Lent is not only a great time to prune away the stuff that clutters our homes and offices, it is also a great time to simplify and clean up our virtual world. Smartphones and the explosion of digital communication have created miraculous possibilities for instant, global connection. However, this same technological explosion also hammers our brain chemistry and leaves us feeling addicted and overwhelmed. This blocks our natural loving connection with God and each other. Here’s how I was able to simplify and declutter my (and my kids’) technological worlds.
- Clean out the virtual weeds. I took a few minutes to block adult content from our computers, iPhones, and Androids. If you want a more serious and foolproof approach, you can use Covenanteyes or a similar monitoring software.
- Temporarily block distracting sites. When I have work that requires sustained concentration, I use a free app to block sites for several hours that I know would otherwise distract me. (Yes, I’m talking about Pinterest!)
- Reduce the addictive power of our smartphones. Every time our phones buzz or ding, our brains release a shot of dopamine that quickly becomes addictive. This disconnects us from the people we are with. How do we break this cycle? First, I stopped notifications. Second, I leave my phone on airplane mode when I’m with people, turning it on only periodically to triage for urgent matters. Third, I avoid answering business calls. Instead, I reply to their voicemail via email whenever possible. Finally, I removed social media from my phone. This makes it easier for me to limit social media consumption to when I am sitting down at the computer.
- Get the clutter out of our email inboxes. I unsubscribed to every list that I hadn’t used recently. Second, I clear non-urgent items from my inbox into subfolders, then I deal with them in batches during scheduled times. Third, I only look at email once or twice per day. You can always use an auto-reply that reminds people that you typically check email only once per day. When it’s urgent, people track me down another way.
- Take charge of social media. I re-focused my purpose for using social media. I only want to bless and connect with people I love. So I stopped reading news stories and commentary, and ignore people (without unfriending them) that post toxic content.
We are already halfway through Lent! Let’s keep pruning away everything that gets in the way of loving connection. Next week I’ll share some proven ways to plant love in our family.