Going Unplugged

My heart was like this pole: wired, tethered and always "on."For me to have a true time of sabbatical—a true time of ceasing from my work, it was necessary and mandatory that I abstain from social media during my season of rest, renewal and restoration. There is no way, that what has happened in me could have happen or would have happened if I would have stayed wired, on and available. You might think you are the exception and that you could rest and renew your heart by staying on and wired but that, my friends is an illusion that you are hooked into actually believing. In order for me, and perhaps you as well, to live sanely and with a sense of vitality and not mere survival, we need to discipline ourselves to go wireless in order that we can live in a robust, abundant kind of way. I had to do this. I needed to do this. Perhaps you do also.In today’s world, fasting from technology and dis-engaging from forms of social media are vitally important and needed. When we are so wired and insist that WiFI be omnipresent, we are submitting ourselves to a false and dangerous world. Let me be clear, I am an advocate for social media. I use it every day. However in my sabbatical, I unplugged and went off line for months and I believe in doing so, I created the space where I could cultivate my inner life; do more inside work so my outside job would go better and cultivated a sense of serenity and well-being that being wired seemed to rob me of in my life. Here are five reasons why:I found this in a store in Sedona while on Sabbatical. Do you think it is true?1. Social media nourishes illusions about life that are not true. The images we post ; the snippets of updates we read; the “trending” of our interests builds and re-enforces a false view of life. No picture reveals the whole story, does it? Behind every smile, there is something else we do not see but is as real as all the grins we are staring at online. There is something unsaid behind every post and every instagram photo. Photos don’t reveal our child who is ADD; our son who we caught on a porn site our aging parents feeling unwanted or perhaps unloved. Pictures of men don’t reveal their inner struggles. Pictures of a ladies night out don’t clue us in on one of them having a secret addiction. Images, themselves are not the whole truth.2. When we are always present to social media, we are not present to ourselves, our hearts and God. By skimming scores of quotes, posts and images, our minds are simply taking in what it seems everyone else is doing and everyone else is saying on a particular subject. We don’t take time to reflect, to become mindful of our own thoughts, feelings and convictions. We simply react and “like” things. We grow numb to ourselves—perhaps even numb to the promptings of God. Paralyzed in doing anything else other than hold our phones and go into a catatonic trance—we withdraw to live in a wifi world- a world that is void of human touch; eye contact and presence. We grow impatient in conversation privately insisting and demanding that someone we’re trying to talk to get to the point so we can move on to something else. We do not linger with deeper implications of thoughts and are void of the ability to reflect—that one important aspect in humanity that distinguishes us from my dog and the birds that feed at my feeder. To reflect is what makes us more god-like than perhaps any other quality or characteristic in life.3. Many forms of social media enable us live on the surface rather than moving deeper in our hearts. Social media has a way of enabling us to live at the edge of subjects by reading quotes or hearing a few sentences about a subject. We don’t have the time, we think and we don’t take the time, to reflect more about something. We don’t look at both sides of the argument because our hurriedness causes us to skim and not to process.4. Addiction to social media is as real as an addiction to porn or alcohol. It is as dangerous as a meth addiction. By taking regular times of fasting from social media, we can break and curb what we feel is our “need” of it. Turning your phone off during meal times; turning all forms of beeping, buzzing and vibrating off for two hours a day or going dark or off by 8pm at night creates the needed space for conversation and reflection. Many forms of social media are actually pain remedies. We do not want to be alone or feel alone so we “engage” with an illusionary world that enables us to escape from a world we are navigating. Try fasting from all technology for your Sabbath—a true day of ceasing, which is the literal meaning of to Sabbath—is to cease.5. Social media helps devalues human relationships. Sure, it’s great to get the birthday greetings and to quickly read the news of something you really do need and want to know. But, when we lean heavily into social media by picking up our iphone every 72 seconds to see if something new is posted—while we are having lunch, coffee or a meeting with another human being, we are saying: “My social media life is MORE important than you are.” It’s rude, insensitive and uncaring to use social media in a meeting, during a conversation or sharing a meal. I’ve gotten to the point of asking the person I’m meeting with if they would mind to turn off their phone so we can be focused, present and truly "with" each other in our time together. Social media fosters a culture of living in a true attention deficit world. Can you create a “No Wire Room” in your home or workspace where phones are not allowed?To do this is part of the answer. It is part of fostering resilience. Here’s what helped me to unplug, go dark and get unwired. I asked one of my teammates to read all my emails and to decide what I really needed to know during my sabbatical. Yes, I did this. Do this for your vacation so you can really be “off” and not always checking. The checking is what gets us into trouble. What you think will be a 5 minute email results in getting pulled into so many issues, stories and crises. I put an “auto-responder” on my email telling anyone who needed me that I was off and my teammate would decide how to respond. I told my team that I was not to be called, emailed or texted by them during sabbatical; that if I was needed in case of death or the retreat center had burned down, that only one person was to get me the news. This helped to establish a boundary for them and a boundary for me. It gave me permission to go off the grid and in my going off the grid, I was able to find myself and come back with a greater sense of life inside me than I really knew was possible. We decided to not interact with our staff, Board, donors or anyone related to our work to really help me have the much needed space. It was hard. All have been gracious and kind and this one thing---protective of us during this time. They surely knew how much we needed it. Their silence was, in the end, love to us.Did I look at Facebook some? Sure. Going cold turkey was hard and it is in any form of withdrawal. It was hard for me to give up double stuff Oreos but when I chose to give up those edible demons, something better happened. My desires changed. I wanted to go off of social media; not just that I needed to go off social media and that is precisely the place where transformation happens—not in obeying the rules but by changing what you really want. When our grandson died, I wanted the world to know. When I read something that felt life altering, I did not want to withhold it. So I broke my own rules and posted a few things. But I did not look for responses of how many people liked it. (Well, I tried not to look.)