Have you ever thought about fasting from technology?
This last semester I had the privilege of teaching THEO 720, Theology, Technology and Spirituality, for the FPU Biblical Seminary Ministry, Leadership and Culture Masters Program. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching these young ministry leaders and hearing their insights on technology and the connection to our theology and spirituality.
One of the assignments for the course was to fast from technology for 48 hours and reflect on the experience in a short paper. This assignment seemed simple but it turned into one of the most profound experiences of the course. Most of the students found that it was difficult to even prepare for the 48 hour fast. They had to figure out a time that would work for family, friends, work responsibilities as well as graduate coursework. Being busy leaders in ministry and graduate students made it difficult for them to find a time to be completely disconnected. But … they persevered and found a time to unplug.
As I read through their papers and interacted with them in our online course, I found many things in common. They shared negative experiences (which were familiar to me since I fasted as well.) Here is the list in no particular order.
- Ghost alerts … feeling the need to check your phone even when you don’t have it and/or it is not on.
- Not knowing the time of the day because you don’t have your phone and/or smartwatch.
- Difficulty staying away from video/music in your surrounding environment when spending time with others.
- Unable to turn off the lights, adjust the thermostat, run the sprinklers, etc. because they are controlled by their smartphone.
- Realizing how much extra time exists in each day when it is not filled with screens and other technologies.
- Many of the students got books read that had been sitting on their desk for a long time.
- Difficulty parenting teenagers when you can’t connect via texting.
- Unable to take pictures and document on social media the events in our lives. The only memories are in our heads.
There were many positives that they shared as well which were encouraging.
- Enjoying God’s creation by getting outside.
- Connecting with friends and family … really listening without distractions.
- Extra time in each day that could be spent resting, relaxing or completing projects around the house.
- More time for prayer, devotions, and communing with God.
Consequently, many of the students (including me) made a commitment to find ways to integrate ongoing downtimes into our lives. It may not be for 48 hours but we want to find some time each week and/or day that will be technology free. As a professor of Educational Technology, I appreciate the use of technology in our lives. My life is filled with it and it will not be going away anytime soon. Yet, the question is … are we “using technology or is technology using us?” As Christians and healthy human beings, we need to find balance when using technology so we can fully experience life and connect with others. Our relationship with God and others must trump technology every time.
Are you willing to join us?