Doing Church in a Digital Age: Part 3--Distraction

Although I've sought to avoid jumping too quickly into editorializing, our discussion of "Doing Church in a Digital Age" will unavoidably press into this area of value-judgment. At some point we have to reflect on our perceptions of what this age yields for us both positively and negatively. As we move in that direction a bit, let me raise the question of "distraction." I don't know about you, but I find myself often distracted by the opportunity (always available, it seems) to check email, email others, surf the web for information, read the news/weather/sports/entertainment sites, blog, Tweet, text, or IM someone. When there's a lull in activity at home or at work, it's all too easy for me to go to a screen and get busy. And even when I'm enjoying off-line activities, the familiar sound of a text message arriving or a cell phone ringing can easily interrupt. It makes me wonder: how comfortable am I--are we--with silence and solitude? How trained are our ears in listening--to God, to our own hearts, to each other? Are these not indispensable in the spiritual life? I think of the experiences of Israel and of Jesus in the wilderness for 40 years and 40 days respectively--stripped down, traveling light, focused on God--without urban amenities or a rich diet of entertainment and information.

How do we do when we're without our cell phones or computer screens? By filling these empty spaces with cyber-activity what are we missing out on? Is there an aspect of over-stimulation, or some adrenal connection, or even an addictive component to the digital age, I wonder? What would happen if we "fasted" from our screens for a day? How might we feel? What might we notice?

Your thoughts?


Allan Harvey said...

I would have commented on this earlier but was too busy reading blogs and checking my 5 email accounts ...

Some interesting observations along similar lines on one of my favorite blogs:

It does seem like these things are driving attention spans down, diminishing the contemplative side of our faith. This drop in attention span probably spills over into church services -- where it seems like any times for quiet contemplation before God don't last more than 10 seconds.

Carl Hofmann said...

And I think the big proof is what happens when we're NOT online in one way or another--how do we do? Do we fidget? Do we pine away for cyberspace? Quiet and contemplation are "spaces for God" that may otherwise be filled with cyberstuff.