Friday, January 17, 2014

Getting Serious About My Online Addiction

Recently I joked on Facebook:

I like to give people the impression that I'm constantly online. I perform this trick by being online constantly.
This week, however, I woke up to the fact that I really do have a problem and that I need to deal with it.

Boundless Conviction

I was listening to three back-to-back episodes of the The Boundless Show from Focus on the Family to prepare for an upcoming interview about Resisting Gossip. These episodes were handpicked by our friend Schenley as indicative of the quality of the program.

(By the way, I'm super excited to be on Boundless. They do a terrific job of creating feisty, fun, interesting, biblical, and practical content for young adults! Okay, back to the story...)

So, the first episode I picked was #275 on "Smartphone Addiction" which certainly sounded like a problem that some other people have...

...and before it was over I had made a serious decision to change my online habits.

As Boundless' raucous roundtable chatted about how their lives can be dominated by their smartphones, I realized that even though I don't have a smartphone (I just have a dumb phone), I have something that I use as compulsively as these young folks use their iPhones--my laptop. And I realized at the same time that it's been drawing me away from my family.

"Houston, we have a problem."

It's not that I'm not I'm not home enough, but that I'm not "present" enough when I am home. All of a sudden it's clear to me that my time working, being social, and being inquisitive (my "information addiction") online have bled into times when I should be engaging with my family.

Up until I listened to this episode, I thought I had a good balance going. Over the Fall, I had begun fasting every Sunday afternoon and evening from working on anything and from being online. We limit our kids time online, and I had been trying to be a good example.

But one afternoon a week is not enough down time.

I've also been reading Crazy Busy and The Pastor's Family about finding balance in life and ministry. I realized that my time online has been crowding out play time with my kids, and just "being with" the family in extended moments.


So, I'm not saying "Sayōnara" to all social media. But I am making two major changes:

1. The laptop now stays shut during breakfast.

I realized that I've been keeping it open to receive notifications of emails, FB messages, "likes," new Twitter followers, and whatever else might burst onto the screen while we're eating together.

But I don't need other people at the breakfast table with us. And my family needs their whole Dad during that time.

2. The laptop now stays shut after supper until at least the kids go to bed.

This one will be harder to do, and there may need to be exceptions made, especially when the rest of the family is otherwise engaged. But those exceptions can't become the rule again.

We've been living in these two changes for a couple of days now. So far, so good. I think that the family is finding it funny to have me so much more mentally present. They joke about it--"Are you 'engaging' us, Dad?"  (which shows, I think, the degree to which these changes were needed.)

And why am I telling you about this?

1. If you know me personally, you can pray for me that I would stick with my repentance from online addiction and its replacement of increased service of my family.

2. If I tell the world, then it will increase my accountability and therefore my chances of succeeding at forming new habits. You'll also be more understanding, hopefully, if you don't get an immediate online response from me as you might have in the past.

3. You might want to seriously re-evaluate your time online. Give the Boundless show a listen (don't worry, it's fun!), and ask the other people who populate your life if they think you have a problem.

See you online...but not as much.