Social media and technology have infiltrated virtually every corner of our lives, and have made no exception for religion. Even Pope Francis has a verified Twitter account, which is followed by millions of people looking for spiritual guidance on the Internet.
But this Lenten season, which began last week, about a third of Christians said they plan to give up technology--such as television, social media, and the Internet--for the 40-day long prelude to Easter. The findings are from a national study from Barna Group, a firm that provides research for churches and non-profits.
Lent is traditionally a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It's no wonder then that so many have vowed to temporarily abstain from such distracting and time-sucking habits during the period.
But whether or not you observe Lent, there are other reasons to consider taking a break from seemingly vital technology habits. "Fasting is hard. From personal experience, I don't like fasting," Christopher Ruddy, an associate professor of theology at Catholic University, told The Washington Post. "But it's taught me things I wouldn't have learned otherwise."
It's an intriguing idea, which is why many have experimented with giving up the technologies that rule their waking hours--and even lived to blog about it. Here's what they say about what you stand to gain from a high-tech fast:
You are not your social media habits.
Jessi Hempel, a writer for Fortune, decided to give up social media--excluding work email, of course--last summer. Her biggest insight? It's not social media itself that's so time-squandering. Rather, it's the way people use it.
When Hempel reached the date when she planned to log back in, she put it off a bit longer. She was busy, and figured it would take hours to comb through all the stuff she had missed.
"I put the task off until Sept. 2, and then discovered that I had screened all of my messages and posts within about 10 minutes," Hempel wrote. "I realized that much of what is annoying about social media concerns my social-media habits, not the tools themselves. Just like with any other addictive substance--wine, perhaps, or potato chips--I had to find smart ways to set limits."
Technology distracts you from bigger priorities.
For Jason Shah, an entrepreneur in residence at Sherpa Ventures, his decision to cut back on technology was less an attempt at introspection than it was an effort to become more engaged with the world around him.
"My iPhone also distracts me from the people I love. The temptation to open a new tab and passively browse the Internet draws me away from work I truly care about and damages my productivity. The 'why think, when you could Google' mindset is eroding my imagination," Shah wrote in a post.
Shah listed several tactics he experimented with to limit himself. For those who are looking to curtail tech use rather than quit cold turkey, here are a few of his suggestions:
1. When you get to work, keep your phone in your bag and leave it on ring. This will keep you from taking it out of your pocket just to glance at it, even when no one is calling you.
2. Leave your personal Gmail inbox and Facebook open in tabs. It's counterintuitive, but you'll soon see that you really don't get all that many messages, so you'll hopefully stop checking them.
3. Clear your browser history often. "For me, the friction of having to login every time I want to check Facebook helps stop me," Shah says.
Have you ever done a tech fast? What did you learn from it?