Lent 2012: A Reflection on giving up Facebook, profanity, and AdBlock

Being raised Catholic, it is customary that I give something up each season of Lent. Previously, I have given up such things as television, video games, profanity (swearing/music/video/etc), shaving, all forms of sex, and meat. And, in one season, all of the above at once!

This season’s primary item was Facebook.

Giving up Facebook

Facebook

When I first told people about this, they seemed surprised. The reactions I received were along the lines of “oh wow,” implying that the notion of daily life without Facebook was something difficult. But, to be honest, I actually felt guilty because I had really grown tired and annoyed at Facebook as a service in general. So, for me, I didn’t think it would be that hard. In a way, I had long since wanted to just outright quit Facebook, but it was so ingrained in our daily lives, as others pointed out to me. However, my feed had grown clogged of people and items I just plain didn’t care to read about anymore. I had shifted some of these people into the Acquaintances category so that they no longer showed up on my main feed but, even so, I was just feeling… over it. Lent would be a good time to sever my ties to Facebook. In fact, I also heaped on Twitter, just because.

In my absence, I planned to explore Google Plus a bit more. I had been an early adopter of the new social networking site when it debuted last Summer but, like many others, had all but abandoned it to return to the monolithic Facebook. Still, I thought Lent would be a good time to get into it and test the waters more than most originally had. I posted on Facebook informing my friends of my intentions and soon Lent began. (Sidenote: a woman in Chicago did this as well, but no news media ever contacted me!)

In preparing for the severance of ties, I attempted to go to all the websites and services I use that connect to or via Facebook. Let me tell you, there’s a lot of them. I logged out on all I could think of, but I somehow missed a couple as I would later be informed. In case you don’t know what I mean, there are websites you can visit where you are often prompted to “Connect with Facebook.” Instead of creating your own site identity by a registration process, the site just links directly to your Facebook account. Many times, these connections will also share data between the two and, in some cases, the site or service will publish information directly to your Facebook account, which then appears in your friends’ feeds.

In fact, one thing that stood out to me during my Facebook absence was just how ubiquitous Facebook really is. I’d often visit a site that, as I mentioned above, offered to Connect to Facebook to set up an account. These options were primarily featured, with maybe just a tiny text-link for a “No thanks, I’d like to create my own separate account.” Several of my favorite websites I visit (Lifehacker and Kotaku) actually now require your account be linked to Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. This was not well-received, and I was reassured to learn that I was not the only one that thought so. I’m already leery of the proliferation of Facebook across the Web, but the recent changes to its platform last year to allow even more social interaction in the form of “Jason read this article on NY Times” seemed even more intrusive. Allowing access to my account to even more websites is not a concept I enjoy.

Anyway, in trying to “Disconnect” from Facebook, I unlinked my Foursquare account, as well as my Raptr and Spotify accounts. I’m sure there were others as well. Apparently, somewhere my “Top 3 Listened To Artists” from Last.fm was missed, as well as acquired PlayStation Trophies. These two items continued to be published to my Facebook wall, but not of my own accord, as I did not even know such activity was taking place! Also, less than a week into Lent, I received a project at work that would’ve seen me working on and subsequently testing our company’s Facebook pages! I was worried about how to go about this, given my Lenten sacrifice, but luckily the project ended up being scrapped (ironically, because Facebook’s platform changes so often that the desired goal was not really attainable any longer).

Beyond the initial setup, and the almost-hiccup of my work nearly requiring me to use Facebook, everything else was fairly smooth sailing. I didn’t have desires to go looking for people, or at my News Feed. I even had turned off Notifications so I wouldn’t even be connected at that level. Really, as of Ash Wednesday, Facebook was simply… gone. A non-factor. Instead, I just played around with Google Plus, an experience that was so eye-opening, it deserves (and will get) its own article altogether later this week.

