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What to Give Up for Lent 2018? Consider Twitter’s Top 100 Ideas

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Christianity Today: Once again, you can follow in real time what Twitter users say they are giving up for Lent, which this year begins Wednesday, February 14.

Last year, food items were three times as popular to abstain from as technology items or personal habits, according to 73,334 tweets analyzed by OpenBible.info’s Stephen Smith during the week of Ash Wednesday 2017. Alcohol ranked No. 1 for the first time since his project began in 2009.

This year, the creator of the Twitter Lent Tracker says he “expect[s] relationship-related tweets to run higher than usual” because Ash Wednesday coincides with Valentine’s Day. (Also, Easter coincides with April Fools’ Day.)

Smith was most curious last year about how high Donald Trump would rank among perennial favorites such as social networking, alcohol, and chocolate. The President ended up finishing No. 22 in 2017, up from No. 82 in 2016.

Meanwhile, LifeWay Research offered a chance to compare Twitter’s serious vs. sarcastic sharers last year via its study on what Americans who observe the Lenten season before Easter say they actually give up.

Of note: 3 in 10 Americans with evangelical beliefs (28%) say they observe Lent; of these, 42 percent typically fast from a favorite food or beverage while 71 percent typically attend church services.

Catholics remain the most likely to observe Lent (61%), with 2 out of 3 fasting from a favorite food or beverage (64%).

Overall, 1 in 4 Americans observes Lent (24%), according to LifeWay. Most American observers fast from a favorite food or beverage (57%) vs. a bad habit (35%) or a favorite activity (23%).

Hispanics were the most likely ethnic group to observe Lent (36%), and were more likely than whites to abstain from a favorite activity (34% vs. 17%) or a bad habit (50% vs. 30%).

In 2014, Barna Group found that 17 percent of US adults planned to fast during Lent, including 63 percent of practicing Catholics and 16 percent of practicing Protestants. Most were giving up a food item, including chocolate (30%), meat (28%), soda (26%), or alcohol (24%).

Twitter’s top five Lenten choices have proven consistently popular since Smith began tracking Lent in 2009. Here is how the top 5 ideas of 2017 have trended:

How the top 5 Twitter ideas of 2017 have trended since 2009. (Note: 2018 data is not yet complete.)

Image: OpenBible.info

How the top 5 Twitter ideas of 2017 have trended since 2009. (Note: 2018 data is not yet complete.)

Smith charts different trends over time, such as this attempt to track the “seven deadly sins”:

The Twitter Lent Tracker's trend line from 2009 to 2017. (Note: 2018 data is not complete yet.)

Image: OpenBible.info

The Twitter Lent Tracker's trend line from 2009 to 2017. (Note: 2018 data is not complete yet.)

For comparison, here are the top 100 ideas of 201720162015, and 2014, as well as a word cloud of last year’s top ideas:

Twitter's top 100 ideas of 2017.

Image: Stephen Smith / OpenBible.info

Twitter's top 100 ideas of 2017.

CT regularly reports on Lent, including three views on why bother celebrating Lent, the best books to read for Lent, Lent in Narnia, and the argument for lengthening Lent. CT editor-in-chief Mark Galli offered his thoughts on “giving up self discipline” for Lent.

Below is Smith’s running tally of the top 100 most-mentioned Lenten sacrifices (both serious and cynical) in 2018. (This list will eventually cover all tweets from February 11–17 that mention giving up something for Lent and, except as noted, excludes retweets.)

Top 100 Things (9,877 tweets, 11 p.m. Feb. 13)

Rank What Number of Tweets
1. social networking 654
2. twitter 561
3. alcohol 411
4. chocolate 392
5. meat 187
6. sweets 158
7. coffee 125
8. fast food 124
9. swearing 120
10. soda 112
11. lent 108
12. school 99
13. sex 97
14. facebook 84
15. bread 83
16. snapchat 81
17. sugar 73
18. men 69
19. chips 68
20. negativity 58
21. college 56
22. boys 54
23. beer 51
24. junk food 50
25. you 48
26. marijuana 48
27. work 48
28. smoking 43
29. giving up things 40
30. candy 40
31. starbucks 40
32. instagram 38
33. valentines day 36
34. cheese 33
35. homework 32
36. religion 32
37. life 31
38. fried food 30
39. catholicism 29
40. red meat 29
41. fortnite 29
42. pancakes 28
43. dairy 28
44. booze 28
45. complaining 27
46. ice cream 27
47. pizza 26
48. carbs 26
49. wine 26
50. shopping 25
51. stuff 23
52. f***boys 23
53. rice 23
54. donald trump 23
55. chick fil a 22
56. cookies 22
57. takeout 21
58. mcdonalds 20
59. me 20
60. hope 19
61. fizzy drinks 19
62. love 19
63. caffeine 18
64. liquor 18
65. lying 18
66. procrastination 17
67. my phone 16
68. being single 16
69. french fries 16
70. tv 15
71. sobriety 14
72. tea 14
73. pasta 14
74. people 14
75. myself 14
76. eating out 14
77. food 14
78. diet coke 13
79. desserts 13
80. brexit 13
81. dating 13
82. makeup 13
83. chicken 12
84. him 12
85. potatoes 12
86. netflix 12
87. sleep 12
88. porn 12
89. depression 12
90. everything 11
91. hot cheetos 11
92. this 11
93. virginity 11
94. my will to live 10
95. stress 10
96. celibacy 10
97. boba 10
98. guys 9
99. cake 9
100. sarcasm 9

Top Categories

Rank Category Number of Tweets
1. food 2,222
2. technology 1,530
3. smoking/drugs/alcohol 689
4. habits 487
5. relationship 397
6. irony 270
7. school/work 265
8. sex 151
9. religion 111
10. generic 83
11. entertainment 50
12. politics 49
13. shopping 47
14. health/hygiene 45
15. money 23
16. sports 15
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