Disconnected: My Week without Media Otherwise known as the week I was bored, awkward, peaceful, rested, and not always better at prime time social engagement


For the week beginning 1/23/12 I agreed to disconnect from the media (from Sun midnight to after church on the next Sun.). That meant no radio, no TV, no magazines, no movies, and no social networking. The oblivious exception was work: I have to access the internet on the job, and music is playing inside the building, but as I need to eat, this would have to do.

A side note, my reasons for doing for three-fold: 1) I feel this is a good discipline, to pull back from all the things that seem at times to get in the way, that suck my time, and keep me from having time to both reflect on life, and connect with others; 2) I hope to devote time saved to my devotional life as well as spending some time on some projects that I should have been working on already (for this week I am going to do some editing on a book I hope to publish as an e book); and 3) I hope rather than simply mope around bored, but take some time to challenge myself (as I have set relationships as an important theme for the week), I have decided to take some time to think through some relational dynamics (to that end I have set aside a couple of books on the subject for quiet moments of deep thinking). 

Monday 1/23/12Otherwise known as the day I was in danger but barely knew it…

3:13 a.m.:[1] Well this week is off to a glaring rip-roaring start. I was just woken up from my sleep by the weather siren going off. I laid in bed for a few minutes wondering if I was allowed to check and see if a tornado is bearing down on me. I stumble to the living room where the TV is already on and being watched (by others woken up by the storm). Local weatherman James Spann assures me that I am in no danger, so I go back the sleep. Hopefully this does not mean that I have failed just 3 hours and change into my week, but I am comforted that I am not about to die (from a tornado anyway).

10 a.m.:One little wrinkle I forgot to iron out. I was concerned that someone might try to get in touch with me and be offended at no answer. I had meant to sent out a message last night, but forgot (sue me, I left the house at 8:30 am and was only able to relax from all my commitments at 11:30 p.m.- church, work, pick a friend up at the airport, with the added frustration of a delayed flight). So I send out a quick tweet: not posting or checking FB or twitter feed this week, as well as no email, if you need a reply from me hit my cell. Odds are this means nothing, but was concerned that no one’s feelings get hurt. I am probably overestimating my value, but o’ well.[2]

11:15 a.m.: Just walked into work, seems that a tornado ripped through an area of town to the north and east of us. No one slept; everyone had stayed up late walking the news and worrying. Score one for the media fast; I just got a new story. I ascertained my safety and got back to sleep. That whole bit I do about the media keeping people scared is golden, golden, I tell you. On the negative flip I kind of blew off my mom this morning. She was all frantic to get a phone number from me to check on a friend. I was like, “tornado, what tornado, are you off your meds again.” Seems there was danger, and I had no clue, mea culpa.

1 p.m.: The day just got interesting. Major. Scandal. At. Work. The stuff is getting real, and quickly. “Wait a minute, how am I going to participate in this event?” I ask myself. I can’t blog it, facebook it, live tweet it. Argh, this is a pickle. I begin thinking about the way in which social networks are the way we communicate and experience life in modern society. Now I instead of going online to commiserate and gossip, I am forced to talk the situation out in person, face to face. Tricky. To some degree this is good. Matt the politician is making an appearance. Talking person to person I have to use all my social skills to survive. I can’t be the flamethrower incautiously spewing flames everywhere with no concept of the damage that might do. You win again, Media Fast!

3:30 p.m.: On the other hand I am seriously struggling. This is a tough day and would love some pray over the situation. I can’t spend time on the phone talking about my issues, and in the past could simply wait for a break and make a quick status update: “please pray for me facing delicate issue right now and need strength, wisdom, and compassion.” I don’t know if this really elicits prayer, but I can stay it is a relief to post, to own my struggles and put them out; to not allow fear and secrets to cramp my life and cause all kinds of problems. Additionally, it is really amazing how comforting that “like” button and comment line can be. Just one person hitting the button provides encouragement that you are not alone. Whelp going to have to make due with my own whispered prayers and the hope that heaven has a “like” button as well.

