - ever) have been doing with their time, other than documenting such activities; and scanning through pretty pictures of people, casting an embarrassing eye back at my own gawky (of late double-chinned) profile snaps.

I am currently warring against the demand for a 20 page paper, due in at the end of the month and as time runs out, I am determined to lay hold of my time rebate. "Facebook, please give me my life back." OK, so it never got that bad, but I have been signing in, first thing in the morning, last thing at night and oh-no-the-world-might-not-still-be-spinning-on-its-axis-if-I-don't-verify-this-with-my-online-family numerous urgent(ish) times during the day.

More than my time however, I want to get my identity back. Does it really matter if I am kept completely in the loop with all 900 or so of my acquaintances (yes I really need a friend clear-out) and does it really matter if all of those are kept up to date with my latest bulletins, most of them hand-selected to make it appear like I am having a better life than you. Maybe facebook should change it's name to boastbook or fakebook. My friend told me the other day about an article written on the facebook phenomena and how it leads many to depression as they only ever get bombarded with the great things other people are doing and feel their lives to be inferior or dull. Don't worry peeps, you're acquaintances profiles have probably been airbrushed and their news feeds are for the most part edited to perfection. I don't want to me sucked into the online social interactive magazine anymore.

Even if I am a little bit out of the loop over the next 40 days, I want to focus my energy and my spare time on something much better, Jesus. How much happier (and productive) would each day be, if rather than feeding myself with your news and countless others, I was munching on the good news that Jesus loves me just the way I am. I wouldn't have to worry as I learnt about x's new job or y's year travelling, about my current uncertainty, meditating instead on Jeremiah 29 vs 11, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Hear me right by the way: I love facebook, I love hearing about what you're all up to and sharing my times with you also - but it is sometimes a wee bit excessive, just like the size of my pancake!