Why I’m Cutting Back on the Digital World

I’ve not posted much on Facebook or Twitter since early December. And frankly, I haven’t really missed it.

Yes—to answer the inevitable question—I haven’t seen some updates from family and friends. I don’t know the latest on the lives of those I’m not in regular contact with otherwise—but most of those were food posts or pictures from vacations or their thoughts on the political climate (I’ve definitely not missed those posts).

This experiment came via Cal Newport and his book Deep Work which had been recommended by a clergy colleague. In it Newport explores how we don’t intentionally make time for going deep in our work through thinking, processing, analyzing, writing. Far too often the lure of the web—email, social media, news updates, click bait—distracts us. So I tried it out without announcing it online first.  I just stopped social media, and then I tried to readjust how I think about email and news.

I found myself a bit lighter, frankly, a bit more like myself.  I’ve made more progress on things like sermons or other programs in my work life. I’ve gotten more done overall.  I find I can catch up on email more efficiently when I set specific times aside each day for it rather than letting it come flitting on to my screen.

And I’ve “relapsed” too.  I’ve checked Twitter when news broke about the government shutdown to see how people were responding. I’ve found myself going down the rabbit hole when catching up on the day’s news. I haven’t figured out the best way to do email.

But I’m making progress, and I like what I see. It’s the intentionality that I appreciate. I feel more in control of my day rather than getting pulled in different directions.

Just last week Newport came out with a new book Digital Minimalism and describes how life could be. He’s not a luddite by any stretch—he’s a computer science prof at Georgetown. His thoughts tie in nicely with some of what I read while on sabbatical about the importance of powering down and getting outside, something I’d like to explore more.

Obviously I intend to keep writing blog posts, and especially on the topic of wilderness spirituality, and posting them online—including Facebook. I’m still figuring out what makes the most sense for me in terms of using social media on my terms rather than on theirs (because those companies are after my time so they can make more money).  This is a work in progress.

Finally, if you’d like to reach out to me, don’t do it on social media. Notifications are off and I’m just not checking much there at all. Send me an email—I check a couple of times a day M-Th, and once a day Sat-Sun—or give me a call. I’d love to check in with you in a non-virtual way.

Photo Credit: Can Pac Swire Flickr via Compfight cc

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