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College Students Give Up Facebook for Lent

Some students will go without fast food, alcohol or watching television, but a growing number of students are going without status updates and friend requests during Lent.

The 40-day Lenten period for penance, which came about after Christ's 40 days in the desert, begins Ash Wednesday and continues until Easter.

During this time, Christians who celebrate Lent give up something they frequently use and devote more time to growing closer to God.

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Many Roman Catholic bishops recently urged the faithful to abstain from text messaging, listening to iPods, and surfing the Internet for the five-week period traditionally set aside for fasting and prayer.

Greg Ramzinski, director of St. Elizabeth's Catholic Student Center, said he has seen several students giving up social networking Web sites as well as other time-consuming activities performed with modern electronics, and the purpose of the sacrifice is to deepen their relationship with God.

"If a person is going to give up Facebook or MySpace," he said, "hopefully they will replace that time with something beneficial to them."

Ramzinski said students can get the most out of their period of sacrifice by filling their freed-up time with prayer or spiritual reading or by attending mass more often.

When he was young, he said saw his peers sacrificing movies, television, eating fast food and drinking alcohol. Today he said students sometimes give up similar things, but technology now plays a role in Lent.

"When I was in college," he said, "we didn't have cell phones to text. We didn't have Facebook. We didn't have MySpace. The Internet wasn't as rampant as it is today."

Marianne Condit, a junior music education major at Texas Tech University from San Antonio, said she chose to sacrifice checking her Facebook page for the 40 days during Lent because she realized how much the Web site "wasted her time."

Condit said she chooses to give up something almost every year in hopes to keep her mind focused more on God and less on the luxuries she enjoys.

In the past, she has given up certain foods, which is a traditional sacrifice during the period of Lent. She said by giving up something she enjoys eating, she is reminded of her sacrifice each time she thinks of eating that particular food.

Facebook has had a similar affect, Condit said, because each time she thinks about sitting down at the computer to sign into her account, she is reminded of her promise to forfeit something she enjoys, strengthening her relationship with God.

"It's really about me sacrificing something because Jesus sacrificed for me," she said. "I've seen results. I know my sacrifice isn't worthy, but it's still a good thing."

If students do not replace their time on Facebook with something more meaningful, Condit said the sacrifice could end up empty and worthless because it will be less likely to grow the relationship they have with God.

Since Lent started this year, Tyler Burden, a sophomore pre-med major from Brock, also has proven to himself he can live without Facebook.

Burden said he plans to refrain from using the Web site to remind himself nothing is as important to him as his relationship with God.

"It has improved," he said, referring to his relationship with God and the Lenten period. "It gives me a lot more time to think about other things."

Although it has been a difficult habit to break, Burden said he is sure he will not use the Web site as much as he did before he decided to give it up.

"I won't be on there nearly as much when Easter comes," he said, "probably not even every day."

Ramzinski said Lent is more than a time of sacrifice. It is a time for people to be reminded of the blessings they have living in a "society of excess."

"The variety we have available to us is amazing," he said. "Lent is really a time to look at the blessings we do have and remember that everything we have does come from God."

This story was filed by UWIRE, which offers reporting from more than 800 colleges and universities worldwide. Read more at www.uwire.com.