One of the biggest
struggles I have in my life is figuring out boundaries when it comes to
my phone and computer. Well, mostly my phone. I find that I am
constantly checking Twitter, Facebook and other apps - to the point
where I ignore my family and friends. What message am I sending people?
That my phone is more important than they are? At the end of the day I
think that its exactly the message I'm sending. All I know is that it
has to change.
Tyler Thomson is a video editor at Harvest Bible Chapel
in Chicago and he wrote a great blog about how to take a break from it
all. Not quit entirely, just take a break - sabbath from it all for the
purpose of spiritual renewal and reconnection with real, live people.
Boundaries, or Sabbath
posture could define and summarize an epoch, the posture of 1492 would
be that of a man with his chin held high, leaning over the railing of a
ship, craning his neck toward the horizon, dreaming of a new world
across the sea.
The posture of 1776 would perhaps be a soldier with victorious arms
upraised, musket in one hand, a 13-star Betsy Ross flag in the other,
rejoicing in the hope and promise of a new country built on freedom and
The posture of 1969 might be a college student with long hair blowing
in the wind, clenched fist in the air, face contorted in passion and
fury as the world shook with war, protest, radical change, and
The posture marking the spirit of 2011 is that of a man leaning
against something, slightly hunched over, chin down, holding a wireless
device in one hand, his right thumbed curved in an almost permanent arc
down onto a flat screen, limitlessly connected to the entire world
beneath his thumb and utterly disconnected from the people immediately around him.
It is a Christian imperative to know the times in which we live, to
study the world around us, to unlock the possibilities for exalting
Christ in ways unique to our day, and to know where the pitfalls are. A
blind spot I find in myself and in my peers is a tendency to be
over-connected through personal communication technology in a way that
makes it difficult to be “present” to those around us.
It’s not just an inter-personal/social problem either. The endless
influx of text messages, Facebook updates, wallposts, voicemails,
emails, instant messages, music, online entertainment, news feeds, blog
feeds, games, downloads and supposedly urgent information creates a
cacophony that makes it difficult to be still and hear the voice of the
Lord. Particularly when there are not limits.
Sometimes you just need to take a break from all the screaming, but
sadly, many of us do not know how, or simply wouldn’t think to press the
“off” button. Several of you reading this cannot imagine the prospect
shutting your phone off for an afternoon. You would feel utterly naked
and lost. I dare you.
I know people whose first inclination the moment they wake
up in the morning is to open their laptop and check their email,
Facebook, and Twitter. That’s not healthy. What we need are boundaries.
When I was growing up, we had a word for the boundaries drawn around
rest from the necessary madness caused by technology. We called it
“Sabbath.” Not the kind where you can’t lift your hand to cover your
mouth when you sneeze on a Sunday because it might be working to hard.
No, I’m advocating the kind of Sabbath that’s not bound to a particular
day. It’s the kind where healthy Christians learn how to assert their
holiness, their otherness, their set-apartness from the world by
shutting off its voice every once in a while. Sabbath means literally,
“cease.” Stop. Sit down. Shut up. Unplug.
This does not come without effort. Unfettered stillness will not
friend you or request to follow you. Sabbath is an elusive maid. You
have to pursue her, fight for her, hunt her down and make seemingly
painful choices to win her.
For once, take a walk with a friend and don’t look at your phone even once. Don’t even bring the darn thing. Be wholly present
to another human being in the flesh for 30 minutes instead of
fragmenting and devaluing that time by being partially present to
fifteen other people or even non-person Twitter feeds the whole time
through artificial connection.
Make a rule for yourself that at least three days a week (I’m trying not
to sound like a neo-puritan here) you won’t connect to the Internet in
the morning until you’ve first connected to the Lord through reading
Scripture and praying.
Have a no-Facebook day. Instead of writing on someone’s wall, write
him or her a note or a card and send it (gasp!) by mail. You’ll be 49
cents poorer. Hallelujah.
Cut off one of your RSS blog feeds for a month. Oh yes, you’ll live.
Use the daily 10-minute chunks of time you would have used to read the
piecemeal blog and instead read an actual entire book that month.
There’s a novel idea. (har har, I know)
Don’t listen to music or the radio in your car on Wednesdays. Instead
of singing along to Lady Gaga and Plain White Tees, pray out loud for
your entire commute.
These are just little ideas! Set boundaries. Draw lines. You can have
these little Sabbaths and still be cool and connected and hip and
relevant and all that.
Remember a year ago in the news when all those people quit Facebook in an organized mass exodus? That was ridiculous. Cowards. It takes far more courage to keep Facebook and learn to use it in a healthy, moderate way. Retreat is not an option.
Brain tumors be damned, we’re all keeping our cell phones. But we
don’t have to be slaves to them. Let’s be thoughtful regarding what
means we use to communicate, and how often, in what balance. Let’s be
thoughtful how we spend our time. Let’s be intentional in our work,
intentional in our leisure, intentional with how we spend our lives,
aided by technology, not dragged along in an endless dash of frivolity.
As Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart
of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)