May 4, 2014
“Interruption-free space is sacred. Yet, in the digital era we live in, we are losing hold of the few sacred spaces that remain untouched by email, the Internet, people, and other forms of distraction. Our cars now have mobile phone integration and a thousand satellite radio stations. When walking from one place to another, we have our devices streaming data from dozens of sources. Even at our bedside, we now have our iPads with heaps of digital apps and the world’s information at our fingertips… However, despite the incredible power and potential of sacred spaces, they are quickly becoming extinct. We are depriving ourselves of every opportunity for disconnection. And our imaginations suffer the consequences.”
“It is now possible to always feel loved and cared for, thanks to the efficiency of our ‘comment walls’ on Facebook and seamless connection with everyone we’ve ever known. Your confidence and self-esteem can quickly be reassured by checking your number of ‘followers’ on Twitter or the number of ‘likes’ garnered by your photographs and blog posts…Our insatiable need to tune into information–at the expense of savoring our downtime–is a form of work (something I call ‘insecurity work’) that we do to reassure ourselves.”
Click here to read the rest of this Fast Company article by Scott Belsky.
About a year ago, while I was hiking along a fairly remote trail, my phone buzzed and my heart sank. My phone buzzed because I’d just received an email and my heart sank because this could mean only one thing: AT&T had improved their network to such an extent that even there, atop a beautiful mountain, I was able to receive and answer emails. Previously, this had not been the case, and one of the reasons why I liked to go hiking in this particular spot was because it forced me to become digitally disconnected. But this was no longer so. (Of course, hypocrite that I am, once I realized I could connect, I was soon checking Facebook and Twitter, uploading photos to Instagram, and yes, tapping away at those work emails which were so easy to address at stopping points along the way.)
Let me be clear: I love technology. That said, I think we need to seriously think about the benefits and drawbacks of being connected all the time. I believe the Church could help folks chart a course between an unthinking embrace of all things digital and a Luddite suspicion of online connectedness. And this is also where I think the idea of a Digital Sabbath comes in.
This Easter, I propose we use Digital Sabbaths to reclaim just a tiny inch of that sacred, uninterrupted space which the author of the above Fast Company article describes so well.
I propose that each of us takes Digital Sabbaths on a regular basis. Clearly, each person needs to determine what that means for themselves exactly; not everyone is going to be able to completely turn off their phones. For me, however, because I stare at two screens in an office and at home all week, I’ve found that I need to have at least one day (usually Sunday) when I do not do anything screen-related. And now that there is nearly no place I’m aware of where one can be completely disconnected, I’m finding that I need to become a lot more disciplined about shutting my iPhone down at certain times so that I can be fully present, whether this be in a conversation, on a hike, etc.
Why? Speaking only for myself, I must admit that my need to constantly check emails and social media sites feels connected to insecurity. As the quote above states so well, the ongoing trickling in of emails, “re-tweets” and “shares” can serve to reassure us that we are indeed important and loved (or at least “liked”). But what about God’s love for us? One of the long-held goals of Sabbath-keeping is that it’s a time to stop our busyness, to become still, and relax into a deeper awareness of that loving presence which will last long after our mobile devices have stopped buzzing in our pockets.
I admit to crumbling on this on a regular basis, after starting last year to make Friday evening to Sunday evening an email free zone.
(I’m blaming 50days at the moment. )
But when I manage it, it’s a much Nuer weekend. More connected to family, meat-mates and the world I can be thankful for. It may be the digital sabbath. It may be that it’s when things are good I can leave that space. But it’s good for me.
This year, I’m going to try to make a space between arrival home and sleeping children. That’s my next big failing.
Wish me luck and don’t start messaging 18h00 GMT!
A good point particularly on a Sunday after returning from church.
I guess it might be a good thing that I’m so technologically deficient ’til I forget half the steps in retrieving any messages and in remembering the steps to get into and out of a bunch of other stuff. See? I can’t even remember the names of the things I’m trying to remember! Oh! That’s called “memory loss”, isn’t it?
I find that for me, trying to keep Sunday as a quiet day with family is the one thing that keeps me sane!!!! I am retired, but seem to be busier than when I was working, so Sunday is the day after church that I really try to relax with a good book, my knitting and my family. Thank you for bringing this much needed idea to us.
I’m a Gen Xer, so I’m right in that group of people where almost our entire lives have been connected in some way. I find a couple of places to be super important to me to unplug.
Out hiking on the Appalachian Trail – there’s still coverage, but I make a conscious decision (most of the time) to leave my phone on silent, and only use it to take pictures. I take the time to unpack my brain and figure things out, and it is out hiking that I realized that the Holy Spirit was touching me and calling me to the church. I don’t think I would have heard it without the silence.
In church itself – I find being able to be there, among others, and feeling the fellowship and connectedness of everyone around me as a wonderful gift. I love it. It is so easy in this day and age to feel so isolated, even with the technology all around us. I was afraid and disconnected from people before, but now I’ve found a home.
I am beginning to see that being older and not tech savy has its benefits. No problem with digital sabbaths here, but lots of frustration with using the digital world.