Observing an Internet Sabbath

Reclaiming one day a week for reflection, creation, and relationships

In the spring of this year, I forced myself to pay more attention to how I used technology. What I noticed worried me. I was spending most days in an endless Pavlovian notifications loop, jumping from Facebook to work to Twitter to awesome article my friend recommended to Slack to Twitter to another awesome article to more work to text message, on and on and on. I used my phone to fill in even the briefest spaces of life. Elevator ride, red light, pause in conversation. Phone, phone, phone.

I wasn’t alone.

Since this realization, I’ve worked to be more intentional in my life. I try to keep my phone in my pocket in the elevator. I allow myself to be silent. I cut out Facebook (for the most part), and recently Twitter. Thanks to Headspace, I’ve finally taken up meditation after years of false starts.

I also started to take entire days off of the internet. At the beginning, my purpose was to learn. I made the Internet conspicuous through its absence so I could reflect on its role in my life. What I discovered is that Internet consumption is like eating. Those of us who live in the developed world are surrounded by an effectively endless supply of food, and so we’ve had to learn to be intentional about how much and what we eat. The Internet has created the same situation with information.

Too much Internet is poison for our brains. We aren’t adept at staying in constant consumption mode. We need time to make connections, to reflect, and to rest. This recent article by Andrew Sullivan puts it much more elegantly than I ever could. Grab a coffee, sit somewhere quiet, and read it in one sitting.

Now that I’ve learned this from personal experience, I take time off of the Internet because I enjoy it. But I’ve not been very consistent, so I’ve decided to change that. Beginning this week, as best as I can, I’m going to adhere to an Internet Sabbath. One day a week when I quit the Internet.

I’m starting this Sunday, November 20. I’d like you to join me.

If you’re interested, just avoid the Internet all day this Sunday. This includes Twitter, Facebook, email, online articles, essentially anything that requires a web browser. If you can, turn your computer’s wifi off and put your phone in airplane mode. (You may be amazed at the result—I can often feel a mental weight being lifted when I do this.) Since I like to write, and I use Ulysses to keep my writing synced, I usually keep my devices connect solely for this purpose.

If you’re like me when I started, you’ll find yourself feeling a tug to pull out your phone or launch your web browser. When this happens, practice mindfulness. Stop and take notice, without judging. What were you going to do? If you stopped yourself, or if you didn’t, how do you feel? Take the opportunity to get to know yourself and your actions a bit better.

If once a week is too much, join in whenever you can. Just try to make it a little difficult. We learn best when we’re stretched just past the point of comfort.

Join me for Sunday morning coffee/brunch

My wife and I recently discovered The Factory, a coffee shop near our apartment that intentionally doesn’t offer wifi. I’ll be going there this Sunday morning by 9 am at the latest, and most Sunday mornings, to hang out and do non-Internet things. If you’re in Austin and you’d like to join, swing by. Call or text me if you want to double check I’m there, but even if I’m not, The Factory is still great. I don’t think you’ll miss me.

The morning after

The next day, reflect on what you learned. You’re welcome to comment below, but you don’t have to. If you post something on Facebook or elsewhere, though, let me know. I’d love to read it.

🙂

Thanks for reading! Grab/ping me if you’ve got questions. Hope to see you Sunday.

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