Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Unplugging

Considering the fact that just yesterday I received an email from a friend who mentioned that it concerns them that time online investing in friendships with e-people equals less time invested face to face with people in their own church and community, I found this article today rather intruiging:

Could a class of college students survive without iPods, cellphones, computers and TV from one sunrise to the next?

The article details a class assignment given where the students would be required to unplug for 24 hours, then write a report on the affects. Some of the statements by the students really stood out to me, such as:

"Every single one of these people in here," one student said, looking around the classroom, "we can't deal with silence anymore. We always have to have at least two things going on, whether it's the TV or the computer or iPod or cellphone."

"I really felt productive. I thought that I would just be, ah, no stress. But I was nonstop all day, cleaning, cooking, weed-whacking, yardwork."

Two students spent extra time with their mothers. They wouldn't elaborate in front of their peers, but one wrote later in his paper: "My mother is thrilled that I'm doing this fast. To her it means I get to spend the day with her. I bite, and we walk into town for some brunch. I draw out the brunch as long as possible."

The first quote I think bothers me more than anything (not that my opinions matter much but I'm going to share them anyway). It is truly disheartening to think just how real it is, that young people avoid silence like the plague. What happens when it's silent? You're left with yourself and your thoughts. Apparently that's a horrid idea to many young people. When someone is afraid of silence, it's often because it forces them to think about things they are normally able to avoid through external stimulation or distraction. As a Christian, it's impossible for me to read this comment and not think of the message here:

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)

Of course "be still" there is literally meant to be quieted. There are numerous other verses that encourage us to do the same thing when it comes to our spiritual life, such as meditate (intentionally and deeply consider in thought) on God's laws (Psalm 1:2), all His work (Psalm 77:12), Christian life and conduct (1Tim. 4:15). We're also told to think of all the good things that are true, honest, pure, etc. listend in Philippians 4:8, and that those who's minds are fixed and rested on Him, will be at perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).

It would be easy to list many more verses that say the exact same thing, but it's very clear from Scripture that Christians are supposed to purposely engage from the neck up in the goodness of God. We're supposed to go out of our way to find quiet time to be with our Lord in thought and in prayer, and yet there is an entire generation of e-people that consider silence a torturous thing for them.

The second quote is almost humorous to me. This young person discovered what us older folks knew all along - there is in fact life - outside of electronic media, entertainment and connectivity. Now I don't mean to insult the intelligence of young people, of course they knew life existed outside of these things but they have also grown up in an era where these things were just part of normal every day life to them. To go a day without them would indeed seem odd. However, to go a day without them gave at least one person a good idea of how many other things you can actually accomplish in your immediate vicinity (home or yard) that you might completely ignore, otherwise.

For anyone who lives in an area where the power still goes out during a storm, or for anyone who's computer or ISP has been out for longer than a day - you'll get this too. You're unplugged not by choice, but you're unplugged all the same and suddenly you see all these "things" around you that need to be done. Projects you've neglected, a new craft you wanted to try, a book you've been meaning to read, and the list goes on and on. For some of us old enough to remember, these were things we did before we were plugged in all the time.

The third quote both encouraged me and depressed me at the same time. Going e-dark would indeed foster face to face relationships in a good way, but at the same time I can't help but wonder what it has done to such relationships that we're always so wired into the electronic world.

The email received yesterday mentioned that very thing, and I think it's a valid concern that each of us should consider. Do we spend more time online getting to know people across the country, than we do getting to know the very people we worship with every Sunday? Do we spend more time downloading music, playing games or debating in chats or discussion forums, than we spend in evangelistic efforts in our own communities? I know these are not popular questions (they make us feel defensive) and I'm not saying that any of these things are "bad" in and of themselves. I had someone tell me once that if I'm doing the one, I'm not doing the other - which of course was not true at all. But the question is one of priority - which one comes first, which has our attention more, and which do we invest more time and effort in? I'm sure the mothers of these two students were quite please with such a class assignment, as it afforded them more time with their kids that they usually wouldn't have.

As I read the article I thought about my own time plugged in. I don't have a cell phone, or an iPod, and everyone knows I'm on dial up so most of the bells & whistles of the e-world aren't even available to me. With that said however, I'm still e-connected just like all of you, and I have been since February of 1993. I haven't always managed my time online as well as I could have, but with that said there have also been some pretty terrific benefits to this new world we live in. Friendships formed, the ability to research any given topic, sermons blessed by, e-books read, and even connecting people without a church to a local body. Not to mention, for those that didn't know this (and I don't advertise it, because it just seems so wacky), Kev and I actually met online in a Christian chat room, and were married a year later. That was almost 10 years ago.

So the moral of the story is essentially one simple word: priority. Not a bad thing to re-evaluate from time to time and be sure you're putting the more important things first. The irony that I'm even writing about this while online, and that you're reading it from the comfort of your computer chair or couch or lounge chair on the deck (you people with wireless laptops make me so envious, lol) is not lost on me. More than a few times I've been asked how I manage to do what I do online, with so many kids. The nice folks at Pulpit Magazine put me on their blogroll and wrote "Despite the fact that she has 7 kids she still finds time to produce well written, helpful articles." Truth be told, managing my plugged-in-ness hasn't always gone so well, and it's always been a top thought for me to be careful how I spend that time.

The funny thing is, I actually like being unplugged. Sure it's annoying that I can't click the weather page real quick to find out if the storm that blew out the power has been elevated to a tornado warning, but if the sky turns green I can pretty much assume it's a yes. It's also frustrating when I have a creative burst and I can't open photoshop, but sooner or later it's open again and I'm sitting right where I sit right now, and doing what I love to do. During that e-dark time though, I find that it's nearly impossible to run out of things to do in my house and yard. From boring old household chores to getting out my stack of greeting cards & address book (the hardbound one sitting on the shelf), to pulling weeds or a sewing project. Or, just having a good old fashioned face to face conversation with Kev or one of the kids, without electronic distraction.

I can only guess that its much easier for me to adapt this way, since I still remember life before e-connectivity. Hey, I remember 8-track tapes & the day we got cable when I was in junior high. Now that I feel ancient, I think I'll go sew something.