Now that Lent is over, I am free to return to Facebook (and Twitter) full-force. And perhaps I will, in time. But I am quite content with Google Plus. In fact, I prefer it, and I like the connections I’ve made over there, as well as discovering new people all the time. My plan, going forward, is probably to continue using Google Plus just as I have. I will probably only turn on email notifications for Facebook so, if someone messages me or something like that, I’ll at least know it happened. I may use an extension that allows me to share content to more than one social network but, as of this writing, my primary residence happily remains Google Plus.

 

 

Profanity

Profanity

Another thing I gave up for Lent this season was profanity. This has actually been a recurring sacrifice annually, in which I do not listen to music or watch any media using profanity or vulgarity. I myself avoid it as well personally. In fact, I even had a playlist on my iPod already entitled Lent from the previous year; all I had to do was fine-tune it and add any new “safe” music purchased over the past year to it. I also used Spotify quite a bit over this Lent, upgrading to Premium, and listening to playlists from other people (I could easily search for “Lent”). I listened to a lot of Kirk Franklin, Flyleaf, and Fireflight. I also listened to a lot of classical music. One of my favorite parts of incorporating Spotify into all of this was having legal access to music I didn’t own and could listen to without guilt. I built myself an “Old School” playlist of rap and hip-hop from the good ol’ days when they weren’t laced with profanity or smut every other verse. Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow, Sugarhill Gang, Hammer, TLC, Fresh Prince, and Run-DMC were often played in my headphones. Hearing it so often and in such great quality made me miss that era of music even more!

Avoiding profanity in video media was not hard at all and really not a factor, as I don’t ordinarily watch anything like that anyway. But avoiding profanity on the Internet was a challenge. I usually install a few browser extensions that serve as profanity filters, changing out vulgar terms for asterisks. That was fine and worked just as it always does. However, as a frequent reader of Cracked.com articles, I very early on encountered a lot of profanity in images used, which could not be filtered out since it was an image, and not text. I finally had to just stop going to sites like that altogether. Also, I would often noticeably see where profanity once resided, thanks to the presence of those asterisks. One thing in particular that stuck out at me is just how prevalent profanity is used these days. As someone that follows politics and the news in general closely, I often stumbled upon editorial pieces — not just from a random blogger on his own site, but big sites, such as the New Yorker, New York Times, Variety, Time, Newsweek, and sites of that ilk. These pieces contained profanity like the f-bomb in them as casually as any other word that surrounded it. I am used to such low journalistic standards from sites like Cracked, but I was a bit surprised to think that someone approved those editorial pieces to go to print (online) like that. It really lowered my opinion of those media outlets as a whole. The major sites (like CNN) do not stoop low like that in their pieces.

Now, you may read this and think me a prude, and that’s fine, but herein lies the basic intent, or result, of such a sacrifice of profanity: in not constantly being embedded and surrounded by such language, it really becomes starkly evident when it does present itself. And, in doing so, it then becomes shocking and a bit grating. In building my aforementioned old school playlist, I tossed some Salt-N-Pepa on it. However, when “None of Your Business” came on, a-hole was used, which was so jarring to me that I immediately skipped to the next track and deleted the song from my playlist. Similarly, I thought I’d give Alicia Keys’ first album a listen, but the the four-letter s-word was mentioned in its intro as well.

It’s an interesting reaction, though, when you notice it the first few times. It also really makes you think about us as a society and culture, where we’ve come to accept profanity as so common that we often think nothing of it when we hear it from having been so desensitized over the course of so many repeated exposures to it. I still recall the first time I bought Dr. Dre’s “Dre Day” single back in 1992. Up until that point, I had only ever seen the censored video on MTV, but I didn’t even know I had been watching a censored version. Hearing the explicit version was so shocking, I felt guilty. Twenty years later, I’ll be the first to admit that some of the stuff I regularly listen to is so over-the-top, most people already desensitized by profanity even couldn’t handle it. But, in going through this sacrifice, it really helps change my perception and brings me back to that “pre-1992” mind set. Lent is over now, and I’m technically free to play whatever I want now, and perhaps over time I will get back to that, but I’m in no way rushing to hear that stuff. And I like that; it means it worked well and has served its overall purpose.

 

 

AdBlock

AdBlock

The last thing I decided to give up this Lent was AdBlock. For those who (sadly) do not know about AdBlock, it is a browser extension for both Chrome (my preferred browser) and Firefox (my second choice) (it’s also available for Safari if you use a Mac. I’m not sure if it’s around for Internet Explorer, but you really shouldn’t bother with that browser anyway). This extension gets rid of banner ads that display on webpages. The thing is, these banner ads help pay for the websites you’re visiting being maintained. There are even some sites out there that won’t work or “know” if you’re using AdBlock and ask you to disable it in order to use the site. It’s fairly understandable, as it’s the equivalent of commercials for television. So I decided I’d disable it for the duration of Lent.

I can tell you that, of the three sacrifices made this year, this is the one I am most excited to return to its pre-Lent status. The ads I saw were so overbearing and, unlike the other two items above where there might be a degree of transitional adjustment, I never became used to seeing the ads. In fact, I even feel like AdBlock should be enabled for the sake of web safety alone. I so often felt I was getting unsafe ads and popups. At one point, I even had to run a virus scan and removal tool on my machine because it got infected somehow.

Web safety aside, the aesthetic element of AdBlock makes things just look so much better and uncluttered. Here is a screenshot of website I was on during Lent. And here is how CNN looked to me without Adblock as well. Also, I was so eager to return to using AdBlock so I could stop seeing that stupid World of Warcraft banner ad that has a dancing character that does not stop dancing. SO GLAD.

So, out of all the things I gave up, this was the most annoying and difficult in terms of the entire duration of Lent, and definitely the one to which I am not continuing thereafter.

 

 

All in all, it was a good Lent. My time off of Facebook and Twitter allowed me to focus on a personal web project I’ve been meaning to work on for a long time, and it’s coming along nicely. Disallowing myself from listening to my usual mix of music meant I got to explore and enjoy other music out there. And not using AdBlock gave me a sense of appreciation for it that I previously did not possess. Now, it’s over, but hopefully the lessons learned remain.


Being raised Catholic, it is customary that I give something up each season of Lent. Previously, I have given up such things as television, video games, profanity (swearing/music/video/etc), shaving, all forms of sex, and meat. And, in one season, all of the above at once!

This season’s primary item was Facebook.

Giving up Facebook

Facebook

When I first told people about this, they seemed surprised. The reactions I received were along the lines of “oh wow,” implying that the notion of daily life without Facebook was something difficult. But, to be honest, I actually felt guilty because I had really grown tired and annoyed at Facebook as a service in general. So, for me, I didn’t think it would be that hard. In a way, I had long since wanted to just outright quit Facebook, but it was so ingrained in our daily lives, as others pointed out to me. However, my feed had grown clogged of people and items I just plain didn’t care to read about anymore. I had shifted some of these people into the Acquaintances category so that they no longer showed up on my main feed but, even so, I was just feeling… over it. Lent would be a good time to sever my ties to Facebook. In fact, I also heaped on Twitter, just because.

In my absence, I planned to explore Google Plus a bit more. I had been an early adopter of the new social networking site when it debuted last Summer but, like many others, had all but abandoned it to return to the monolithic Facebook. Still, I thought Lent would be a good time to get into it and test the waters more than most originally had. I posted on Facebook informing my friends of my intentions and soon Lent began. (Sidenote: a woman in Chicago did this as well, but no news media ever contacted me!)

In preparing for the severance of ties, I attempted to go to all the websites and services I use that connect to or via Facebook. Let me tell you, there’s a lot of them. I logged out on all I could think of, but I somehow missed a couple as I would later be informed. In case you don’t know what I mean, there are websites you can visit where you are often prompted to “Connect with Facebook.” Instead of creating your own site identity by a registration process, the site just links directly to your Facebook account. Many times, these connections will also share data between the two and, in some cases, the site or service will publish information directly to your Facebook account, which then appears in your friends’ feeds.

