Learning to unplug

We live in a culture that is technology driven. If you are not comfortable with computers it is difficult to function well and it will be close to impossible as the years go by. As with many who are part of my generation, I am fairly comfortable with technology and am a firm believer in the necessity of using it to reach those in the next generation. Having said all that, I also feel compelled to share that God is teaching me the importance of unplugging. It's interesting how life has progressed. 10 years ago I was a student in college adequately completing my degree without even owning a computer or a cell phone. Today, however, I wake up with my cell phone plugged in on the counter. I check my email on my desktop, I get in the car with my laptop neatly tucked in my satchel and go to work. I choose hotels based not on price or comfort, but rather based on accessibility to wifi. Beyond all of that, my cell happens to be a Palm Treo 650 smartphone which allows me to take expanded technology everywhere I go right in my pants pocket. It even has a book reader on it so that I can sit and read a book while I'm waiting for something to happen.

All of this accessibility, which is intended to make my life simpler, has instead often increased my workload and caused me more stress than it may be worth. I remember when I got my Treo, Bryan Riley encouraged me to watch out because a smartphone can rule your life. He was right, and unfortunately there were times when I found myself sitting on the sofa, "spending time with my family" while checking email on my phone, or looking at the latest blog update. Beyond that, my laptop allows me to take my work everywhere I go. This is often a great thing. The ease of use, and my frequency of travel makes it imperative for me to be able to work on the go. Having said that, however, I also recognize that I have a tendency to work when I shouldn't, namely when I'm home where I should be spending time with my girls.

So, in light of that, I believe that God has been teaching me for a while that it is time to unplug a bit. I thought I would share some of the lessons that I've begun incorporating as an encouragement to others.

  1. Dump the internet on the phone. The reality is that I can live quite well without it. In all honesty, is there a time when you simply can't get by without email on your phone? Is it possible to wait a couple of minutes/hours to check your email without the world crashing down? In my case it is, so the internet on the phone went out the window a while ago.
  2. Leave the laptop at home. When I come home from work, I leave the laptop at work. This is not true every night, and particularly is not true about weekends when I'm not in the office and may need to finish up some work before Sunday, but as a rule, when I come home during the week I'm choosing to leave the laptop at work.
  3. Screen the calls. I always have my cell phone with me. It happens to be the best way that my wife can get a hold of me. Knowing that, however, helps me to discipline myself about taking calls. I am at the point now where I let almost 100% of calls on my cell to go to voicemail. Once they leave a message I can listen to it and judge how quickly a response is needed. This helps preserve family time, study time, etc.

These aren't incredible solutions and they don't make life completely simple, but I've found them to be simple solutions that provide a better opportunity for me to spend time with my wife and girls. As I watch my marriage and my girls grow, I realize that it is often important to unplug and invest time in them. If you are interested in reading more about this thought, I highly recommend Mark Driscoll's article "Cell Sin".