News and the Good News

Digital Detox...and More

December 18, 2018   

Finding peace is no easy thing in our stressed-out world. A year ago, heading into 2018, Forbes magazine relied on a respected survey to report that 2017 was a standout year for stress. Not a good year. Standout referred to the spike in stress levels, the highest in five years.

Well, it’s a year later, 2018 has come and now almost gone. I’ll be interested to see what the latest trend in stress is. Don’t call me a pessimist, but I’ll be surprised if our stress levels have diminished. My observations of contemporary life, my own life, and what get from the news and social media lead me to think tension has ratcheted up, not down. Maybe part of the problem is precisely the attention that we (and I include myself in this “we”) …the attention we pay to the media and more precisely how often we pay attention to what’s going on in the whole world. We’re wired, tied, attached to the endless news cycle, tethered to devices that keep us feeling overloaded and overwhelmed.

Smart phones and computers ping with each arriving email—and create in us an anticipation of the next set of pings-- for the one, or two, or twenty emails headed our way. And these same devices bring us news from every corner of the world. Most of it is hardly relevant in any meaningful way to our daily lives. And much of it comes as the next-catastrophe that everyone needs to know about.  Can this be good?

In such wired world, we are often doubly beguiled. We’re led to believe, first, that everything reported is relevant. Second, we’re then urged to think that staying up to date with everything is the responsible thing to do. We have to be connected with everything and everyone…with the crisis in Sumo wrestling in Japan; the Chinese investment in Africa; and the locker-room arguments inside NFL teams.

Well, of course, I’ve selected those stories---irrelevant to virtually all of us—to make my point. But, back to stress, we see that it’s an impossible task to stay connected with everything and to be caught up with everything. Where can we find help?

Digital detox is one form of help. Over 40% of people in the survey I mentioned said they would seek help through digital detox. This is the first and very practical step. Set aside time, regularly, and the more the better, to put down the phones and get away from the computers.

Two pieces of biblical wisdom came to mind today.

In Psalm 46, the divine voice commands: “Be still and know that I am God.” This is the connection that matters, of course, our connection with our Maker, and we have to be still to rest in it, to know it. The promise is that being still before God will lead us to more tranquility, more composure and less stress.  Because we were made for God, even delighting in God is a daily possibility … if we take time to put down our phones.  

And I’d like to supplement these words from Jesus, “What good is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul?” If we apply them to what we’re thinking about today, we might say: it is no good if we use our technology to addict ourselves to the trivial, the fleeting, to what will never really be relevant. We might say, “What good is it to gain all the news of the world and lose those things that our souls were made for …peace, deep peace with God and ourselves; unhurried time to live in ways that really matter; and composure and confidence whatever the shape of a stressed-out world.