Sunday, March 2, 2008

Secular Sabbath?

Our electricity went out today. No internet, no cable, no iHome, no iPod, simply put: no gadgets. The first thing I experience is nervousness. 'Uhm. what next? I guess I can text message.'

But I didn't. And it felt good to take a break from gadgets, music, the internet, all things cyber. True, it only lasted a few hours, but what a nice walk I had on the snow-covered street.

And, coincidentally, the NY Times had a similar feature today. A snippet says,

'In short, my name is Mark, and I’m a techno-addict. But after my airplane experience, I decided to do something about it. Thus began my “secular Sabbath” — a term I found floating around on blogs — a day a week where I would be free of screens, bells and beeps. An old-fashioned day not only of rest but of relief.

Like many, though, I wondered whether breaking my habit would be entirely beneficial. I worried about the colleagues, friends, daughters, parents and so on who relied on me, the people who knew that whether I was home or away I would get back to them, if not instantly then certainly before the end of the day. What if something important was happening, something that couldn’t wait 24 hours?

On my first weekend last fall, I eagerly shut it all down on Friday night, then went to bed to read. (I chose Saturday because my rules include no television, and I had to watch the Giants on Sunday). I woke up nervous, eager for my laptop. That forbidden, I reached for the phone. No, not that either. Send a text message? No. I quickly realized that I was feeling the same way I do when the electricity goes out and, finding one appliance nonfunctional, I go immediately to the next. I was jumpy, twitchy, uneven.

I managed. I read the whole paper, without hyperlinks. I tried to let myself do nothing, which led to a long, MP3-free walk, a nap and some more reading, an actual novel. I drank herb tea (caffeine was not helpful) and stared out the window. I tried to allow myself to be less purposeful, not to care what was piling up in my personal cyberspace, and not to think about how busy I was going to be the next morning. I cooked, then went to bed, and read some more.'

An enjoyable and relevant piece. Read full text here.


Anonymous said...

How many hours was your break, really? 1.3?
It's still something, yes?

Liam said...

sounds awesome!

Anonymous said...

I'm doing it more and more now and it does work. I feel more, for lack of a better word, 'centered.'

Leif Hansen said...

Thanks for the great post...way to spread the word about dethroning technocentrism. ;)

My name is Leif Hansen (I'm the managing director of Spark Northwest) and I'm one of the two facilitators for the Soul Tech workshop that was recently shown last week on the Today Show.

One of our participants, Ariel Meadows started her 52NightsUnplugged experiment as a result of our workshop, which in turn was mentioned in the NY Times article you've sited in your post (Ariel was also on the Today Show for the live portion.)

While I do think there are some practical things one can do (i.e. bracket one's tech time with breaks, set some family boundaries, set a power-timer on your wifi, etc) our workshops are really more about facilitating a process that helps people to think about how technology is helping or hindering the achievement of broader life/work goals.

Actually, we've just put together a 7 step e-workbook that takes people through the same process. The steps and exercises covered in the e-workbook are basically to:
(perhaps first identify what you like about your tech life)
1. Identifying your challenges with tech
2. Identify the needs trying to get met
3. Develop your vision/goals
4. Finding your focus
5. Finding solutions
6. Turning ideas into actions
7. Sticking with your plan (can be hardest)

I think if people would really take the time to think about what they want from life, and how technology is helping and hindering their moving in that direction, it would be a tremendous first step.

Unfortunately, most of us would rather just turn off our minds, and click on some entertainment. Neil Postman called it "Amusing Ourselves to Death".

Good luck and keep us posted on your process!