There are times when connecting less makes you more connected.
On Saturday, August 18, I sent this message to a few fellow writers:
I wanted to share a decision I’ve made… nothing life shaking, but I think it would be useful for me to have some accountability for it. I plan to take a “Sabbath” from anything online or computer from Saturday 8:00 p.m. to Sunday 8:00 p.m., starting tonight. i.e. I’ll be unplugged!
Earlier that day, I was at the library with my son, picking out a children’s book that we could read together. I got chatting with the librarian on duty in the children’s section, a family friend who also serves as deacon at an Episcopal church down the street. We were talking about Facebook, of all things, and how it can be both a blessing (in connecting friends and family) and a curse (with information overload and the feeling like you have to be constantly checking in). She mentioned in passing how Mondays are her “Data Sabbath,” and when I asked what that meant, she explained that it is her one day that she turns off all her connections to the online world – computer, iPad, iPhone, all of it.
I had been feeling lately a kind of social networking numbness from too much immersion in and constant connection to the virtual. So much of my work requires it, but honestly, so much doesn’t. It is an easy excuse, work is, for “just a quick tweet” or “I need to check my email” or “I’m educating myself on Pinterest,” etc.
So I decided to give it a try, to unplug for twenty-four hours, starting that very evening. I figured, how hard could it be? About eight of those hours would be sleeping (or getting ready to sleep, or getting ready for the next day after sleeping), a few hours I’d be in church (or getting to and from), and then there was cooking, talking, and general life stuff like that. Easy schmeazy, lemon peazy (as my son would say).
Well, not so much. I found myself frequently thinking about logging in for “just one quick check.” I got a little shaky with trying to ignore the tug. I know, this sounds a bit pathetic, but breaking a long-time habit feels like that. I’m all about routine, and I had developed a major routine around this checking and rechecking, to a truly inefficient and ineffective degree.
But I did it: I went a full twenty-four without turning on my computer or checking email through my iPhone. Yay me! And I believe my life was enriched for that day. I read a few poems from “Twelve Poems About Birds,” and found a delightful poem in there that I had not paid attention to before. A friend had given me that book about a year ago, and I just hadn’t carved out the undistracted time to sit with it. I also made muffins for breakfast, which felt nice in an old-fashioned kind of way, even though they were from an instant mix that only required me to add a couple ingredients and stir. And I played with my family at the playground, running around the field, letting the sun soak into my soul.
And the really good news is that the virtual world went on without me, as I discovered (somewhat as a let-down, I confess) when I logged in promptly at 8:01 p.m. Sunday evening. The real proof will be in the pudding, as I create a new habit, a new Data Sabbath routine that feels like a natural part of my weekly rhythm.
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” And so I feel this unplugging is made for me. I need this creative discipline that feeds the spirit and sustains the soul. I need to disconnect in order to reconnect with what matters to eternity.