Last week, I went on vacation. As I departed for my parents' home in Odem, TX, I posted the following to my Facebook status: Unplugging from FB for a week. Vacation time. For those who read my blog, it is set to automatically update the next few days automatically at 10 a.m.
I then proceeded to unplug. I didn't check my Facebook account until this morning. But I asked myself, "Why stop there?" So, I vowed to myself to refuse to check any internet news websites for the entire week. No Drudge. No Fox News. No CNN. No MSNBC. Nothing. I would read the Corpus Christi Caller Times to get any news--and one simply cannot claim the CC Caller to be anything like a world class newspaper.
For the first few days, it was quite difficult to refrain from touching the Facebook App button on my phone. Similarly for my Kindle Fire. I avoided my mom and dad's computer, so connecting to the world wide web in that fashion was no problem. But like a moth drawn to the flame, every time I saw it, the impulse was there--strong.
But as the week continued, the impulse grew less and less. In fact, as the week drew to a close, I had a sense of dread when it came to returning to the land of cyberspace. Not because I didn't like keeping up with friends and family, but because I would be sucked back into an addiction: the addiction of information.
Let me put it this way: in the course of a day before my vacation, I was used to reading hundreds of Facebook statuses per day, at least two or three dozen news stories, a hundred to two hundred headlines, and five to ten blogs a day. That's a ton of information!!! Almost too much.
And this is probably the lower end for some who spend much more time in the internet world. Imagine if you added tweets and other social media formats! It's a bit mind boggling to think about the mind numbing effect of so much information. And honestly, that's about what I discovered such information to be--mind numbing.
What I mean to say is that this week, I discovered that when I imbibe all this information, it evokes all sorts of emotion: anger, sadness, happiness, elation, worry, fear, etc. That emotion is like a rush of sorts. It takes me from one feeling to another over and over and over again. I came to see that I depended upon that emotional roller coaster.
And I didn't want to get back on. And still don't.
Which is a bit problematic in a way.
For I still have more than a few college and seminary professors' words ringing in my ears--their paraphrasing of the great thinker and theologian Karl Barth: The preacher should approach the world with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.
I get this all too well.
The theologian and pastor must know what is going on in the world around him or her. He or she must be engaged with the issues of the day, but quite honestly, in this day and age, many "issues" aren't really "issues." Many headlines make mountains out of mole hills. Remember that tummy sickness that grabbed headlines a week or so ago? Where hundreds were getting sick because of eating certain fruits and vegetables? Hundreds of people. Quite frightening, right?
Well, not really. If you calculate the odds of actually getting sick and compare them to the pure randomness of getting sick by food poisoning, then you would shrug your shoulders and say, "What's really the issue here?"
But we generally don't have time to unplug and think through things in such a fashion. The 24/7 news cycle draws us from one crisis to another--from one story to another--from one emotion to another--without any time for reflection or thinking.
I used to check the Drudge Report 4 or 5 times a day because it is constantly updating. Same with Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. No more. I used to jump on Facebook that many times at least in a day as well. No more. No more emotional roller coaster. No more anxiety of needing to know what is going on the moment it happens. I found something precious this past week.
Time to think and reflect.
In this day and age, it is almost impossible to be fully unplugged from the world wide web of information and data, but this is one person who will be severely limiting it.