The pastors of a church in America have encouraged their congregation to take a day off from technology on the 25th of this month- a Facebook fast as it were.(HT: IM) They suggest that we all take a day's break from the technological wonders that are so deeply interwoven with our lives - cell phones, laptops, iPads - and refrain from texting, emailing, tweeting or even chatting on Facebook. And we spend the extra time that we suddenly have on our hands 'intentionally getting face-to-face with our relationships'. Some of the practical suggestions they have are
- Write a handwritten letter or card and mail it.
- Meet up with a friend for a face-to-face conversation over coffee.
- Make a visit to someone in the hospital.
- Try an act of kindness like visiting a neighbor you’ve never met to get acquainted, take a meal to a shut-in or take some homemade cookies to your local fire or police station. Be creative and have fun with it.
- Plan a family dinner night without the TV on and all other electronic communication devices off.
The movement (as do so many good and bad things these days) is spreading rapidly through the millions of communication networks that run our world today. It is a refreshing idea to remind us all that the impersonal world of Facebook, Youtube and blogs can sometimes make us insensitive to the people around us. It is so much easier to write this stuff on a blog post than to actually talk about it with someone - that itself is an indication of the rot that is setting in. The rapid progress of technology in the last 2 decades combined with the amazing outlets for creativity and communication have totally changed the way we look at things. Living online is becoming more and more of a reality than just the possibility it was some years ago. The idol of communication as Tim Challies puts it, has subtly taken pride of place in our consciousness. And not only has the internet made us more impersonal with our family and friends (the offline kind!!), but it has also given us one more distraction from our primary purpose on earth - to serve and worship our God. To put things in perspective here are some interesting facts from Facebook statistics
THERE ARE MORE THAN 500 MILLION ACTIVE USERS OF FACEBOOK. That makes them fifth largest country in the world in terms of population after China, India, the US and Indonesia. That also makes them fourth in terms of numbers after Christianity, Islam and Hinduism (though of course you could belong to Facebook and a religion as well). It is interesting to note that people who do not profess to any religious affiliation (ie atheists, agnostics, secularists, etc.) have recently overtaken the number of Hindus and their number is fast growing. Though there are more 'Christians' than Facebook users, I have a sinking feeling that if we count only the 'daily (or even alternate day) Bible readers', the number may be embarrassingly small - hope I'm wrong.
50% OF USERS COME ONLINE DAILY AND THE AVERAGE USER SPENDS 55 MINUTES A DAY ON THE SITE. 35 million users update their profiles every day and some do it more than once. Data from 1997 showed that regular Bible readers spent an average of 52 minutes A WEEK (!!) with the Scriptures. And often some of us do not update our status with Him for weeks and months on end.
AN AVERAGE USER HAS 130 FRIENDS AND CONNECTS TO 80 COMMUNITY PAGES GROUPS OR EVENTS. What an opportunity to spread the message of God's love, though I suspect that more often than not, what is discussed has little to do with the important things of life. And offline, most of us have little or no interaction with Bible study groups, church or mission groups or even social service or activism groups though there may be hundreds in our area.
DUMBING DOWN...? A study in the US showed that Facebook users spent less time studying and got lower grades than non-Facebook users though the correlation was not taken to suggest causation....
I could go on and on with the many studies and resources that this global phenomenon has inspired - both for and against it. I have a Facebook account which I opened to try and find an old friend from school about 4 years ago. I did not succeed and fortunately did not get hooked - in fact, the account has been opened after that about once a year!! So now Amy handles all our Facebook traffic through her page. For me, the fast on the 25th will be from my many google searches and the blogs that I read. Some people suggest that once a year may not be enough - this article suggests a technology fast on 2 or even 3 days a week!! But it is a sobering thought - in the world of Internet 2.0 and Windows7, are we regularly upgrading our relationship with our family and our Lord Jesus. To put it simply - do I spend more time on the internet/phone/computer than with my family.... And what proportion of my time do I spend with my Lord.....