Today ends my lenten fast from media and digital technology. For more details of my fast, read the previous article from Feb 15, “My Lenten Fast.” It has been a great experience, and I have learned some new things and rediscovered things I have known.
(1) I can find distractions aplenty if I seek them out. A huge reason to do this fast was to excise distraction from my life. I had become too distracted and wasn’t using my time well. So I thought I would cut out media and tech and replace that with more deliberate time investing in relationship with God and others. And it really worked. When you don’t have the radio on the car, you create space for prayer. When you aren’t reaching for games on the phone or checking Facebook, prayer becomes a more real and compelling option. But that doesn’t mean I was entirely free of distraction. There are lots of other things that can get in the way, and if I really didn’t want to spend time with God or my own thoughts, a good old-fashioned paper book was a great diversion. Distractions are always available, particularly if I go looking for them.
(2) It wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this fast actuality came more naturally to me than I thought it might. I was even looking forward to it since I had decided on the project. I think part of it was because I had seen for some time the negative consequences of being so distracted. But I think it is always because distractions quickly lose their lustre if you take the time and have the courage to take a step back. When you give yourself a little perspective, you can see the little distractions and diversions with which we so often fill our lives for what they really are — amusing, but ultimately unfulfilling and unimportant, particularly in contrast to the investment in relationship that I had decided to concentrate on. Distractions are always at hand, easy, and quick, but they aren’t really all that meaningful.
(3) Social media inflates your sense of self-importance. Not too many days into the fast, I heard a great quotation that I really wanted to share with people. Normally, I would hope on Twitter, which is linked to Facebook, and send it out there. The totally unrealistic and unexamined assumption I had in doing that was, because it was on the Internet, everyone in the world had access to my wisdom and wit. This is technically true, but how many people actually bothered to read it, let alone reflect on and be impressed by it? Very few, I am sure. Social media actually seeks to create for you a disproportionate sense of your own importance and connectedness. I may think I am clever, but few take the time to admire.
(4) Tech and media is part of the very fabric of our lives. I said that it was easy to abstain — when I was aware of it. But there was lots of times I found myself reaching for the iPad or the radio dial, without even realizing it. As the fast went on, these times became less, but I was struck by the prevalence of these things and how much we thoughtlessly plug in or consume media. It takes deliberate training to abstain.