All things in moderation, they say. Most of us would agree with that statement, at least in general. But who among us couldn't be convicted of extremism in at least one category or another? Consider cell phones and electronic means of communication, for instance. Statistics show that the average American checks his/her smart phone upwards of 150 times per day! Add to that the amount of time we spend online with computers and laptops, and our behavior of "being connected" could quickly appear to be extreme.
We live in fast times with microwaved food, drive through windows, express lanes, online banking, immediate wire transfers, and instant communication around the globe. Technology advances so quickly it's hard to keep up. Fast, fast, fast - that's the word for today's times - fast.
But the word fast has an ancient definition as well. In Biblical terms, the word fast refers to a Christian's voluntary abstinence from food and other legitimate enjoyments for spiritual purposes. It represents a way of eliminating distractions and dependencies from our life for the purpose of momentarily seeking a greater degree of closeness with God. Fasting, in this sense, is for spiritual purposes and God's glory.
Now, let's put the two concepts together.
To allow the solitude, quietude, and uninterruptedness necessary to foster greater spiritual awareness, prayer, Bible study, family time, thinking, and planning (not to mention sanity), would it not make sense to develop the habit of electronic fasting from time to time? Perhaps once a day for an hour? Just imagine: with a mere hour a day devoid of your phone, laptop, computer, and any other form of interruption or compulsion, you could actually get in touch with what's most important in life. By disconnecting, you just might be able to connect more deeply with what (and who) matters most. By holding an electronic fast, you just might be able to hold fast to things not electronic - in other words, the things that really aren't things at all.
Technology in many ways is wonderful. But it is also sneaky. It can creep into corners of our lives and consume our time and focus without us noticing how much of our private territory we've surrendered. Just because something can be done doesn't necessarily mean it should.
Here are some practical ideas for putting an electronic fast into practice in your life:
1. Try taking the first hour of the day without consulting your phone, email, computer, social networking sites, or anything that smacks of "communication" at all. Instead, read the Bible, look at a goal sheet, organize your day, pray, and simply think.
2. Set aside some "family time" in which the phones all get shut off and nobody can be interrupted. Play games, go out together, or just simply talk.
3. When meeting with a client or business partner, or a friend or subordinate in need of counsel or advice, shut off your phone, turn off your computer monitor, and allow yourself to focus upon the person sitting across from you. Feel free also to ask them to do the same.
4. Whenever you feel your stress level approaching the boiling point, shut everything down. Get away from it. Find some quiet. And maybe a good book. Perhaps THE good book. Sometimes "going dark" is the best way to find some light.
5. From time to time, try taking an entire day away from electronics and communication devices. Those of you who were tracking with me up to this point are maybe dropping away now. But trust me: it can be done; the world won't fall apart in your absence, and you won't believe the impact it will have on your wellbeing.
6. Learn that most things that seem urgent can wait. Learn to prioritize. Fight the temptation to be too connected. Figure out what's important, and then use technology to help you achieve those things.
I know that much of this seems like modern-day heresy. But it's important that you learn to take charge of technology instead of allowing it to take charge of you.
Sometimes you've got to disconnect in order to truly connect.