Bugger the detox, have a Technology Sabbath

Technology Sabbath tomorrow. See you all on Sunday. Remember the words of Pope Francis: “The internet… is a gift of God.” So be nice.

That was my tweet last Friday evening. I quite often send out something similar each Friday, because most Saturdays our family has a Technology Sabbath. We do our best to have no screens (no phones, no computers and no TV) each Saturday. When we started it was quite a shock to the system, but it has become a norm in our household now.

The reason we picked Saturday is that when you turn off all the screens, your day seems to last a lot longer, probably because you’re not checking anything every quarter of an hour to see if someone has touched base. And Saturday is a great day to feel like you have more time.

Initially the kids struggled for the first hour each Saturday morning,  but now they don’t even mention it. One of the unintended consequences of Technology Sabbath was that the kids suggested we get rid of our TV from the lounge. It’s gathering dust in our room. The kids probably watch one DVD a fortnight now, at most.

We did this after reading a book, but it has recently exploded all over the internet, as people are being encouraged to do a Technology Detox (here’s one example, but Google it and you’ll see what I mean). While I agree with the sentiment, I’d encourage people to think of it as a Sabbath rather than a Detox.

A detox suggests, of course, that our technology is essentially a form of toxic interaction from which we need to remove ourselves on occasion to be cleansed. Whilst the internet and technology can be used in a toxic way, I object to the automatic labelling of it as such. Viewing the internet and technology as a threat and a poison is exactly how we are ending up with the overzealous State spying that afflicts us today (a topic for a different blog perhaps).

I was struck by Pope Francis’ words that “the internet… is something truly good, a gift from God.” Overall, this has been my experience of technology and the internet. I have access to the joys and pains of people all over the world via Twitter, Facebook, Skype, blogs, and other media. I have relationships with people I would never have got to know otherwise, and can maintain relationships with people who live away from us. It has been a gift to me, so taking a Technology Sabbath is more honouring of the good these people and relationships represent, than to think of it as a Technology Detox.

A Sabbath is from the Hebrew term Shabbat, and is quite simply a period of rest. It is right throughout the Torah and the Pentateuch, and was, like many concepts, adopted by Christian churches. There are many traditions of rest in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and so on. The difference between Detox and a Sabbath is that in a Sabbath you are resting so as to be refreshed for reflection and to prepare for the time ahead, not because what you were doing was a slow exercise in poisoning yourself. It’s a more positive commitment that lacks blame, guilt and judgement.

So give a Technology Sabbath a go. Other than the rest itself, imagine the arguments you wouldn’t get into on Facebook and Twitter if you had a day where you stopped, took a breath, reflecting on the week that has gone, and made some commitments for the week ahead. We can all do with the chance to find our centre each week, away from screens, from their glare and the temptation to act at speed. I honestly cannot think of anything you will regret about it.

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