How many gadgets featured in this 1991 Radio Shack ad does your smartphone outperform today?
- Mobile cellular phone with memory speed-dial & answering machine – Check.
- All weather personal stereo, AM/FM clock radio, and calculator – Seriously?
- Tandy 1000 computer – My 3-year-old Keurig is more complex.
- Handheld recorder, desktop scanner – There’s an App for that.
- VHS camcorder – Remember when your dad had one the size of a small piano?
Is it any wonder then, why we’re so attached to technology? It practically puts the whole world in our hands!
Studies show most people check their phone over 110 times a day. Americans also consume over 34GB worth of information every single day. That’s more than 10 hours of TV or 40,000 Facebook posts. Every. Single. Day.
A simple walk around the block means our devices stream data from a myriad of sources unbeknownst to us. And even at bedside, our TVs and tablets have access to more information and images than folks of a few generations prior had in their entire lifespan.
Neil Postman, author of Amusing Ourselves to Death & Technology: The Surrender of Culture to Technology put it this way: “Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.” What’s most alarming about Postman’s observation, however, is that he did not post it in a 140 characters or less last week. He made this statement over 30 years ago.
So what, if anything, does God have to say about our fast-paced…always on…24/7…TGIF (Twitter Google Instagram Facebook) world? Is there any option to power down? Or is the speed of my Internet service the only thing that tempers my technological consumption? Is there any bandwidth to hear God speak:
“Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10)
In our digital world, it’s often the analog rhythms of the ancients that breathe new life. Sabbath is one such example – a deliberate pause in order to rest and reconnect. More specifically, the Sabbath is about deliberately powering down, temporarily unplugging, in order to recharge personally and reconnect relationally with God and others. Sabbath is so crucial; it finds itself in the very heart of the Ten Commandments:
“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” – Deuteronomy 5:12-14
Now notice how this specific command to rest, concludes in the next verse:
“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” – Deuteronomy 5:15
In other words, one of the main reasons God commands his people to observe the Sabbath and rest is to remind them that they are no longer slaves. They are no longer in bondage. The people of God are men and women and children set free.
The very fact that I’m so often shackled to my smartphone makes me wonder what it looks like to live in this freedom. Is it possible that taking a step away from technology could help us in our aims to recharge personally and reconnect spiritually? Is it possible that temporarily unplugging from all that is high-tech might bring a more high-touch aspect to my relationships with God and others?
These are the sorts of questions I had in mind as I embarked on my first Technology Sabbath – a 24-hour period where I deliberately unplugged in order to recharge. No phone. No laptop. No television. No texts. No tweets. It was the closest I’ve ever come to my Amish friends. (No offense to my Amish friends.)
And here is an honest (if not, embarrassing) summary of what I noticed, especially during those first few hours of unplugging:
- At every traffic light or stop sign, I instinctively reached for my phone.
- Short waits for the cashier, bank teller and even elevator, felt excruciatingly long as I could no longer fill those moments with checking my inbox.
- Group discussions that did not require a direct response from me for longer than two minutes, had me wondering what I was simultaneously missing out on in the ever engaging Twittersphere.
And this was only the beginning.
With the regular dopamine doses from “likes” and “comments” on Social Media no longer readily accessible, my body (again, I’m not proud of this) was experiencing a type of withdrawal – not uncommon to the ones I experienced about 20 years ago when I first tried giving up cigarettes. I actually found myself feeling lonely and craving affirmation. (Have I mentioned this is all painfully embarrassing to admit?) Even so, it made me wonder if there is some truth to all those studies about how the internet is rewiring our brains.
If nothing else, it was clear that technology had an unhealthy grip on my life and that it had the potential of driving me further away from the things that matter most – especially the relationships that matter most.
But there is good news – God did not leave me there.
Somewhere near the halfway point of unplugging…something incredible started to happen. My jitteriness and anxiety levels started to subside and I was able to read (even read my Bible) without the constant compulsion to see if anyone “liked” my new Facebook post about my Bible reading…because there was no Bible reading post to “like.”
And later that same night, after having dinner with my family, instead of getting online to see what was happening in everyone else’s life…I found myself lingering at our table just a little longer, listening to my girls giggle (and fight) just a little longer. And then something happened. Something that had never happened before. Something that never would have happened apart from this Technology Sabbath.
My three daughters shouted: “Daddy!! Can we paint your fingernails? Please?!” I call this manicure mutiny. All the while, my sweet wife, nodded: “Tom…now you’re fully present with us.”
She was absolutely right. To experience my girls having so much fun, sharing a silly but special moment like that as a family…my youngest one, screaming with laughter afterwards “Daddy, Daddy, I love you!” and dancing as she marveled my colorful nails…no amount of Facebook “likes” could compare.
And the next morning when I woke up (with about 4 hours of my Technology Sabbath remaining), instead of mindlessly reaching for my phone and catching up with the world and all that I missed while asleep…instead I reached for my wife’s hand and just prayed for her. Nothing super spiritual – just a simple thank you to God for her.
That’s when I realized I honestly could not remember the last time I held my wife’s hand and prayed for her. I honestly could not remember. It took a Technology Sabbath to bring me to that place with her, my family and my God.
Technology and social media have this uncanny ability to draw you closer to the people furthest from you, while driving you further from the people closest to you, including God. So maybe God is onto something when he instructs his people to press pause. And maybe pressing pause for us today starts with literally unplugging from the traffic of technology.
I know now that it does for me.
Could that be the case for you?
- …110 times a day: https://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/heres-the-cold-hard-proof-that-we-cant-stop-checking-our-pho?utm_term=.juaNebY4Jk#.tq07Ye4ER0
- …internet rewiring our brain: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/30/shocking-ways-internet-rewires-brain_n_4136942.html