Friday, September 25, 2009

Techno-what? or Where's Karl on Thursdays?

Friends have been asking me what's up with the "Techno-fast" thing I've been doing on Thursdays. Some are even taking great delight in catching me out if they see any online activity from me that day. I'm glad that people are interested, and I thought I'd write it up and give everyone the facts.

The first thing I want to say is that this is my own thing. I do this for myself, and I'm not advocating it for anyone else, nor am I judging or condemning anyone else's actions. It's all about me (isn't everything?) :-)

This all started when I participated in Adbusters' Digital Detox ( back in April. I became aware of it at a time when I was struggling with the parts that the Internet and technology play in my life. As I told some friends recently, the Internet taught me how to make and keep friends, and many of my most important relationships are with people I know online, but it also came close to losing me a job. I learned a few things about myself during that week, but it was a one-shot deal.

Then, this summer, Kim and I participated in a Bible study called The Hurried Family. The class was great for us, helping us get some perspective on the things that we do and the reasons we do them. The class featured weekly challenges, and one of them was to pick a day and give up something technological. So I chose Thursday, and chose to do a mini-Detox that day. I enjoyed it so much that I'm working to make it a weekly thing.

So, here are some of the questions that arise:

What exactly am I giving up?

At a minimum, I go 24 hours without watching a television or using a computer for personal reasons. Since my job requires me to stay on top of e-mail and to help patrons with online research, I can't really give up computers completely.

In addition, I try to keep from sending text messages. I don't listen to the radio or CDs in the car. As much as possible, I try not to be a consumer of media for that one day a week.

There are a few exceptions. I continue to read, and since I use GoodReads to track my reading, if I finish a book or start a new one, I still record that. That's why you might see something pop up on facebook or Twitter about what I'm reading. Also, in an emergency, all bets are off. I'll use whatever I need.


At first, the main reason was to challenge myself. Can I do this? Am I an addict, or could I quit if I needed to?

The reasons that I continue to do it are more esoteric. A good friend once told me he envied my ability to be by myself. He was impressed that I didn't have to be around people all the time. In recent years I've become aware that, even when I'm alone, I surround myself with distractions. Often I'm doing multiple things (watching TV, knitting, and checking social networks is pretty common) so that there's never a moment when I'm at rest. This has meant that my ability to be truly alone and introspective has atrophied. Turning off all that stuff and giving myself some silence has been helpful in this way.

There's also an element of mindfulness in all this. More about that next.

Am I adding anything?

Well, I'm continuing to read, knit, and crochet, so I do a bit more of that than I would otherwise.

The other thing is, when I feel the urge to pull out my BlackBerry and update my status, or check Twitter, or do any of the other things I usually do, I stop and think. Why am I doing that? What's motivating me? Am I feeling lonely? Is there something really interesting I want to share? Am I just bored and looking for distraction? Increased self-awareness has become an important part of this experiment.

Something else I've been doing recently is making those times an opportunity for prayer. Did I want to Tweet something cute that one of the kids is doing? Offer up a prayer of thanksgiving. Did I want to post a photo of something cool I saw? Praise God for the wonder of his creation. Am I unhappy? Angry? Lonely? Ask God for help and guidance. This is a significant change for me, as my prayer life is usually confined to specific events.

What am I learning?

I can do this. I can make the commitment, follow through, and stick with it.

I'm not as important as I think I am. The Internet is not going to fall apart if I don't participate in discussions for one day. :-)

When I need something, I'm learning non-technological ways to get it. If I do personal research at the library, I use books. When I have time at home with the kids, the TV has to be off, so we play and read and do other things.

So, that's all very long-winded, and probably boring to some, but I hope it helps the curious to understand what I'm doing and why. Thanks for reading it all!

No comments: