During a recent service, Anita told us how her family was experimenting with a technology Sabbath. Each Friday evening, they turn off their iPads, computers, phones and tv; and they stay off until Saturday evening. ‘How is it?’ I asked her kids. ‘Oh, not great,’ admitted one, ‘but we played chess.’ ‘And did a heap of other stuff!’ said someone else.
I think we all know by now just how addictive tech can be; and we know it’s engineered that way. It’s designed to lure us in, to reward us with irregular hits of dopamine, and to divide us into individual purchasing units; and yet most of us need to use tech for our current arrangements of school and work. Because we use it so often, reinforcing both habit and addiction, turning off even once a week can feel impossible.
But as people who are walking away from empire, taking this break or Sabbath is a sign of resistance to the dominant culture, a nonviolent raised fist of liberation. ‘Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy,’ says God — for I brought you out of Egypt, where emails never stop flowing, movies never stop streaming, media never stops updating, servers never stop humming, ads never stop creating desire, and labour and consumption do not satisfy.
Since shutdown, I’ve been pretty laissez faire about tech time. But five people on five or six or eight screens at once is really beginning to grate. One teenager keeps asking me to take her tech away (though she’s cross when I do); and this week, another girl grumped at me, ‘The iPad’s SO addictive, and yet SO boring. What a stupid day.’
I thought then of the tech Sabbath, and realised this is something our household needs, too. My kids need me to make that decision for them; and I could use some accountability. And so I wondered: Are there any other households who’d like to try a weekly tech Sabbath in November? I know we’d find it easier if we knew several households were doing it with us. We could share our aims, household by household, then check in halfway through the month to encourage and pray for one another. (And if it’s only ours and Anita’s house, that’s fine, too.)
If you’re sorta kinda interested, but don’t think you can turn off all tech for 24 hours, you might consider a variation. For example, you could:
- Have a media-free day of the week. No newspapers, no tv, no social media, not even Facebook!
- Check email only at the beginning and end of the day: or go a full day without checking at all.
- Leave your phone at home when you go for a walk, and turned off out of sight when you’re with family or friends, or eating dinner.
- Set boundaries on the number of hours you will sit at a screen each day, and set a timer.
- Make media time contingent on doing other things first. Put a list of alternate activities on your fridge (creative, playful, useful). Only when they’re all done, have tech time.
So, what do you think? Will you take the challenge? And if not, what makes it so difficult to step aside from social media, mobiles and movies for just one day each week?
Emailed to Sanctuary 21 October 2020 © Alison Sampson, 2020. Thanks, Anita, for the suggestion, and for the alternative ideas. Anita was inspired by Mark Scandrette’s book “Free.” Image credit: Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash.
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