For the last four days I have been ‘offline’ – my phone data has been switched off and I have not checked social media or followed any online links to articles, videos or stories and I have not done much texting and no What’s App. I have also not read any newspapers, though this was not difficult as I hardly read them anyway.
So to answer your burning question, here are the insights I got from this period of time:
It is true, very true, that without media we have A LOT more free time. I capitalise ‘a lot’ because I really, really mean it. For the first time I was able to leave work on time because I did not get caught up responding to a Facebook wall post or reading something that caught my eye in my usual end of work day social media check. I left bang on time and so got to my after work commitments early.
Then, there was the challenge – what to do when you arrive somewhere early and not many people are there yet, or the people that are there are still busy setting things up? Well, usually you would What’s App the most likely friend from wherever in the world to strike up a random convo, or read something on the internet. But without media, I was forced to walk around and look at the surroundings, ironically ending up reading whatever material was around the venue I was in – flyers, book covers, looking at art. And then, having read every word available to me, I desperately sought conversation with whoever was available. Two people were discussing an important project but I sat next to them and listened. It was a bit torturous (not their conversation, but the not having anyone to talk to or anything to read). And then, I ended up eating a lot of the food available.
That’s another thing – I end up eating more. When I am bored and there is nothing to fill my mind and I am tired, I eat. So in work, when I would usually take a social media break or read an article online or chat with someone on Whats App, I’ve craved cereal instead. My brain was like – go on a scavenger hunt for something to eat, please, I need it. So I nibbled quite often. No good.
Funny thing is that I did this media fast with the church I go to and the plan was to read the Psalms during the times that we would normally look at media. But to make it clear to you just how much time was freed up, in the past three days I was able to complete my entire to do list at work, very quickly, listened to Genesis and Exodus on BibleGateway Audio Bible, read over 60 Psalms, read four chapters of Mother Teresa’s book of letters, read part of Luke’s gospel, said hours of prayer and listened to two one hour long talks about Christian theology and philosophy. And I had commitments every evening after work so I didn’t have much space in my schedule but yet I felt this largely unfilled gap in my mind, and it yearned to be filled. And there was only so much reading of the bible and praying I could have done.
I feel terrible when I say that but I don’t think the Bible was ever meant to be read that often, especially the Psalms – which are greatly repetitive; David talks about God punishing his wicked enemies, then goes on to lament of his pain and then praises God for saving him and being so awesome and powerful.
But reading the Psalms has made me realise three very important things:
(1) That we do not despise wickedness the way we ought to. Note I did not say hate the wicked, I said to hate wickedness. If you read the Psalms you get a visceral picture of how much wickedness and sin reviles the Almighty God.
(2) That we ought to earnestly desire righteousness. The word righteousness is a word that many people shy away from using and the non-religious find the most intolerable and horrid. But righteousness comes from being under God’s sovereignty and allowing Him to transform our heart and mind’s desires. And Jesus Himself said: ‘seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness and everything else will be added onto you’. We really are quite nonchalant about righteousness, at least I am, which increases the likeliness of falling into wicked ways.
(3) Even David, mighty David, struggled so much to remain hopeful and have faith in God’s promises. He was burdened and fearful of his enemies and had to continually seek God’s intercession. The extent of his spiritual struggle is so apparent which makes me realise that believers aren’t the perfect ones, they are the weak ones, as we are all weak, the imperfect ones, as we are all imperfect, who humble accept their lowliness and depend on God for great strength and power.
So yes, Psalms was nourishing. But it was difficult to read them all, due to their repetitiveness. The Bible is SO rich, but it is difficult to read a lot of it because it is so jam-packed with insight and truth that just one verse can take 15 minutes to dwell upon and pray over. Not being in the habit of reading it that often makes it hard to jump into this practice. And, most importantly, the more of the bible we read in one day the more it becomes a philosophical text and a source of knowledge and less food and water for our spirit.
In conclusion, media is an important part of my life, mostly because it is a great source of stories and inspiration for me, keeps me in touch with people and keeps me up to date on what is happening. Many of my blogs and thoughts I have developed are from reading articles shared on Facebook or that come to my email. This is what I use Facebook for. I will benefit from not using it as much, as I realised the amount of time I could possible free up to do more writing and reading and praying, but I know that it would actually be a bad thing to be completely without it.
After all, I believe, until I am given a strong argument against this, that as humans we are made for relationships and interaction and as we are continually able to process more and more information and once we balance media consumption and social media with face-to-face conversation and relationship building, media plays an integral part in our lives. We ought to use it to understand each other better, to keep up to date with the current issues faced by all humans due to the progression of the world, and to use this information to supplement what the Bible, church and our prayers urge us to do – which is love our neighbours, serve others and seek the will of God.