A Technology Sabbath


It’s the annual ritual, and by now you know whether you’re going to participate or not. I’m talking about New Year’s resolutions. I’ve surveyed the CBHD staff, and friends at our New Year’s Eve dinner. Most of us don’t make resolutions anymore, and we have plenty of good reasons. Sometimes, it’s because the goal is too far away, or we say we lack willpower to do it. How about a resolution not to do something? That is, a resolution to take a reflective step away from technology.

Our lives are saturated with media and communications technology. On average, we spend 12 hours per day tethered to our computers and smartphones, answering just one more email, checking the internet for the latest news update. The potentially addictive quality of constant connection is well documented. The stimulation provided by an incoming text message, phone call or email causes dopamine to be released in the brain. Dopamine gives a sense of instant gratification. These higher dopamine levels nudge us to behave impulsively, seeking even more instant gratification conveniently provided by our devices. Technology consumption also triggers shorter attention spans and a sense of boredom and frustration when we are not Facebooking, texting, or playing Angry Birds.

Our constant connectivity can rob us of time spent in other enjoyable and healthy activities. Some teenagers and children are even losing sleep due to their constant and late-night technology use, disrupting their body’s natural wake-sleep cycle.[1]

Most importantly it can rob us from having meaningful connections with others. A recent study revealed that 1 out of 7 married respondents said the use of devices was causing them to see less of their spouse. One in 10 said they spend less time with their children.[2] Neuroscientists believe this lack of human “face-time” affects our ability to empathize and relate to others. While most technology is not inherently evil, it is powerful and may affect us in ways we don’t realize.

Let me invite you to consider a “technology Sabbath.” In its original context “Sabbath” refers to a weekly time for rest and worship of God by Jews and Christians. The founders of the “Sabbath Manifesto” use this principle to urge individuals to periodically rest from technology and instead focus on their loved ones. [3] There are many potential benefits of this discipline.

You may discover that you are indeed addicted to your smartphone. Or, you may detect that you use technology to escape from stress or problems. These require serious reflection about the power of technology. But, you might also use the time to re-orient your relationship with technology, and take charge of its presence in your life. An unexpected outcome might be to learn how to be wise in the midst of our technologically saturated lives.

As Christians we know that God established the Sabbath for our benefit. How about trying the benefits of just one month of weekly Sabbaths, enjoying God’s presence and discerning his guidance for a healthy relationship with technology? That’s one New Year’s resolution it’s never too late to make!

[1] Elline Holohan “Study Finds Teens’ Late Night Media Use Comes at a Price,” HealthDay News, November 1, 2010, http://health.msn.com/health-topics/anxiety/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100266492 (accessed December 8, 2010).

[2] Marjorie Connelly, “More American Sense a Downside to an Always Plugged-In Existence,” New York Times, June 6, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/technology/07brainpoll.html?src=me&ref=technology (accessed December 8, 2010).

[3] “The Sabbath Manifesto.” http://www.sabbathmanifesto.org/ (accessed December 8, 2010).


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