Rethinking Rest in Our Digital World

By Brian White   

Because of constantly changing times, as leaders we might find ourselves or our teams tired and in need of rethinking how we find rest. My husband Brian is going to share today about this. 

Recently I read Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport and was challenged by it. I have had a few opportunities to pass on some of its ideas to others and here is the synopsis. 

I am grateful for technology. With the pandemic it allows many of us to work from home and still interact with people virtually. Technology is tremendously important for us. Still, there are some aspects of our digital world that are not healthy for us. As I work with college students I see a steady rise in mental health issues among young people. There is increasing recognition that our digital habits are part of this problem.

Digital Detox

Platforms like Facebook are not built to foster our flourishing. They are designed to grab our attention and keep us scrolling. They get paid by how long we engage, not by our overall health. In Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport argues that we need to take strong steps to reorient our technology use in ways that are more healthy for us. He encourages a digital detox to break our current patterns and give us the opportunity to rethink what we really desire to accomplish with our technology. Then a purposeful reintroduction of healthy patterns can allow us to change the way we use various technologies.

Three Healthy Practices

1. Time Alone

First of all, we need time alone. This sounds funny, since many of us have more time alone right now! We may be alone but do we give ourselves time to think? Although we are social beings, the constant cry of our devices is robbing us of vital time to think. He encourages taking long walks (without headphones and podcasts) and having periods where we are not tied to our devices.

2. Meaningful Conversation

Second, he says, “Don’t click “Like.”” What we really need in social interaction is conversation. The back and forth of the sharing of thoughts and emotions with people is restorative. The minor taps of “liking” something on social media actually undermines conversation. It gives us a quick sense of having connected, but it doesn’t really deliver the benefit to us or to the other person. We give clicks instead of conversation, or text instead of talking where a person can hear the care in our voice. We may be able to “connect” with many more people, but it is too shallow to provide what we really need in relationships. We would be better off to meet one friend for coffee, but often we are too “occupied” to plan it.

3. High Quality Leisure

The third practice is reclaiming leisure. For this practice, Newport points out that there is high quality and low quality leisure. The low is more passive, like scrolling and watching a video. The high quality is more engaging, physically and mentally. At the end of it, it gives us a sense of restoration. It could be a project like rebuilding a car, playing an instrument, or taking a hike. These activities take time and energy. He encourages having a plan and goals for your high quality leisure. For example, you might visit all the parks in your area or learn to play a new song on the guitar.

He also encourages putting a limit on the low quality leisure of “scrolling,” since it doesn’t leave us better off. One idea is taking social media off your phone and only checking it on your computer for a set amount of time. For example, you might set a timer to check it from 1-1:15. This keeps it from eating up large amounts of time and attention. If you use social media for news, there may be better ways to engage in it. A Saturday morning read of a few well written pieces could be better use of time than hours of scrolling through the breaking news blurbs (which do not have all the facts and are not as well written).

Needed Rest

This book definitely has me rethinking my technology use. I do see that I go to my phone too quickly. There is nothing on it I have to have. Instead, reading, playing guitar, and walking the dog have been refreshing to me. Limiting my technology actually gives me time for those things and the rest I need.

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