Last week, on Facebook and Twitter I announced that I would begin my Lenten Fast early. The initial plan was for me to make this a Lenten discipline, but I couldn’t wait, so I started a week early. The primary impetus has been my reading of Cal Newport’s fine book Digital Minimalism. What Newport describes in the early chapters was so sobering, that it literally scared me away from not only Facebook and Twitter, but also much of my habitual phone use. Since last week, or was it two weeks ago, I’ve not only been off Social Media, but I’ve removed those and many other apps from my phone. I realized it wasn’t just my obsessive use of Twitter, it was my checking various News apps, the stock market, sports scores & news. The final blow came when my Apple phone screen use app reported that I was on my phone an average of 3 hours per day.
Is my life any better because of those 3 hours of news, sports, and Facebook? NO!
What’s different now? The most notable change is a sense of relief. I attribute this to my lack of an online presence of Facebook. I realized that what was once an enjoyable tool for engaging in conversation with friends, had devolved to a cauldron of opinions, and sharing of blog posts that were designed to amp up ones response. Yes, there were mixed in photos of children and an occasional original writing that had some thoughtfulness, but those were much less common. For me, the simple knowledge that I don’t HAVE TO engage is a relief.
The second change is more challenging. My phone use is down, but it still lingers in my mind. I use my phone for texting and for calls, but I also still find myself obsessively picking it up when I have no real reason to do so. I’m trying to navigate this, as well as ask myself, what’s going on inside my brain that seeks some kind of chemical reward, stimulation, etc that I get from my phone.
Cal Newport’s book is beyond excellent. It will be one of my top books of 2019, and his suggestions regarding alternative activities such as solitude, walking, writing are in the tradition of Thoreau and others. Now that I’m regaining upwards of 3 hours per day, I’ll have more time to engage those activities. I’ll be back here with more updates through the season of Lent.