Jake Reilly, a 24-year-old copywriting student made a bold decision. He suspended his cell phone service, deactivated all social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Spotify, etc), quit watching TV, and even put up an “out of office” automated message on his two email accounts. His goal was to see what life would be like to live completely unplugged for three months.
You may be asking, “Why?” He made this decision when he and his two roommates had their best friends come into town. These were friends they only saw once a year or so. All six of them sat down to watch a basketball game. Jake looked around and noticed every single person had out a laptop or cell phone. No one was talking to each other or really even watching the game. One was playing Words With Friends, another Angry Birds, and another was doing online trivia. Jake observed, “This was what we were all looking forward to, and we’re just sitting here numbing our minds” (Yahoo News). Reilly then made the decision to go off the grid for the next three months.
He had to walk across the street to the hospital to use the telephone. He began writing letters with actual paper, ink, and hand cramps. He began riding his bike around the city. He would even meet with friends to have actual face-to-face conversations. He began connecting with people and building lasting relationships and memories. Doing this even helped Jake reconnect with his long-time girlfriend, a relationship that had become almost nonexistent. Cutting off electronics for three months changed the way Jake viewed life. He came to realize that these tools can be great, but we need to be aware of the way we negatively use them and how harmful they can be to our relationship with others and ourselves.
I don’t know about you, but I have often been guilty of pouring my time and energy into the black hole of technology and social media. I’m not saying all of this is bad. Many of the social media tools we have are awesome. In fact, these tools have allowed us to reach and teach people about Christ like never before. But there must be a limit. It’s just so easy to get sucked into pointless games, videos, information, etc. How often do we, after playing Angry Birds for an hour, say, “Wow, that sure was a memorable, enriching, and beneficial experience”?
I think we have to ask ourselves some hard questions. If we cut down the amount of time we spent using technology and social media…
- How much more productive would we be at work, school, home, etc?
- How much better could our relationship with our parents, spouse, of friends be?
- How much better could our relationship with the Lord be?
Clearly there are some changes that need to be made. So, what can we do to fix this? Here are a few challenges for all of us (including myself) to implement.
- Turn Off All Technology During Family Time. This means during meals and at restaurants. This means during family outings, games, hikes, devotionals, etc. Actually spend time talking about your day and building relationships. Often I see couples at restaurants (young and old) glued to their phones without saying a single word to each other. What kind of relationship is that building?
- Start Giving Full Attention To People. Put down the phones and computers and give someone your 100%, undivided attention. One of the largest problems in marriages and relationships is communication. Half-listening while retreating to our phones, TVs, and computers surely isn’t helping. What is so important on the phone, TV, or computer that we are sacrificing our relationships for it?
- Choose a Time to Unplug. Just get away from it all. Maybe this is once a month, maybe this is once a week. It’s hard to realize how addicted we are to technology until we actually step away from it. We will learn a lot about ourselves, how dependant or addicted we are, and how much time we are wasting.
With so many distractions from technology and social media, it has become so easy to get distracted from our purpose in this life. Christ said to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and also to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39). Is the way we use technology hurting this purpose? Is the amount of time we spend using technology hurting this purpose (Ephesians 5:15-16)? If so, I hope and pray we will make the necessary changes.