Wednesday, May 12, 2010

5 Weeks?

Has it been 5 weeks since Easter? I looked up in Church yesterday to see "5th Sunday of Easter" and I thought: No way. See, I'm too lazy to even look now, but I figure it is time to finally write about my fast from the internet. I'm hoping that writing about it will remind me to decrease my screen time that has quickly reestablished itself in my life.

Grab a cup of coffee, it's a long one!

I had an interview with my neighbor Betsy about our fast. Here's how it went:

Q: How does fasting from the computer fulfill a spiritual purpose.

Betsy: Initially, it fulfilled none for me. I ended up doing my daily email check during the time I had previously spent doing my Bible reading. After a week or two, however, I began to notice a spiritual impact that was two fold: first, I had more time throughout the day to pray about and/or reflect on ideas and things going on around me. I wasn't frittering away the margins of time on the computer instead. Second, I kept up with mundane tasks better (getting the laundry actually put away after it was folded, wiping off counter tops, and so forth) because I used my time margins more effectively than when I surfed the web 10 minutes here and there. This allowed me to be ready to serve someone at a moment's notice since I was "caught up" with my to do list. Case in point: we found out at 10:00 p.m. that we needed to leave the next morning to go see E's grandfather. I was ready by 9:00 the next morning (and didn't stay up all night) and was able to be gone for 7 days.

Lisa: The idea of "fasting" for lent, I think that is pretty well understood by most but I kept searching for some deeper meaning to giving up the internet. A few weeks in I discovereda verse in 1 John about keeping away from "idols". My commentary for my Bible study explained "idol" as "things that are illusory" ok, I had to look up illusory. (In a real, bona fide, paper dictionary) based on or producing illusion That's it exactly what the internet is to me, especially when I look at blogs of other stay at home Moms who are writing books, making extraordinary things, cooking, traveling,running marathons, blogging... generally making me feel crappy and I DON'T KNOW THESE PEOPLE. Furthermore, I feel that many of these bloggers intentionally or unintentionally present and illusion of perfection.

Q: How did you feel initially?

Betsy:Virtuous by slightly deprived. Had to think about what to do with those margins of time (10-15 minutes between activities) that I'd hitherto spent checking email or surfing the web and so forth. Oh yeah--I can fold a load of laundry! Or, maybe I'll finish hemming that dress. It's amazing how many little tasks I put off that really can be finished in 10-15 minutes.

I was also struck those first few days with my "need" to narrate everything--to write it down--and wished I could blog about my internet fast--how ironic!!! But, I think our culture today feels this need to narrate immediately what's happening instead of taking the time to ponder and reflect on what's happening and THEN write someone a letter or make a phone call.

Lisa: I felt "itchy" for the computer. I would stand in front of the dark computer after breakfast and feel...lost. The house felt quiet and I did find that I had time to do those chores that I like to put off, like laundry. I found that a to-do list really helped keep me focused. I don't consider myself a procrastinator but I used computer time to keep me from doing tasks that I dislike or felt overwhelmed by.

Q: Did you ever break the fast?

Betsy:Unfortunately, yes: my "rules" were to check email once a day, still be able to bank online and use my online library account, and that's it. I broke the email part while Ethan's grandfather was in the hospital since that's the only way they could communicate from the hospital. I also broke it a few times to email Ethan; sometimes that's the only way I can get in touch with him at work since he can check email in the mist of a 3-hour-long meeting but can't answer a cell phone. I also reviewed for my PRAXIS test online and sent some pictures out (of our new piano).

Lisa: Oh yeah. When everything was going on with Anna I researched epilepsy, Rasmussen's encephalitis and focal seizures. I realized a few hours in that what I wanted most was comfort, reassurance and peace. Thankfully, I realized that that was never going to come from mere information. Sometimes, information is not power.

How have others responded to your fast?

Betsy:Has anyone noticed? Apparently, taking 24 hours instead of 24 minutes to respond to an email is not noticed by most people. One friend, with whom I have a blog, has noticed and longed for my online presence to return, but we've had some great phone chats in the interim!

Lisa: This is what has truly surprised me! Comments ranged from calling me a "communist" (that was a joke) to saying "why don't you just give up oxygen?". I got audible gasps! from many, many people, including a 9 year old girl! The thing was the number of people who outside of job dependency who just "couldn't" (you know who you are). What does that say about our dependency on something that barely existed 20 years ago? I mean, I didn't ask them to give up electricity or fluids...

Q: What have you missed the most?

Betsy: Shopping
Writing the odd blog post here and there (didn't miss this too much after the first week or so)
Lisa: Shopping. I had to buy a gift for my sister at Target. Lame-O. I had to call Jonathan one day to have him print out necessary forms for our insurance. I had to hand-write directions to my house. I had LOTS of overdue books because I couldn't renew online. DH had to make hotel reservations for our trip to Atlanta.

