FLATLANDS — Adriana Dorner admits that she checks her phone at least 50 times a day, mostly to look at her social media accounts like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.
But Adriana, a senior at Midwood High School, is saying goodbye to all three for a while. She wants to give up social media for Lent because she is eager to avoid any distractions as she prepares for Easter.
“I definitely think it will help with my spiritual growth,” explained Adriana, a parishioner of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Flatlands. “I feel like I spend too much time concentrating on things like Instagram. Turning it off for a while will do me some good.”
Adriana is one of many teenagers willing to spend the Lenten season tuning out social media and tuning into Jesus Christ.
Another St. Thomas Aquinas parishioner, Joseph Allen, is also disconnecting in order to connect. In his case, he’s going on a TikTok moratorium.
“I already started doing it, even before Lent. It’s given me more time to think. I’ve also been doing a lot of reading and getting more into meditation,” explained Joseph, a senior at Brooklyn Technical High School.
Adriana and Joseph are not alone. Instead of giving up candy, soda, and other flavorful vices for Lent, a growing number of people, young and old, are omitting Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and other sites from their lives.
According to a 2021 survey by YouGov, 14% of people in the U.S. who were asked what they were forgoing for Lent named social media. While that trailed far behind sweets, the most popular Lent deprivation item — 24% of survey respondents named it — it’s still a significant number given the ubiquitous nature of social media.
Taking a break from social media is a step adults have been encouraging more young people to take. Yuliana Restrepo, youth minister at St. Joseph Church in Astoria, said she talks to adolescents and teens in the parish youth group about it.
“I think it’s a good idea. Our youth have so many distractions today. They’re always looking at their phones. If you turn off the noise and get quiet, that’s when you can hear the voice of God speaking to you,” she said.
Deacon Anthony Mammoliti, pastoral associate at St. Dominic Church in Bensonhurst, said he has seen a hunger in young people to get closer to God.
“A good way to do that is to put down the phone and start to pray,” he said.
Siobhan Kelly, a freshman at St. John’s University, prefers to perform acts of community service for Lent as opposed to giving something up. But lately, she has been reflecting on her social media usage. “I use social media as a means of escape — to take a break from my studies,” she admitted. “I’m trying to cut down on my screen time and become more prayerful.”
And it’s not just young people. Father Dwayne Davis, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas, said he is looking to cut back on his social media consumption.
“It really is a distraction. I find that I go on there intending to stay for a short time, and the next thing I know, the time has passed,” he explained.
But it can be a difficult thing to give up, even for a short time. Joe Wisidagama, a senior at St. John’s University, is sticking to his game plan of avoiding sweets for Lent.
“Sweets are a big thing for me. I like cookies. I don’t think I could totally give up social media. Even if I did, I would probably still look at YouTube,” he said.
However, the social media deprivation movement appears to be catching on, even among non-Catholics. Savannah Guthrie, co-anchor of “Today,” who attends a nondenominational church in Manhattan, recently announced on Instagram that she’s giving up Instagram for Lent.
In her announcement, Guthrie explained that she is taking the step “to challenge myself, to be more reflective,” and to “use my time more productively.”
Joseph Allen isn’t concerned about saying goodbye to TikTok for 40 days. In fact, it might not be a temporary parting, he said. “I think after Lent is over, I won’t be going back,” he added.