Why are we so busy? Maybe we need to unplug.
Recently, we’ve been talking about some of the core issues that cause us to be too busy. Last week we looked at how our parenting methods might be making us crazy busy. Today we want to look at the fact that we are too connected to technology. Many of these thoughts and ideas are influenced by a great book that I read called Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung.
A few years ago, I was speaking with a friend of mine. He was telling me about how his daughter, who was in her early twenties at the time, was always very distracted and had a hard time focusing. This was until she spent a good portion of time overseas in an environment where she didn’t have access to a smartphone or much technology. During that time, she was forced to use paper books, old fashioned journals, and only able to send the occasional email home on a shared computer.
When she arrived back in the United States, he told me she was like a different person. She could have a conversation and it didn’t sound like a string of tweets. You could actually sit with her - his words, not mine - and talk over dinner without her being distracted.
This all changed, he said, once she got a smartphone again. Once she got back on the family plan and had a smartphone in her hand, he said it was like she immediately went back to the way that she was before - distracted, busy, disjuncted, and disorganized. It was literally like something changed in her brain.
Now, this was just a father’s assessment of a situation, but it sounds like something with which we would all nod our head in agreement. None of us would be surprised if we found out tomorrow that technology was hindering us, making us distracted and stressed, but we somehow keep using it hoping that it isn’t true.
As we think about being overly busy, let’s stop to reflect: social media, mindless web surfing, sitting in front of the TV, whatever it is, what if these things are slowly sapping our time, our focus, and, truly, our lives?
I don’t want to sound like Chicken Little, but here are a couple of real threats as it relates to technology:
Addiction. Have you ever logged out of facebook, email, twitter, or another social media platform just to log back in without realizing it? Have you ever been distracted in the middle of work because you opened your laptop to look up something important and then, as if on cruise control, started browsing amazon.com or something else on the web all the while forgetting why you went on your computer? Have you ever refreshed your instagram feed five times before realizing that you are staring at the same pictures? If you’ve said yes to any of the above questions, then you realize how easily it is to become addicted to technology.
Sloth. Sloth does not mean laziness, necessarily, but goes beyond laziness to suggest indifference and spiritual forgetfulness. In the hustle and bustle of technological activity, it is easy to slip into a deep spiritual apathy. We begin to think that Fortnite, Call of Duty, facebook, instagram, twitter, or ESPN are what really matters in life. There have actually been criminal cases of neglect where parents have been charged because they failed to take care of their kids because they were too distracted by video games. If that isn’t an example of indifference towards things of substance and value, I don’t know what is!
The threat that we are never alone but we also shouldn’t be. Social media makes you feel as though it is wrong to enjoy time in the quiet or to have time alone. We feel the need to involve people in everything from our breakfast cereal to a sunset with our lover.
At the same time, the community that we have through social media isn’t true community. It feels two dimensional at best, where people are quick to give a thumbs up or share their condolences, but slow to actually act in such a way as to invest in real relationships. If you spend all your time building relationships online, chances are you will feel lonelier than ever before.
So, what should we do? Cultivate a healthy suspicion towards technology. The key word is healthy. I am not suggesting that you become a hermit or live off the grid in Alaska. At the same time, you should also learn some distance. Deliberately use “old” technology (like books, papers, a notebook, etc). Make boundaries and fight to protect them. Maybe consider putting your router on a timer so that wifi isn’t available all the time. Pick one day a week to be technology free. Designate a parking lot for your phones at home. Don’t give your seven year old a phone.
If you deliberately started using technology less, you might find that you have more time on your hands, greater productivity at work, and deeper relationships, than you thought possible.