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Failing the Digital Age

Failing the Digital Age

When I woke up this morning I had three texts, several Instagram notifications, a Snapchat message, six Facebook notices, several other app notifications, and umpteen e-mails. It was 6 a.m. Ridonculous.

Do you ever wake up in the morning overwhelmed by the state of your digital life? How about mid-afternoon when the e-mails have piled up? Or at night when you feel you need to scroll through another social media feed before going to bed…but only after you watched a couple of episodes of “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix?

In the words of Claire Diaz-Ortiz, “we live in a time of greater expectations.” We can’t go back. There’s no way to return to the “good ol’ days” of rotary dial telephones, carrier pigeons, singing telegrams, or smoke signals.

Nope, nostalgia won’t cut it. The reality is that we live in a hyperlinked world, instantaneously connected via modern communications technology. There are untold benefits to this reality, to be sure. And yet, we often find ourselves burned out.

At least I do.

I find myself texting during a face-to-face conversation, Googling something as I am sitting in a presentation, or e-mailing in the wee hours of the morning when I should be getting my beauty sleep. Yep, I regularly #fail the digital age.

I’m not alone. Among Millennials, 42% say they will stop what they are doing to check a text message when it comes in. Almost half of Millennials (49%) say that personal electronics sometimes separate them from other people. Large segments of the Millennial population are unsatisfied with the amount of rest, stress, and healthy relationships they have in their lives. Perhaps technology is to blame…or at least our overuse of it (source: Barna Group).

Given the above, I am striving be more intentional in how I respond to a life full of demands via text, e-mail, and social media. Here are some things I’ve learned from others and that might help you not #fail the internet and the digital age:

1) Get some perspective. There’s little point in trying to avoid technology. While some can shun it and still live a full, productive life, many of us just won’t be able to. And so, what we can do is lean into technology with a proper sense of perspective. Get to know the media. Understand what they do—positively and negatively. Then, begin to think how you might better steward the technology you own, particularly as it applies to your overall calling and purpose.

2) Learn your place. Just like there are ice cream flavors for every person, so too there are social media platforms, e-mail services, hardware, etc. that are better suited to different personalities and lifestyles. Part of getting a proper perspective on the digital communications revolution is to learn, and appreciate, your place in it. Don’t feel the need to purchase, use, or engage with every new piece of hardware, software, app, or platform that is released. Learn what you like. Discover what works best for your personal and professional life. Invest in those things that augment your life and relationships with others, rather than take away from them.

3) Set some boundaries & take a break. This one is important. Boundaries are crucial no matter what the situation is. Digital boundaries are all the more vital. Establish a timeframe when you won’t use digital technology (within reason). Maybe it’s from 10pm-6am. Maybe it’s longer. Maybe you have a break in the middle of the day. Maybe you put away the phone in the middle of the day for at least an hour. Maybe you need to go on a “Digital Detox” or a “Digital Sabbath” — longer periods of time when you are not using digital technology for a day, a weekend, or even longer. Doing this will require some sacrifice, but what you will gain is a better appreciate of what technology does, and does not, do and what its role is in your life. Furthermore, a break will help you lean into those relationships and life-goals that have perhaps been neglected in favor of playing Pokemon Go.

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Ken Chitwood
Religion nerd, rugby fan, runner, foodie, traveler, beer-ista. Ken gets to do a lot of these things as a religion scholar, pastor, and popular writer and speaker working out of universities, cafés, communities, and local pubs across the U.S.

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