My online travels thus far this morning have been as follows:
Had my prayer time.
I checked my email to see if I’d received something I have waited to receive. Didn’t come. I sighed.
I noticed, in my email, that there was a sale going on at a certain store I liked, and then grew irritated when I realized the “sale” was not a sale at all but a way to lure more people into the store without actually discounting anything. I became irate. Because really, aren’t these corporations sick of sucking the lifeblood out of people – and for inferior products, at that?
I checked out the day’s headlines on a few different websites, which left me vexed and frustrated. (Some days it seems like everything in the modern world is falling apart at the seams. It probably is.)
Read a few blogs. Agreed heartily with some opinions, found others rankling.
Sat here and ate a breakfast burrito while I distracted myself by reading celebrity blogs. Some were funny. Some weren’t. Most of them might have made me feel ancient – I don’t seem to know who any “famous” people are any more – if I was not also simultaneously aware that our culture churns out “celebrities” at lightspeed and so me not knowing is not indicative of any particular lack on my end.
And then I came here, and realized it was high time to write this post.
Is your time online anything like what I just represented here? For me it wasn’t always this way. It used to be – at some point in the distant past – that the internet was an elective practice in my life, something I chose to do in the same way that I chose to craft with polymer clay or write poetry. I could go online, find something I was looking for, do some reading, and then scamper back off. I used it; it was a tool.
But months ago I realized that my online presence was starting to use me. I have notifications turned off on my phone, but the internet was at my fingertips 24-7 regardless. It was where my spare time went. If I couldn’t fill a minute, I turned to the screen: I checked email, I read blogs, I visited websites, perused news articles.
I found that it was starting to affect my mood.
Something about the deluge of headlines and bad news brought me down, and yet I couldn’t keep myself from consuming it. (I have a voracious reading problem. Sue me.) Refreshing my inbox every five minutes kept me on edge. Even “Christian internet” was wearing me out: some days even the most well-meaning blogs seemed like a constant stream of critical/analytical pieces that eroded my mood, or flat-out bad opinions I couldn’t muster the energy to address even if I wanted to. Devotionals or praise blogs I subscribed to lambasted me with ads, supplemental materials, encouragements to do more and be more.
So I left. I don’t mean to say anything as noble as that I took a sabbatical from being online or that I started fasting from the internet. I didn’t. But I changed my use and I made it my intention to master it, rather than let it master me. Now I “free browse” in the mornings before breakfast – and then, when I’m done, I try to make it a point to hop online only when I consciously need/want to do so to see something in particular. I limit the amount of times I check my email per day. If I need to fill time, I knit or craft or read or play video games.
My mood has improved. My life has 40% less handwringing. I spend more time with God, and doing other fun things. I find I have a greater awareness generally of what I’m doing each day, since the Internet can lend itself to mindlessness. When I do read things, I’m able to really chew on them and address them in the way I like. And when I am on the internet, I’m usually enjoying it because my time there is purposeful and mindful.
It’s not that being online is bad (I say, as I write my blog post online). But I do think that the internet, as many other things, can become a problem for believers: it can influence our moods, overwhelm our time, and distract. Nor is “Christian internet” exempt: it can sow division, create grumbling, draw our attention away from larger issues, spread falsehoods, become an idol, and create a false understanding of the world.
Maybe you’re fine with your internet use. Or maybe, like me a few months ago, you find yourself getting grouchy online with knowing quite why. Maybe you’re just tired of being online. If that’s the case, consider this blog post your permission to walk away – even if just for today. You don’t have to be there. The headlines and information will all be there later. You’ll get to the emails eventually. You won’t miss anything except maybe a headache and some drama.
It’ll be worth it.