I’ve been increasingly aware recently that I’m fast becoming a serious information addict – constantly refreshing tech news sites and Facebook and whatever else it is in search of a nugget of news to give me the next brief high. Tim Challies talks about this in his great new book “The Next Story“, quoting an interview with a psychiatrist called Dr. Edward Hallowell about so-called Attention Deficit Trait:
“It’s a condition induced by modern life, in which you’ve become so busy attending to so many inputs and outputs that you become increasingly distracted, irritable, impulsive, restless, and over the long term, underachieving.”
All this has had a knock-on effect for my relationship with God as well – without doubt I find it harder to concentrate on anything for very long these days, which includes Bible reading and prayer. Deciding I could ignore the problem no longer, this weekend I decided to have a kind of digital detox – I thought I’d try going internet & laptop free for 24 hours from sundown on Saturday night, possibly with the intention of making this a weekly experience.
It turned out to be a really valuable time. It was at once easier than I expected and harder than I expected. Easier than expected, because I certainly didn’t feel I was missing out on anything important – certainly nothing that couldn’t wait until Sunday evening. But harder than I expected, because with nothing else planned instead I found myself really bored. I find reading anything for more than about a chapter pretty hard these days, so that didn’t pass much of the time. I went for a jog, which was certainly a good thing, but again, didn’t exactly take long.
I ended up being so bored that I cleaned the bathroom – something long overdue. There’s probably an important lesson there. How often do I end up using Google Reader as a way to put off doing the jobs I ought to be doing instead?
So will I repeat the exercise next weekend? Almost certainly. I might relax the requirements a little and allow the laptop, but with wi-fi turned off – there were several moments where I thought it would be good to use the time to write something, which wasn’t very practical without the laptop. But overall it felt like a really positive experience, and definitely was good for my spiritual health.