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Should you give up Facebook for Lent?

A Chicago woman gives up Facebook for Lent and makes news. Is this the time for many to consider whether they've even more hooked on social networking than on chocolate?

Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

This is the time of year when many of a religious persuasion decide to sacrifice a little of themselves.

As a child, I was encouraged by my own parents to give up chocolate (and talking back in strange accents) for Lent.

It seems, though, that people have moved beyond chocolate, potato chips, and alcohol to give up an even greater fundamental-- Facebook.

For it is big news in Chicago that Christine Melendes has given up the famous social-networking outlet for Lent. It made the pages of CBS Chicago, so it must be a significant social moment.

Melendes is what they call in marketing dungeons a "heavy user." She claims she has dedicated some part of her day to Facebook for the last five years.

Now she is suffering withdrawal.

"I kind of feel like I forget to do something every morning before I go to work, but I'm doing pretty good. I haven't cheated yet," she told CBS.

I know there will be many pulling for her not to be unfaithful. There will many who are equally conscious of how much time they spend on Facebook. But the question is whether they will realize how the site has changed their lives and what habits it encourages.

On the healthier side, it allows people to keep in touch with those on far sides of the world. Sadly, though, people now use it to keep in touch with those on the far side of the street.

Facebook has, for many, become the default form of behavior, the first method that people use to allegedly wonder about those they allegedly love or know. Or, in fact, don't know.

And while it does allow for people to discover those they have long lost, it also encourages a behavior that some in Europe have long defined as American: the necessity to talk about oneself.

It's couched in that sweet term "sharing." But the core of the temptation is surely the foisting of one's inner, often twisted world upon others, perhaps in the hope that one will be accepted or, worse, that people will find one deeply interesting.

Who wouldn't be fascinated to read a study comparing how much time people use Facebook to display some aspect of themselves and how much they use it to listen?

It's not as if Facebook is the only means of social display at people's disposal--Melendes says she has no intention of giving up Twitter--which is, of course, entirely understandable. Twitter is a mere shot. Facebook is a bottle of scotch every day

Yet sometimes it's instructive to step back from certain things and question whether we really need them at all.

Think of all the things you have managed to give up and how they have liberated you. Perhaps the list might include smoking, one-night stands with people from HR, whiskey chasers after five pints of lager, the National Enquirer, wiping your banana-stained hands on your jeans, or putting your left sock on before your right and before your underwear.

Somewhere beyond our compulsions lies a certain freedom. Perhaps Lent, a time of sackcloth, ashes and not a little self-flagellation might be just the moment to discover your true self.

You know, the quiet, thoughtful self.