When I think all the technological innovations that have happened since I was a college student, it makes my head spin.
Smart phones, tablets, wearables. Facebook, Spotify, Pinterest. Don’t even get me started on Twitter.
As a college sophomore, I remember laughing at the one student who had a hands-free bluetooth for his phone. I’m sure it cost him (or probably his parents) hundreds of dollars, since most of us didn’t even own a cell phone yet. He stood outside the dorm at night, talking to his girlfriend. Everyone who walked by thought he was talking to them. My roommates and I found it hysterical.
We asked questions like, “Who could possibly need a laptop computer?” and “Surely nothing will replace the convenience of CDs, right?”
Oh, the innocence.
Today, just over a decade past my college graduation, I can ask Siri to order me a pizza, push an automatic reorder button when I run out of laundry detergent, hold a live video chat with my parents in Wisconsin from my phone, and post baby photos to the cloud for the relatives to see.
I can also become so technologically tethered that I forget to be a human, rooted where I am, present to the people around me.
Technology can bless, but it can also steal. Most technology is neutral – what matters is how we use it. And most of us use it WAY too much. Or maybe I should just speak for myself. I use it WAY too much.
My husband Daryl has seen my struggle. I want to practice slowness, stillness, solitude, but it’s so hard when texts are coming in, Instagram is lighting up, and there’s still a rerun of The Office calling my name.
Our solution has been to give ourselves occasional technology breaks. We put the phones in a basket, turn off the computers, and let the world whirl by without us.
For the first hour or so, we’re miserable. It’s amazing how the constant Facebook likes give us little bursts of affirmation. It’s astonishing how work email starts to seem like THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER, even when almost every message can wait (at least) a few hours without being returned. It’s heartbreaking how easy it is to miss our kids playing right in front of us, or even to miss one another because we are so wired to our distracting devices.
In that first hour I feel unmoored and cranky. I want my fix of mind-numbing entertainment! What if a friend texts me? What will I do if it’s quiet in our house and in my head?! QUIET IS SCARY!
But then, after the struggle of that first hour passes, we start to see each other again. I remember why I married Daryl in the first place. I notice the milestone our infant is getting ready to surpass, and the new word our preschooler is sounding out. I observe–for the first time all week–that the leaves out our kitchen window are turning deep summer green, and that mourning doves have put a nest above our patio.
I hear Jesus again. The gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit. The affirmation and grace of the Father.
This summer I encourage you to unplug each week, too. Technology is useful and fun and helpful a lot of the time. But sometimes it steals precious moments we will never get back.
So put that tablet away.
Give yourself permission to close the computer.
Silence your ringer.
Breathe in the summer air. Look into the eyes of those you love. Take a walk. Take a nap. Listen for Jesus, for he rarely yells above the din of Netflix.
Unplug for a bit, and I bet you’ll find what we are discovering. Beyond the din of the modern world, there is life.