In fact, one thing that stood out to me during my Facebook absence was just how ubiquitous Facebook really is. I’d often visit a site that, as I mentioned above, offered to Connect to Facebook to set up an account. These options were primarily featured, with maybe just a tiny text-link for a “No thanks, I’d like to create my own separate account.” Several of my favorite websites I visit (Lifehacker and Kotaku) actually now require your account be linked to Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. This was not well-received, and I was reassured to learn that I was not the only one that thought so. I’m already leery of the proliferation of Facebook across the Web, but the recent changes to its platform last year to allow even more social interaction in the form of “Jason read this article on NY Times” seemed even more intrusive. Allowing access to my account to even more websites is not a concept I enjoy.

Anyway, in trying to “Disconnect” from Facebook, I unlinked my Foursquare account, as well as my Raptr and Spotify accounts. I’m sure there were others as well. Apparently, somewhere my “Top 3 Listened To Artists” from Last.fm was missed, as well as acquired PlayStation Trophies. These two items continued to be published to my Facebook wall, but not of my own accord, as I did not even know such activity was taking place! Also, less than a week into Lent, I received a project at work that would’ve seen me working on and subsequently testing our company’s Facebook pages! I was worried about how to go about this, given my Lenten sacrifice, but luckily the project ended up being scrapped (ironically, because Facebook’s platform changes so often that the desired goal was not really attainable any longer).

Beyond the initial setup, and the almost-hiccup of my work nearly requiring me to use Facebook, everything else was fairly smooth sailing. I didn’t have desires to go looking for people, or at my News Feed. I even had turned off Notifications so I wouldn’t even be connected at that level. Really, as of Ash Wednesday, Facebook was simply… gone. A non-factor. Instead, I just played around with Google Plus, an experience that was so eye-opening, it deserves (and will get) its own article altogether later this week.

Now that Lent is over, I am free to return to Facebook (and Twitter) full-force. And perhaps I will, in time. But I am quite content with Google Plus. In fact, I prefer it, and I like the connections I’ve made over there, as well as discovering new people all the time. My plan, going forward, is probably to continue using Google Plus just as I have. I will probably only turn on email notifications for Facebook so, if someone messages me or something like that, I’ll at least know it happened. I may use an extension that allows me to share content to more than one social network but, as of this writing, my primary residence happily remains Google Plus.

 

 

Profanity

Profanity

Another thing I gave up for Lent this season was profanity. This has actually been a recurring sacrifice annually, in which I do not listen to music or watch any media using profanity or vulgarity. I myself avoid it as well personally. In fact, I even had a playlist on my iPod already entitled Lent from the previous year; all I had to do was fine-tune it and add any new “safe” music purchased over the past year to it. I also used Spotify quite a bit over this Lent, upgrading to Premium, and listening to playlists from other people (I could easily search for “Lent”). I listened to a lot of Kirk Franklin, Flyleaf, and Fireflight. I also listened to a lot of classical music. One of my favorite parts of incorporating Spotify into all of this was having legal access to music I didn’t own and could listen to without guilt. I built myself an “Old School” playlist of rap and hip-hop from the good ol’ days when they weren’t laced with profanity or smut every other verse. Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow, Sugarhill Gang, Hammer, TLC, Fresh Prince, and Run-DMC were often played in my headphones. Hearing it so often and in such great quality made me miss that era of music even more!

Avoiding profanity in video media was not hard at all and really not a factor, as I don’t ordinarily watch anything like that anyway. But avoiding profanity on the Internet was a challenge. I usually install a few browser extensions that serve as profanity filters, changing out vulgar terms for asterisks. That was fine and worked just as it always does. However, as a frequent reader of Cracked.com articles, I very early on encountered a lot of profanity in images used, which could not be filtered out since it was an image, and not text. I finally had to just stop going to sites like that altogether. Also, I would often noticeably see where profanity once resided, thanks to the presence of those asterisks. One thing in particular that stuck out at me is just how prevalent profanity is used these days. As someone that follows politics and the news in general closely, I often stumbled upon editorial pieces — not just from a random blogger on his own site, but big sites, such as the New Yorker, New York Times, Variety, Time, Newsweek, and sites of that ilk. These pieces contained profanity like the f-bomb in them as casually as any other word that surrounded it. I am used to such low journalistic standards from sites like Cracked, but I was a bit surprised to think that someone approved those editorial pieces to go to print (online) like that. It really lowered my opinion of those media outlets as a whole. The major sites (like CNN) do not stoop low like that in their pieces.

