A Lenten fast from media

The news, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, YouTube, and many others fill our daily lives with a cacophony of voices and thoughts. Since January, it’s reached a point of utter chaos with politics threatening to consume every ounce of our attention and energy. I’ve struggled to tell where my thoughts end and some else’s begin. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that it’s unhealthy, ineffective and unsustainable.

Enter Lent

This strange and seemingly silly tradition where some religious people give something up for a month. In the protestant circles I grew up in, the whole thing seemed rather trivial, e.g. “I’m giving up chocolate”. But as life has become more crowded with kids, a house, a career, and the ever-present oppression of smartphones, I’ve grown to respect this tradition and the opportunity it affords. It pushes me to treat reflection and self-discipline as muscles that need exercise, just as any other muscle in my body. And somehow it all works together to point me towards that mysterious, brutal and awe-inspiring event, Easter.

For the second year in a row, I’m using lent to help me cleanse, to reset, and to gather my bearings. I’m giving up “media.” All of it. No social media, no news, no movies, no tv shows, no youtube, no RSS feeds, nothing.

This may seem crazy, but let me explain. Last year, I spent many evenings sitting on the couch talking with my wife. We had hours of conversations about life, work, and our kids. It was a delight. I read a lot of books. I played K’nex with my boy. I journaled.

The cumulative effect of all of this was simple:

I was present.

Not just to my family, but to myself. I didn’t spend all of my mental and emotional energy on the latest outrage sweeping the internet. I spent it on my wife and kids. I spent it on work. I spent it wrestling through who I am and what I believe. I grew in contentment. Not apathy, but in the healthy peace that comes from the absence of anxiety.

Here we are, a year later, and the world feels like it’s gone insane. I’m reminded that this modern life of unlimited information and constant “connection” takes a toll. It opens up an unimaginable breadth of possibilities, but when left unchecked, stunts any growth in depth. Technology enables you to march with the masses, but doesn’t prepare you to not be taken up by them and stand firm on your own. Depth and steadfastness are nurtured by priorities that modern media simply do not maintain. Where technology pursues having more and doing it faster, we need to pursue what is considered, measured and lasting. I know of no other way of internalizing that distinction than by time and distance. It’s my hope that stepping away, for a time, will restore some of the balance.

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On Being Human

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