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What to Give Up for Lent 2016? Consider Twitter's Top Ideas

(UPDATED) Here's the final tally of the top 100 choices of 2016, plus charts on how Lenten abstinence has changed over time.
What to Give Up for Lent 2016? Consider Twitter's Top Ideas Dick Thomas Johnson, Pabak Sarkar, KT King, Joshua Rappeneker / Flickr

Jesus instructed his followers to pray and fast in secret. Someone must have told Twitter.

Last year, more than 400,000 people tweeted what they were giving up during the week of Ash Wednesday. The top five choices: school, chocolate, Twitter itself, alcohol, and social networking.

In 2014, almost 650,000 Twitter users shared their abstentions.

But when Lent 2016 kicked off last week, only 200,000 tweets mentioned Lent, although the top five topics themselves were identical to 2015.

What Twitters users said they gave up for Lent in 2016.
Courtesy of Stephen Smith / OpenBible.info

What Twitters users said they gave up for Lent in 2016.

"I don’t know whether people are using Twitter less or if Twitter is throttling the data available in their API," wrote OpenBible.info’s Stephen Smith, who analyzes the numbers each year. "Either way, much less data is available this year than last."

Once again, tweets nodded to current events, including the presidential campaigns of the most (and least) popular candidates.

"Presidential candidate Donald Trump came in at #82, while 'running for president' came in at #84, referring to the withdrawal of candidates Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina from the race after disappointing results in New Hampshire," wrote Smith. "'Politics' came in at #91."

Twitter's top five Lenten choices have proven consistently popular since Smith began tracking Lent in 2009. This year's most popular topics include food (15,459 tweets), technology (5,021), and habits (4,299). Only 125 tweets mentioned sports, 70 mentioned possessions, and 49 mentioned clothes.

"[The] big gainers this year are 'indifference,' at #51, and 'being petty' at #59," wrote Smith. "The former follows Pope Francis’s Lent message from last year, which a few media outlets picked up this year."

Here’s the full list of the top 100 ideas of 2015, as well as the top 100 ideas of 2014.

Below are some charts, courtesy of OpenBible.info, on how topics have changed over time.

What's the hottest social media network these days? (Sorry, Instagram.)

Here's one attempt at tracking the "seven deadly sins":

Chipotle passed McDonald's last year for the first time, but it appears that the company's recent E. coli outbreak dramatically affected its Lenten popularity:

Popular diets:

Hot Cheetos appeared in the top 100 last year, the only namebrand snack to crack the list:

Few Lenten tweets mentioned sarcasm or complaining, but for two years in a row, at least 8,000 suggested swearing off swearing:

A sign of the times:

Anyone surprised?

Here is Smith's final total of the top 100 most-mentioned Lenten sacrifices (both serious and cynical) in 2016. (The list covers tweets from February 7 to 13 that mention giving up something for Lent and, except as noted, excludes retweets.)

Rank Word Count
1 chocolate 2,235
2 social networking 2,115
3 alcohol 1,902
4 twitter 1,873
5 school 1,564
6 swearing 1,413
7 soda 1,109
8 sweets 1,002
9 coffee 880
10 fast food 870
11 sugar 792
12 meat 792
13 lent 654
14 facebook 623
15 you 607
16 bread 600
17 pizza 539
18 sex 486
19 college 459
20 chips 453
21 junk food 438
22 homework 409
23 beer 369
24 boys 367
25 f***boys 344
26 candy 313
27 work 300
28 starbucks 289
29 life 283
30 religion 276
31 ice cream 266
32 netflix 255
33 giving up things 253
34 snapchat 239
35 instagram 234
36 smoking 225
37 cheese 221
38 wine 220
39 cookies 218
40 marijuana 193
41 me 191
42 tops 179
43 rice 174
44 food 170
45 stuff 161
46 french fries 160
47 makeup 157
48 catholicism 156
49 shopping 155
50 carbs 150
51 people 137
52 fried food 137
53 caffeine 133
54 feelings 127
55 red meat 127
56 desserts 121
57 indifference 121
58 mcdonalds 118
59 my phone 117
60 negativity 114
61 hope 114
62 masturbation 110
63 procrastination 109
64 complaining 108
65 booze 107
66 virginity 104
67 being petty 103
68 sobriety 103
69 coke 102
70 hot cheetos 97
71 online shopping 97
72 liquor 97
73 fizzy drinks 96
74 breathing 96
75 caring 91
76 pasta 89
77 takeout 89
78 dairy 89
79 diet coke 85
80 sleep 82
81 chipotle 82
82 chick fil a 79
83 cake 79
84 eating out 79
85 porn 78
86 pancakes 77
87 men 77
88 stress 75
89 sarcasm 71
90 taco bell 70
91 him 70
92 gluten 68
93 peanut butter 67
94 juice 67
95 this 66
96 my attitude 66
97 tea 66
98 cruelty 66
99 new years resolutions 64
100 christianity 63

2016 total including retweets (final):

Rank Category Number of Tweets
1 food 15,459
2 technology 5,021
3 habits 4,299
4 smoking/drugs/alcohol 3,513
5 school/work 3,235
6 relationship 1,974
7 irony 1,812
8 health/hygiene 908
9 sex 902
10 religion 738
11 generic 577
12 entertainment 462
13 politics 374
14 relationships 344
15 shopping 341
16 money 147
17 sports 125
18 celebrity 78
19 possessions 70
20 weather 57
21 clothes 49

[Photos courtesy of Joshua Rappeneker, KT King, Dick Thomas Johnson, and Pabak Sarkar on Flickr.]

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Posted:February 5, 2016 at 1:01PM
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What to Give Up for Lent 2016? Consider Twitter's Top Ideas