Last year before I left for Ghana, I panicked a bit.
Not because I was about to witness complete and abject poverty or because I was traveling thousands of miles away from my family or because there were safety risks involved.
Because I wasn’t going to be able to use my iPhone for TEN. DAYS.
I channeled Chicken Little – the sky was certainly falling. How will I keep up with what’s going on? What if someone texts me and I don’t reply right away? What if someone sends me an email?
It took me two days after arriving in Accra to feel the thirty pound harness being lifted off of my shoulders – and I didn’t even know I was carrying it.
It was there that I discovered that constant accessibility stresses me out.
And when I’m stressed out? I think stinky thoughts and I’m shorter than I’d like to be with those I love the most.
I’ve shared this with others here and there in conversation but last week, Michael Hyatt wrote about it in his post entitled “What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.” He says that “The first good, peer-reviewed research is emerging, and the picture is much gloomier than the trumpet blasts of Web utopians have allowed. The current incarnation of the Internet—portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive—may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways.”
Michael also shares some sobering facts. The average American spends eight hours a day in front of a computer. iPhones had not yet been launched when Obama first ran for president four years ago and now smartphones outnumber the dumb ones. The average American sends and receives 400 text messages each month.
Our physical brains are being altered as well. According to Michael, “Chinese researchers have shown that our grey matter—the part of the brain responsible for processing of speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information—is shrinking or atrophying.”
So when I receive a text message that I “need” to return right-at-that-moment or if I need to update something with my Facebook account or respond to a comment here at Mommy on Fire, it can so easily get out-of-hand.
And I have three little faces staring at me as it does.
“Will you play with me, mama?” wide, brown eyes inquire.
“Yes, in just a moment, buddy,” I reassure.
But that moment can become more than a moment oh so easily.
So I still tweet and Facebook and blog and text and deal with my inbox.
However, there are boundaries we can place around our accessibility. They are:
1. Engage in social media (or even emails, texts, etc.) during set hours. Communicate this new plan with friends, family, and co-workers so they won’t be expecting your immediate response and stick to it. Getting up a bit earlier than everyone else can be a good time to do this as well as nap time or for 30 minutes after lunch or whatever works for you. But build it in and don’t allow yourself to stray.
2. Hold yourself accountable to someone who’s around you during the day. My seven year old daughter does a more-than-just-fine job at this but if you don’t have someone old enough to do this for you, consider texting, emailing, or calling (yes, I realize the funny oxymoron of this but you’ll do this only during your set hours, of course) someone you trust each day with how you’ve done.
3. Don’t use social media during the weekends (or any one to two day period that works for you). I don’t do a lot of Facebook or Twitter at all during the weekends and I don’t post here on Saturday or Sunday. That’s precious family time.
4. Consider “fasting” from technology if it becomes too much of a problem. Sometimes we can place social media and other kinds of technology in a “need” category and it becomes as essential to us as food and water to our existence. If we find that we need to place it at the foot of the altar, then by all means, do it. Technology can so very easily become an idol.
Jesus set boundaries during His ministry – He often stopped healing and left the throngs of people who followed Him so He could rest. He also needed quiet moments to be with His Father. He knew the importance of pulling-away and recharging.
And so if that’s the permission you need, then tell people you are trying to be more like Jesus and are recognizing your limitations as one with flesh. Who knows? Maybe they’ll follow His lead, too.
What about you? Does constant accessibility contribute to stinkin’ thinkin’? Do you do anything other than the suggestions above that might help others keep accessibility in-check?