[image by sass_face]

Let me start this post with an example.  I’m the type of person who if I’m going to try and be disciplined about not eating junk food, then it’s much better I tell my wife if we just don’t buy and have junk food in the house, rather than me trying to monitor my intake on sheer discipline.  My failure rate increases exponentially when I know the junk food is accessible.

Sometimes it’s just better if something isn’t around.

That’s how I feel about technology sometimes.  When I lived in Guatemala for 3 months I didn’t have a phone/nor make a phone call in three months.  I didn’t watch TV.  I did send out a weekly email from a cybercafe.  Having limited access and forced boundaries helped me to experience life differently and experience freedom from technological bondage at that period in my life. It’s probably no surprise then that I see that period in my life as one of the most fruitful for me.  I really felt free to be alone with my thoughts, and to explore God’s direction for my life and vocation.  There were few distractions.

So why am I pondering this stuff right now?

Well, my Blackberry Pearl’s operating system finally died last Wednesday, giving me a JUM Error 102 that mockingly glared back at me from my screen.  My phone no longer worked and I felt my world slowly falling apart (okay, I’m being dramatic–but people feel this way when they forget their phone at home accidentally), but what was I going to do?  I couldn’t Twitter from my phone.  What if I needed to make that emergency phone call to my wife somewhere between the 6 miles from my work to our home?  Was I going to survive?  I took my phone immediately to the ATT store and decided that I would just use an old phone that I used to have for my private practice, rather than get a new phone.

Lest you think I’m being disciplined and brave, I actually have an upgrade on a new phone and I’m going to wait for the release of the new iPhone sometime this summer.  So my motives aren’t all pure.

But something happened over the last 5 days.  My trusty Pantech Slate phone and I didn’t really miss my Blackberry. And since I didn’t push any of my emails to my phone, we didn’t miss all the email distractions all day either.  And since I don’t find my new temporary phone that great online, I didn’t log onto Twitter of Facebook or any of the other online distractions that I used to use to keep me company.

I simply used my phone for phone calls and texts.  And wow, let me tell you, the noise was greatly reduced in my life.  And I discovered several things.

  1. I was definitely more present with family and friends.  I wasn’t looking at my phone as each email message came through.  Because there were none.
  2. I felt more focused at work and at home.  I was able to see tasks through, rather than being distracted all the time.
  3. I was able to reflect more thoughtfully on my life, and engage life more in depth.
  4. I found that people didn’t need me as much as I had assumed they did.  No one was out there saying, “Dang, I wish Rhett was tweeting more today.  We really miss him on Twitter.  What a loss for us!”
  5. I found that I had trained the distractions in my life.  They existed because I had allowed for them and created an environment for them. I trained people to expect an email message from me within like 5 minutes of sending it.  Crazy.
  6. I found I was as satisfied checking into Twitter, FB and email about two times a day.

We are all going to have excuses of why this isn’t realistic (my boss expects me to check email every minute–really, he/she does?), or why this is good for me, and not you.

And as I stated early on, I still want the new iPhone coming out this summer.  But if I go that route, I know that I’m going to have to take more drastic measures to reduce the noise in my life, so I can increase the connection with people.  The real, I’m here with you…present with you connection.  Not the we are Twitter and FB friends connection.

Because, honestly–I don’t trust myself with all the technological distractions around.  I need more strict boundaries.

Maybe I don’t push email to my phone anymore?  I don’t know.

I just know that a lot of technology is like junk food.  It feels good at the moment, but at the end of the day I don’t feel great and I slowly find myself more out of shape physically, spiritually, emotionally, etc.