Reflections on logging off for Lent

The first week, inevitably was the hardest. I made the decision to ‘log off’ from all social media for the whole of Lent (a period of six weeks leading up to Easter) at relatively short notice. I was curious to see how and if, I would be affected. How addicted I truly was, and particularly the effect of not being able to share the many photographs I take.

I deliberately left the notifications live .. clocking up day by day – social media literally only a click away. Somehow this was to challenge myself more fully. Make the temptation more acute. Twitter and Facebook in particular went into panic mode, bombarding me with emails, telling me that I had X many notifications.. that I hadn’t seen.. that I hadn’t checked in lately, and didn’t I think I should? I was obviously failing in their eyes.

I managed not to log on to any of them for the whole period. I wrestled with myself about Sundays ‘not being part of Lent’ .. traditionally Sundays don’t count as ‘fast days’, being the perpetual reminder of Easter and Resurrection.. The excuse was to clear the backlog of notifications and  not miss any important invitations. People naturally tend to assume you can see what is posted, or events to which they have invited you – and it may appear rude, as if you are ignoring them. However, I saw through my excuses and decided for me, it was best to keep to the ‘digital fast’ for the whole period. Period.

Lent was a particularly busy season this year, with a great deal going on in both my life and my head. Somehow when life is going fast, the temptation is perversely to speed up, rather than slow down.. or perhaps that is just me? By speeding up, I mean reading more, taking in more stimulation via the internet-  newsworthy articles on Twitter, etc. All good stuff, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I guess the underlying increase in pace is the false belief that if only I cross this, this and this off my ‘do list’ I will get to a point where I can allow myself to slow down.. a little. Perhaps.

One of the suggestions from itistimetologoff.com was to remove all ‘screens’ from the bedroom. I had hitherto always charged my phone overnight on my bedside table.. doesn’t everyone?  The benefit given was improved sleep.   Now my phone charges in another room and will do so, here on in. The temptation to reach for it in sleepless moments in the wee small hours is great, and it has been clearly shown by many studies that this definitely doesn’t help.  I can’t say that I suddenly slept deeply and peacefully.. but my head was a whole lot less ‘full’. It was good ‘sleep hygiene’ to coin a popular phrase, and made a lot of sense.  Putting screens away for an hour or two before bedtime is another excellent suggestion, though one I manage better sometimes more than others.

I am a social person. I like to interact and communicate. I like to stay in touch, even if it is only digitally. Social media provides a way of easily doing that, traversing time zones and continents with a click.  I missed the connections. I did feel ‘out of the loop’, as FB and Twitter kept reminding me I was. However after the first week or two, I missed it less. I only checked my phone three or four times a day. It was easier to let go of, than I imagined. I don’t want to do it on a permanent basis, but the exercise of going without for a long period of six weeks was a useful and helpful one. The idea of a 5/2 ‘diet’ of internet interaction appeals, and I may yet experiment with that. (Five days on, two ‘unplugged’. The only reason I haven’t immediately moved to that rhythm is that I am currently engaged in a seven week online course/retreat, and need to engage with that particular online community 6/7.

Photography. I take (and share) a lot of photos. Over the course of the last five years, living in a beautiful rural setting, and moving on an increasingly contemplative path spiritually, has led me to using my camera as kind of photo journaling. I was recently asked to reflect on why I do this. The following (including the photo) was my answer.

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I pause

My camera is my constant companion. Most times it is the one on my phone, for the practicality of living in my pocket. (I have selected the last two of my phones for their camera technology) 

I pause. I pause to stop and see. To notice. I pause to look again, sometimes from another angle. I pause to delight in the play of light and shadow, the sparkle across a river, the unfolding of the dawn. I pause to hold the moment. To share the joy. I pause to create. To share with The Creator, as He paints the day beautiful. I pause to receive. To drink in. To breathe. To dip my toes in joy. 

I found not being able to share my photos one of the hardest things of all. Photography is a communicative art form. Photographs, like paintings are designed to be shared. Sharing the moment, the beauty, the joy of a glance of wonder, increases the joy. They say a joy shared is a joy doubled, and I agree. I used to paint- watercolours, pastels, charcoal – you name it, and I have dabbled and daubed in it. I took classes for many years and loved to learn how to use the various mediums as an outlet for creativity. Time and life has curtailed that opportunity in recent years- study, college and full time work has squeezed out that particular outlet. And so I have painted with my camera. Painted with light and shadow.  I might yet take up my brushes again.. I have an increasing yearning to do so- and doing it is primarily about making room for it. Setting aside time and space deliberately.

This whole exercise has been a good and healthy one. I am glad to have done it, even as I am glad to enjoy social media again. It has given me much food for thought, which I need to keep reflecting upon.

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