Now, you may read this and think me a prude, and that’s fine, but herein lies the basic intent, or result, of such a sacrifice of profanity: in not constantly being embedded and surrounded by such language, it really becomes starkly evident when it does present itself. And, in doing so, it then becomes shocking and a bit grating. In building my aforementioned old school playlist, I tossed some Salt-N-Pepa on it. However, when “None of Your Business” came on, a-hole was used, which was so jarring to me that I immediately skipped to the next track and deleted the song from my playlist. Similarly, I thought I’d give Alicia Keys’ first album a listen, but the the four-letter s-word was mentioned in its intro as well.

It’s an interesting reaction, though, when you notice it the first few times. It also really makes you think about us as a society and culture, where we’ve come to accept profanity as so common that we often think nothing of it when we hear it from having been so desensitized over the course of so many repeated exposures to it. I still recall the first time I bought Dr. Dre’s “Dre Day” single back in 1992. Up until that point, I had only ever seen the censored video on MTV, but I didn’t even know I had been watching a censored version. Hearing the explicit version was so shocking, I felt guilty. Twenty years later, I’ll be the first to admit that some of the stuff I regularly listen to is so over-the-top, most people already desensitized by profanity even couldn’t handle it. But, in going through this sacrifice, it really helps change my perception and brings me back to that “pre-1992” mind set. Lent is over now, and I’m technically free to play whatever I want now, and perhaps over time I will get back to that, but I’m in no way rushing to hear that stuff. And I like that; it means it worked well and has served its overall purpose.

 

 

AdBlock

AdBlock

The last thing I decided to give up this Lent was AdBlock. For those who (sadly) do not know about AdBlock, it is a browser extension for both Chrome (my preferred browser) and Firefox (my second choice) (it’s also available for Safari if you use a Mac. I’m not sure if it’s around for Internet Explorer, but you really shouldn’t bother with that browser anyway). This extension gets rid of banner ads that display on webpages. The thing is, these banner ads help pay for the websites you’re visiting being maintained. There are even some sites out there that won’t work or “know” if you’re using AdBlock and ask you to disable it in order to use the site. It’s fairly understandable, as it’s the equivalent of commercials for television. So I decided I’d disable it for the duration of Lent.

I can tell you that, of the three sacrifices made this year, this is the one I am most excited to return to its pre-Lent status. The ads I saw were so overbearing and, unlike the other two items above where there might be a degree of transitional adjustment, I never became used to seeing the ads. In fact, I even feel like AdBlock should be enabled for the sake of web safety alone. I so often felt I was getting unsafe ads and popups. At one point, I even had to run a virus scan and removal tool on my machine because it got infected somehow.

Web safety aside, the aesthetic element of AdBlock makes things just look so much better and uncluttered. Here is a screenshot of website I was on during Lent. And here is how CNN looked to me without Adblock as well. Also, I was so eager to return to using AdBlock so I could stop seeing that stupid World of Warcraft banner ad that has a dancing character that does not stop dancing. SO GLAD.

So, out of all the things I gave up, this was the most annoying and difficult in terms of the entire duration of Lent, and definitely the one to which I am not continuing thereafter.

 

 

All in all, it was a good Lent. My time off of Facebook and Twitter allowed me to focus on a personal web project I’ve been meaning to work on for a long time, and it’s coming along nicely. Disallowing myself from listening to my usual mix of music meant I got to explore and enjoy other music out there. And not using AdBlock gave me a sense of appreciation for it that I previously did not possess. Now, it’s over, but hopefully the lessons learned remain.


Share It :

More

About the author

Jason L. Hubsch

Jason L. Hubsch

I love music, video games, comic books, pro wrestling, politics, and God -- and not necessarily in that order! If you like any of these, chances are we'll get along.

Related posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *