Most Sundays, a tumbleweed blows through my digital life. The Bleeding Heart twitter feed is eerily silent. My Facebook page gathers cobwebs. My email goes (the audacity!) unanswered.
It’s not because I’m lazy.
On Sundays, I unplug. And it is good for me.
I don’t unplug because someone told me to. I unplug because my soul is crying out for rest and a slowing down. I unplug, for just one day a week, because I can.
You see, most days, like so many of you, I spend many of my precious moments scrolling through feeds of messages and tweets and photos. Keeping in touch with personal and public news. Painting a pretty picture of myself across the digital canvas. Pixel by pixel, I exert my existence online.
But, unlike the mere act of breathing that keeps me connected to the real world, this digital breathing takes intention. It takes upkeep. The digital me is constantly selective and ridiculously self-aware.
When I am 'being myself' online, I am not really myself. I am some other, constructed self. And that takes work.
The cycle of propping up my digital persona for the world to see is exhausting friends.
There are benefits to social media, don’t get me wrong. I have made and maintained relationships digitally that would have disappeared any other way. I have discovered great restaurants and festivals. I have heard it through the grape vine. But good as connectivity can be, it is tiring.
I am a firm believer in peak soul.
You’ve heard of peak oil? As I understand it, Peak Oil is a tipping point where we begin to use more oil than we can possibly replace. We begin to deplete our resources, perhaps irrevocably. We begin to be in real trouble. Some say this is a future event. Some say it has already happened.
What if our souls have a peak? What if our bodies can bear more than our souls?
We know that sometimes, in intense circumstances, it is the spirit that breaks first. Think sensory deprivation or solitary confinement. Think the dark depths of total nihilism. Think loneliness and depression. Think fear. Our bodies may have years left, but our spirits can only stretch so thin. Then they hit peak soul. Then they snap.
"That's how thresholds work:”, writes Bill McKibben in his prophetic book, Enough, "up to a certain point something is good, and past that point there's trouble. One beer is good; two beers may be better; eight beers you're almost certainly going to regret. If you drive your car at 55 miles per hour, you'll get where you're going faster than if you drive it at 20 miles per hour–but if you drive it at 155 miles per hour, odds are you're going to die in a ditch."
What if our bodies–even our brains–can continue to go faster and farther, but we outstrip our souls with speed and distance? What if the constant push for more is simply more than a spirit can bear.
And in a world that is sort of doubtful about souls in the first place, how will we ever notice until it is too late.
Hear my barbaric YOP!
Before you strap a smart watch to your wrist or see the world through Google-coloured glasses, consider the still and silent soul.
Because we can do more, we assume we should. But should we? Ever and all ways?
And if we think we’ve had enough, how do we turn back the tide? How do we subvert the system, one small choice at a time?
There is one choice that predates social media by millennia. It is Rest. It is Sabbath.
It’s an old story–the very start of the Biblical narrative. God takes a rest after six long days of making every thing. The seventh day, God rests.
Remember the Sabbath day, we are told. Perhaps we are warned. Perhaps the Maker of our souls knows their edges. Perhaps he knows we are able to handle many fewer relationships than our friend feed can hold.
This day of rest is one of the 10 Commandments. It is important.
Less and less of us are taking days off, it seems.
I was just in a conversation about overtime being the rule, and not the exception. Workers with two jobs are complaining if they don’t get overtime shifts. Less of who do take breaks are taking time away from technology. We are mistaking social media as a salve for our weary souls.
Less of us are taking time to unplug from the virtual landscape and enjoy the landscapes of this Good Earth–time to plug into the touch and feel world of face to face relationships.
When was the last time you sat in silence for more than 5 minutes?
The answer gets more disturbing when you realize what so often rises up from that quiet and calm inner well. Peace. Courage. Creativity. Vision. Resolve. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Love.
Are these not the very things your soul longs for? They are my own hopes. They are seldom delivered to me by technology.
What is a Shutdown Sunday?
For me, a Shutdown Sunday means I don’t check Twitter, or Facebook, or email. Usually, I don't play video games. Sometimes I don't watch movies or TV. I will break the email rule of I am expecting something urgent, or have to get in touch with someone right away.
It is hard not to check social media when that red dot displays the number of people with new content for me to devour. I will likely start turning notifications off on Sundays, too.
The exact day is not important. But taking a day, regularly, is.
It is a little push back. A little way to keep in check. A little space to breathe.
I try and notice what changes when I practice this discipline.
Yesterday, I read a rich book. I organized my mess of Evernote tags. I stained a picnic table. I visited with my mom. I didn’t rush away from church. I didn’t stay up too late. I worked out. I cleaned the house. I watched the K-Day’s Fireworks with my wife. Each one of these things delivered goodness to me that I do not find in technology.
What is Your Own Cyber-Sabbath?
Where does technology snatch up your time? Is it Facebook? Video games? TV? Netflix?
How is your inner well these days? Are you near peak soul?
Are you full, or empty? Are you growing, or shrinking? Is your soul getting enough green, leafy vegetables?
I am challenging you to disconnect once a week.
The challenge has 3 parts.
- Turn off for a day. Just 1 day. Every week.
- Take 10 minutes to sit in silence on that day. In the morning before the kids wake up. In the evening after everyone is asleep. On a walk to the grocery store. On a drive across town.
- Tell me what happens. Comment here. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweet, facebook, etc. Hashtag #ShutdownSunday. Just not on your day :)
I think I hear something.
What could it be?