Judging from tweets leading up to Ash Wednesday, people are giving up “Hot Cheetos” for Lent. That particular kind of Cheetos (a spicier version) leads the food brands mentioned in tweets about what people are giving up for Lent, according to analysis by Stephen Smith.
Since 2009, Smith, a South Carolina-based “Bible coder” who uses data to help people understand the Bible, has analyzed Twitter to see what tweeters say they are giving up for Lent. He expects to analyze around 200,000 tweets about Lent this week.
During Lent, many Christians use the period for reflection leading up to Easter Sunday. Those tweeting about Lent include both serious and silly responses, everything from “alcohol” to “school” and “social networking” for the season where many fast from something specific.
School remains high on the list, and last year it was the number one thing tweeters gave up.
“Last year, Lent started around March close to spring break,” Smith said. “This year, I’m not sure why it’s so high. I’m not sure if that’s related to the weather and school is closed.”
One cultural artifact was new this year: some people announced they were giving up emojis. Before, emojis were barely mentioned at all.
As a joke, someone tweeted that ESPN should give up commentator Skip Bayless for Lent, a tweet that was retweeted more than 1,000 times.
Some people announced that they were giving up Drake, a musician who released a new album.
However, musician Justin Bieber and the band One Direction appeared higher in the list but did not show up this year as much.
“In past years, One Direction showed up before they became a big thing, so it showed an early indicator for their popularity,” Smith said.
Smith, who works for Bible Gateway, a Bible website owned by HarperCollins Publishers, started analyzing Lent tweets in 2009 when he started tracking tweets that mention Bible verses and began publishing his results on OpenBible.info.
Food is the most popular category tweeted. “Hot Cheetos,” though, are baffling to Smith.
“I didn’t know about them at all before they were on the list,” Smith said. “Last year, I went and bought some and I didn’t find them to be very exciting, but apparently they’re something to be given up.”
After food, technology is the second most popular category given up. Whether people are actually giving up something like Twitter or just saying it to be sarcastic, Smith isn’t sure.
Meanwhile, on Ash Wednesday, some Christians were displaying the ashes they received from clergy on social media.
On Wednesday, comedian Sarah Silverman joked about Christians’ filthy foreheads.
And tweeter Bill Donaghy provided a Catholic guide to ashes, joking about the different ways to make the sign of the cross.
Thousands in Mexico used their ashes to highlight the 43 students who went missing from a school in September 2014.