Even though I was raised as Catholic, I don’t recall ever suffering privations because I gave up something special for Lent, leading up to Easter.
But many people did, and still do, cut out special things as a form of spiritual detox, I suppose. All the major religions do it.
There are just as many people who give up some of the pleasures of the flesh in the name of getting fit, getting clean, getting sober.
A colleague of mine on the then Sunday Star years ago used to swear off alcohol completely for the month of January. And I admired his commitment: to my knowledge he didn’t stray once in those 31 days, despite the fact that for the other 11 months of the year he had the kind of raging thirst you often seen in journos.
I once gave up cheese (if you don’t know why it is so addictive, I’m not going to explain it to you) for four weeks, back when I was running. I read somewhere dairy products are useless for adults from a nutritional point of view.
My theory was that cheese particularly would hamper my VO2 max (the scientific term for your maximum oxygen uptake). I wanted to set one of the faster 8km time trial times on our club’s regular Thursday outing.
Giving up the cheese would be, I believed, the equivalent of adding a turbocharger to a car engine … more power, more speed.
My wife smiled her sympathetic smile of tolerance and said nothing – as she has become accustomed to doing over the years.
I went out and thrashed out a good time of just under 30 minutes, to set a decent target. Over the next month, I felt lighter; I felt I was breathing better; I felt fitter.
When the day came for the comparison run, I felt good. The stopwatch, though, told a different story: 30:10. In angry revenge (on myself, the scientists, the universe – who knows?), I pigged out on cheese…
So, I was intrigued to see that, in different parts of the world, hardy souls are embarking on a new type of fast: they are giving up social media in all its forms for the 30 days of September.
After this weekend of being assaulted on my Facebook timeline with repeated adverts for rubbish like pyramid schemes or bitcoin, cleverly disguised in a sophisticated “fake news” package, I could quite easily declare a social media blackout.
Sadly, I can’t – because I need to follow a lot of people for news ideas and tips. Less than 5% of all social media posts are helpful, so I have to go through a lot of dross.
That ranges from the racial rants, telling me I must go back to Europe, to the outrage about reposted decade-old stories, to the “Please post this and don’t change it or you’ll get bad luck” type of bollocks we used to call “chain mail”.
I long ago learned the lesson of social media – about how much trouble you can get into with an unguarded comment or post; so by and large I am a social media lurker or voyeur.
If I go on holiday, though, I am seriously considering the enforced social media starvation diet. I am sure books, good conversation and walking or running in the fresh air will see me through.
Mind you, I probably will miss the cute kitties…