Keeping Technology In It’s Place

In Cal Newport’s book “Digital Minimalism”, he writes about Kevin Kelly’s observations, in Kevin’s book “What Technology Wants“, about the Amish people in Pennsylvania. Kelly dropped out of college and purchased a inexpensive bicycle and went on a 5,000 mile journey around America. The highlight of the journey, Kelly writes, was “gliding through the tidy farmland of the Amish in eastern Pennsylvania.” He made numerous trips back to visit and study the Amish, to better understand them. At first he thought that the Amish were just against modern things. But he quickly learned such was not the case.

The key point, he discovered, was not that they didn’t like modern things, but rather they refused to let the world have influence over them. The Amish take seriously the idea, put forth by Jesus, that He and his followers are not of the world: “…the world has hated them because they are not of the world anymore than I am of this world.” (John 17:14) So when they make a decision about machines or technology, they do something that we should do: ask ourselves how this new thing will affect my relationship with God, with my family and with my community. The Amish are famous for not owning cars. But they don’t do it because they hate cars. Well, it would be OK if they hated the Pontiac Aztek or the Reliant Robbin. The Amish don’t own cars because cars take you away from family and community. You drive over to the next town, or to the mountains or the beach. When instead you could have visited a friend you haven’t seen in a while, or do some chores around a neighbor’s house who’s been laid up with an illness or an injury. Yeah. I need to do more of that. And that’s the problem with phones, tablets and apps. Hardware and software. They slowly seep into our lives and drive out any time we may have set aside for some worthy endeavor, and they get us to scroll through 500 pages in Instagram. What to do?

What Professor Newport suggests (he’s a computer science professor at Georgetown), is that for a month you quit social media and technology. And don’t tell anyone you’re doing it. Why? You want to see if you are missed on Facebook or Tik Tok. What if you disappeared from online? Would anyone notice? Would anyone miss your particular brand of humor or political commentary? Quickly, silently disappear. It’s ok to keep your phone up and working, but delete all the apps that are constantly bugging you for attention and causing anxiety. Obviously, if your job or business requires you to stay connected with email or texting, do that. But unplug as much as possible. After 30 days you will notice how the stress and anxiety have lessened. The ability to focus has increased. And then slowly, and deliberately, bring back into your life ONLY those technologies that make sense in your new digitally minimalist life. Something to think about.

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