Q: What did you find that you didn't miss at all?

Betsy:Other people's blogs--blogs of people who I don't know in "real life." To be honest, I didn't even really miss looking at crafty web sites either.... I was too busy with my own crafty life!

Lisa: Really, all of it. Facebook, Flicr, blogging...even e-mail. I wonder if it is because I do remember a time before all of that. What about teens and twenty-somethings who have never been without constant access to everything.

Q: Surprises? Revelations?

Betsy:I was surprised by how much I wanted to narrate this experience at first. Then, surprised at the end as I reflected on these questions by how much that "need" has abated. I've also been amazed at how much more calm my life is when I don't take up the margins of space with needless computer use. I'm more aware of the under-the-surface needs (like when one of my children is having a bad day but hasn't really voiced that yet) as well as just more on top of things that need to be taken care of (not putting off phone calls or ironing or cleaning up the kitchen, but getting them done!). The biggest revelation: how much I enjoy the way things are now. Another outcome of this "fast" is the renewing of my old letter-writing habit and the beginning of a great correspondence with an old friend of mine. I enjoy our letters more than our scattered email conversations and interrupted phone calls. If someone sends me a long email, i"m likely to skim it at best. If I get a long letter in the mail, I can't wait for a quiet time/spot to read it and savor it. I guess, too, I've refined my intentions regarding email: I made a few phone calls during this fast that ended up being great because I actually spoke with the person and and found out more needs/issues in her life than I would have if I'd sent a quick email. On the other hand, there are some very legitimate uses of email/internet that really do save time: coordinating the food for baby shower I'm hosting this weekend. I can send everyone an email at the same time and list the food options. They can all email everyone back with what they're going to bring. It's simpler than calling a million people a million different times. I think I've spent more time these past 6 weeks thinking through the uses and abuses of our computer-related technology. Sometimes, it's very useful (printing off a map to a place you've never been or looking at a house you want to rent for your vacation) and sometimes it's just a time-killer (surfing someone's blog) and sometimes it's downright destructive (inferring that I must have the same priorities/skill level/artistic energy/etc. as someone I'm reading about). And here's the clincher: I wish I was discussing these ideas with you via phone or in person so I could hear your feedback and then continue to discuss/formulate ideas. (sigh) email is so limited.

Lisa: How 3-5 minutes ( or were they 30+ minute chunks) of time on the computer eat at my day, make me late and the house messy. Overall, just how EASY it was, and nice. I was so productive during nap time and honestly, so much LESS tired. I was so addicted to the computer.

Anna's issues made me talk face-to-face with people rather than e-mailing and talking with someone during a crisis, let me tell you, is so much better than an e-mail!!
I found so much more time for just thinking, letting my mind wander at will, visiting some back streets of my memory, mulling over things I have heard. Which led me to this:
I was thinking about how writing killed the oral tradition, how actually our brains changed so that we don't hear and remember as well. What are we losing now? Now we have so much information, some true, some speculation... there is really no direction on how to use all the data we can access - except as a tool for consumerism or making money. How many times did I get on the computer to see something and suddenly feel the need to own/purchase something that .0001 seconds before I didn't know even existed and I was living just fine without?

How long until you fall back into old habits?

Betsy:I don't know. I hope I won't. It would be easy to do, however, especially if/when the kids are sick, it's raining, we have "nothing to do," ....

Lisa: Hopefully I won't.

Q: What are your plans for computer use in the future?

Betsy:I'd like to keep email to once a day, for a start. I now sit down to check my email with an agenda: who I need to write, what I need to take care of, and so forth.

I'd like to be more targeted in general when I use the computer: asking if I can take care of the same thing in a better way without the computer (perhaps getting a book from the library or making a quick phone call) or if there's a better time than "now" to take care of that need. Perhaps it would be good to set a time limit and make the computer an "activity" that is worked into the to do list instead of letting it be there whenever I feel a "craving" or am "bored." Then, when the kids are down for naps or Ethan's out of town and I have a blank evening ahead, I might sit down and browse through blogs and crafty sites. If I give myself a time limit--even as much as an hour--I'd still be better at discerning what's really worth reading. I'd push on to the sites I'm really interested in and read the articles that really are worthwhile.

Lisa: I know that there are a few people who miss my blog - especially family members far away who like to see the girl's antics. So I'm thinking of having a regularly scheduled blog post day once a week. Monday? Something to look forward to? I want to kill my facebook account. I won't, but I want to. I really need to cull my Google reader. It's killing me with juicy options to read.


So there you have it? Are you still reading? I know many of you don't post much but I would love some comments.



  1. Honestly, I think a computer fast was a genius idea. I need to do it in my life. Google reader is my downfall as well.

  2. I would support your summer fast, except a blog post every week or 2 to see what you've been up to with the girls.
    I have cut back on my time as well & it's good to focus on the things that really matter.


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