A couple of weeks ago I came off a 2-week fast from all things social network-y. Jon heard about it and asked if I’d write a few lines, so here I am.
First, a bit of background….
Since I figure most of you RM readers haven’t met me, you won’t know that behind the fine facade I’m a bit of a control freak. I love lists, can often be found doing a bit of spontaneous cleaning, and regularly try to communicate (fairly unsuccessfully) with my wife using percentages and figures. On top of the control thing, I also have an addictive personality. It’s just the way it is…I don’t like to do anything half-hearted. I’d like to think that most times my in-built eagerness is harnessed for good and channelled towards such noble tasks as pioneer ministry, overseas mission set-ups, or chasing my now-wife after having been straight-up shunned for the best part of a year. Unfortunately, it also spills over into other areas, such as social networking.
I excuse the far-too-regular updates, status checks, and visits to the inbox with rants about staying up-to-date, engaging culture, and being “connected”. I’ll gladly remind anyone interested that my family and friends are spread all over the world, pointing out what great tools Twitter and Facebook are for interacting with long losts and staying in touch. But at the end of the day, excusing is exactly what I’m doing. I do easily get a bit carried away with all the digital “socialising”, and I often find myself stressed and jittery thanks to all my distracting tech gear and a lack of discipline. I still love to spend time online, but I’ve realised that I need a break once in a while, hence the 2.0 tech fast over the holidays.
It’s not the first time I’ve done something like this…apart from the usual food fasts, I’ve done other abstinence-oriented experiments like not buying new clothes for almost a year. I also did another tech fast for Lent last year, minimising my time online for 40 days or so. This time I deleted my Facebook and Twitter apps altogether on my iPhone and iPad, and I deleted my email accounts from my devices and left my laptop at home for 2 weeks whilst away. It was a refreshing experience, and something I’d recommend to anyone spending too much time online and able to take the time off.
So what did I get out of it? Here’s a few of the things I noticed:
- I felt more relaxed and peaceful
- I felt more present in the moment
- I was more focused on the people around me rather than wondering what everyone else was doing
- I was able to read, study, and take in teaching with heightened alertness
- I experienced more connection with my wife and son as a result of a deeper devotion to them
- I was more concerned with what God had to say than follows, @-signs and RTs.
- My battery lasted longer!
Social networking has enhanced my life and helped me reconnect and interact with people I’d never be able to see in person, but also brought with it an addiction risk, restlessness and stress. As much as I think blogs are brilliant (particularly this one!) and emails efficient, and as much as I missed my tech time, finding face-to-face time for family and friends is even more important to me, and abstaining for a time helps me straighten up my priorities and get perspective. It enables me to master my technology and make it work for me, rather than me being enslaved by it.