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Friday December 19th 2014

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The Local—Bad Catholic, Good Lent Participant

By Edwin Banacia

Even after having moved back to my beloved Pensacola, I’m not much of a churchy guy. I can’t hide under a robe and spend my Sundays peeping at all the single ladies anymore. But, there are specific Catholic traditions that I still honor. And, truthfully, I still hold these sacraments close to my heart. Maybe I did learn a little something? Maybe it is just sentimentality? Either way, I still cling to a few sacred events in the Catholic Church year.

Even as a boy, I found it hard to accept the dogma of man. I needed proof. I couldn’t accept the scriptures of the Bible at face value because I knew the words were written by man and, by nature, man is flawed. As I got older, this need for absolute truth intensified. If a man announced on Twitter today that God spoke to him and he’s completed a lost book from the Bible, would you believe him? It’d be a hard pill to swallow.

But, guess what? Despite my own nagging doubts and insecurities, I still believe. I can’t tell you why. I can only tell you that I believe. So I keep these few sacred Catholic traditions alive because it’s the only way I know how to worship. And, as a believer, these most sacred events such as Lent and the Easter season are more important than all the rest. It is when we take time for self-examination, penance and celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

So every year, at this time, I’m at the end of a typical Catholic event, having given up something important in my life for Lent, as I prepare to celebrate Easter. This year, I gave up Facebook.

“When Facebook goes public this year, it will raise at least $5 billion making it the biggest Internet IPO the world has ever seen,” according to Wired Magazine. They go on to say, “The day it debuts on the stock exchange, Facebook will be worth more than General Motors, the New York Times Company and Sprint Nextel combined.” In other words, the whole world is on Facebook. Every single person you meet will undoubtedly “friend” you on Facebook. Giving up Facebook for Lent, I thought, would lead to some serious self-examination. Not surprising at all, that’s exactly what happened.

The first week was massively difficult. I’m a bicoastal person. A large portion of my friends aren’t local. Without Facebook, it’s been extremely difficult to be in their busy lives. From birthdays to wedding announcements and going-away parties to concerts, I’ve missed out on them all. It seems that without Facebook, the world forgets to invite you to anything.

Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned text message? Without Facebook, life was getting a little less involved. But then, after a few weeks, something grand happened. Life actually became a little less involved. Ah, the proverbial other side to the coin. Without Facebook, life became peaceful.

My friend list had swelled to above 1,000 right before I deleted my profile. My newsfeed was full of a cacophony of emotions. Only by deleting my account, was I able to see how those emotions were affecting me. Any athlete will tell you that emotions are contagious. Play a game of pick-up basketball a few times a week, and you’ll feel the transference of emotions. You ever heard the phrase, “Get under their skin?” That’s emotional transference.

And, it happens every day, several hundred times, on Facebook. Quite literally, my emotions were always in motion as I was affected by my friends’ emotions (let’s be honest with each other, some of our friends are quite bi-polar).

Something else beautiful happens after a few weeks minus Facebook. Your friends, if they’re your real friends, get organically retrained to be better friends. The brilliant part about this is they don’t even know it’s happening to them. Your absence will force them to actually rejoin your physical world. When people want to talk to me, guess what? They call me. We talk. I can hear their laughter or feel the hurt in their voice. It is so simple, yet abundantly beautiful.

I’m a bad Catholic. But, by the grace of God, I still learned a few precious lessons this season of Lent. I learned the value of laughter, the warmth of a perfectly-timed phone call and the peace of silence. It’s been almost 40 days and I’m still here. The world is still turning. I’ve decided to sacrifice Facebook permanently despite its $5 billion IPO. Take that Zuckerberg.

About “The Local”: Ed is a local bar owner, local bar patron and former music industry executive.

Are you a local with a story to tell? If so, email your story to joani@inweekly.net & she might be in contact (if it’s good enough to get her attention).