8 p.m.:  Another problem, a friend is in crisis, and I want them to know I am there for them. Normally this can be done via facebook. Not sure I have the person’s cell (besides they are out of pocket and may not be checking). Find a mutual friend and ask if they will see the person this week. They will, I pass on a message of well-wishes a choice profanity about the nature of the situation. Ask them to let me know if I can help in any way.

Meanwhile, I still feel the need for prayer cover, so I hit my contacts page and make a few calls. It’s a longer process, but great to connect with friends in time of need. Really hoping that everyday this week is not so traumatic.

10 p.m.: I had forgotten what quiet sounded like. The house is asleep, while I am getting a chance to write as well as spend some time reading and thinking about Ron Sider’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience.

 

Tuesday 1/24/12Otherwise known as the day twitter could have saved me…

12 midnight: Realized alarm was set with playback from I-pod. Switched setting so as to not break fast accidentally. It  really is amazing how much the media is woven into a life in so many peripheral ways.

8:30 a.m.: Woke up sans alarm, so worries from previous night not an issue (today). But immediately faced with a quandary, this being an off day from work, how does one spend an entire day without the media. This seems harder than imagined.

Good news: while in the shower I had brainstorm about how I would run an ad campaign against Newt Gingrich. Note to self: your creativity runs aflutter when given space and quiet.

9:30  a.m.: Just realized I had forgotten to reply to a question with an email on Sunday. Not sure if person is at office yet. My mom is going to that office soon, so I asked her to relay a message. Feeling like an old school spy.

10:30 a.m.: Walked into the library, had realized the night before that I had missed a book that was due this week (since can’t use the internet, can’t avoid fine by quickly renewing, a trip to the place is necessitated. So here I am.

10:45 a.m.: Books returned. In need of coffee (thank God this is not a caffeine fast that is really scary), and figured that at least at the library it is quiet with no media presence. Walk into the coffee nook, there is a TV playing The Herd on ESPN News (run away, flee, flee)[3], and that ultimate temptation for an old news junkie: plenty of magazines and newspapers (N.Y. Times how I love thee, let me count the ways).  Get my java and wander outside with Newbigin’s The Gospel in a Pluralist Society.

Bad News: not digging Newbigin as much as I was led to believe I would.[4]

11:45 a.m.: Going to meet a group for lunch. Find myself sitting outside in the sun and upper 60 degree weather (in shorts and a tee). Find myself wanting disparately to make a witty tweet on my love for global warming. Inner smart-*** takes one for the team.

12:30 p.m.: Inner-smart-*** is fighting hard as lunch companion just told me I had to read Ann Rand[5]. Must tweet my displeasure. Must. Do it. Now. Unfortunately, I blurt out, “ You mean Ann Rand the Atheist.” See here is where I am not so sure about this thing. In the past I could have retreated into my mind and composed ½ a million smart-*** tweets, but without that shut-off valve working I just said it out loud. Whoops.

2 p.m.: Just went for a walk at a local outdoor mall. Now sitting outside Barnes and Noble reading Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth (always wanted to read it, but never had the time. But with an off day and no errands- surprise, surprise- to run, this is now happening). Engrossed in chapter on baptism, I was rudely pulled back into real space. At first I feel discombobulated, then realize that my attention had been dislodged as the music coming out of the speaker hit a loud point. I wonder how many times a day my ADD acts up simply because of the amount of stimulation involved in my normally loud life.

3 p.m.: O.K., so I did have one wee little errand to run, but without losing time watching TV, reading the paper, or so forth, I was able to talk a walk and relax with a cold glass of juice. I enter a Christian book store looking for a present, and as I mill around I once again find myself distracted and realize it’s the music playing through the speaker. Once again I think about how prevalent the media is. How many times have I shopped here without noticing the noise; but suddenly you step out of a quiet car (no music or news radio blaring) and the store muzak seems blaring. In this case it is a Christian worship song, but again how often do I go through life with no appreciation for the background stuff blinkering into my subconscious. How often to I ADD and not realize the cause? It’s a little frightening.

Good news: just had brainstorm about a class I could design for church. It’s a great idea. Not sure it would have come to me if I had been self-medicating with music and other loud things to distract from the boredom of an off day with no errands to run (dang I was just too efficient last Thursday (my last off-day).

4 p.m.: Second day, second crisis. A friend is in the hospital. I actually know this because I got a phone call which I answered (as opposed to a text I might have ignored in any other given week). I head home to cook dinner so my parents can go visit the family. This is a little weird in and of itself. I love to cook and very much enjoy it. However normally I set up in the kitchen with the news going on the T.V. Little strange to be cooking in silence. It’s like not smoking after… oh, well.[6]

5:30 p.m.: Dad tells me about the stupidity of today’s Gingrich rally. Glad I did not see that, really, my blood pressure should be zero by the end of the week. Cleaned up after dinner.[7] Plan for evening is some writing (hope to do a review of Sider’s Evangelical Conscience[8]). [9]

 

Wednesday 1/25/12 Otherwise known as the day I jonesed for the inter-webs…

9 a.m.: Another off day (what are the chances). Have some work to do for weekend so hopefully a better day for no media.

10 a.m.: Mom is upset. She posted an anti-Gingrich message on the anniversary of her cancer diagnosis (many moons ago). Now she got a negative reply. I am forced to create a response for her. At least I am not using my social network. I guess this is alright. But as the writer in the family it is my responsibility to craft media responses, I think this is O.K. Mom is really steamed about Gingrich so I get drawn into the ire of the GOP nomination circus, sigh.

10: 30 a.m.: Doing some reading to prepare for a leader’s meeting at church on Sunday. Come across a verse that I am sure the author is mis-using, I start for bookshelves then realize I have sold or given away all my hard copy study materials (Studylight. Org, Biblegateway.com, and esword.com have all the resources I can use free on the net, It’s lighter, it can be used everywhere, and I don’t have to devote an entire bookcase to it).  Mom assures me this is not cheating, I am using it for work. I hope on pull up the Greek, check some cross-references, and viola I have the issue (simple material of cross-pollinating two passages which would explain each other if one makes a faulty prior assumption, case closed).[10] I really think this studying material without distractions thing is golden. Why didn’t I think of this before.

11:30 a.m.: Just got giddier than a 30-something ought to be: my new cell phone just arrived. The realization that I cannot play with any of the cool features is annoying. Oh, well I can get it online and test it, but no playing.[11]

4:30 p.m.: Cannot figure out how to set a ringtone (I may be on a media fast, but I need a ringtone that is not going to annoy or embarrass me in public). The book (if you can call it that) that come with the phone is no help. I am not sure whether there is some issue I am unaware of, or if I am doing it wrong. Worried about explaining to the Verizon rep why I spent a week before calling with a problem, go to verizon website to check, website is no help. I feel like an anorexic: why did I just blow my lack of consumption on something so worthless. I may barf.

6 p.m.: Just found out one of my friends from high school was affected by the tornado. I did not know this, and kind of feel bad now. Can you imagine that there was once a day in which we allowed news to travel from one mouth to another and so on? How absolutely barbaric!

7:35 p.m.: Just realized it’s much easier and tempting to stand around talking after church when I’m not worried about missing my shows. I am an idiot. In other news of my stupidity just spent time talking to someone I did not know (yea me and my interverted ways), but did not get a name and phone number. Also did not realize that no one else in the room knew him. Drat, I am sure my social networking self would have said, “hey, here’s my email, let’s exchange info.” Not thinking that way tonight, and blew a chance to make a good networking connection. As I said, I am an ox and a moron (to quote the great Stallone).

8:35 p.m.: Just realized that my phone had synched my gmail, facebook, twitter, and old phone contacts. Awesome! This is going to rock my world… next week. Ba-bump-ba-bum.

 

Thursday 1/26/12 Otherwise known as the day I longed to TV it up…

10 a.m.: Usually coming back to work after several off-days is difficult, but today was for a different reason. After two silent peaceful days I was not looking forward to the loudness and activity. The music was loud, the talking was loud, and I just wanted to be back quietly reading and pondering in my room. Yet at the same time I was there ready to work and working at a really good pace. I soon realized that I felt more relaxed and at ease than normal. Without all that stimulation I had been able to really rest and recuperate.

11 a.m.: One of the managers at work totally just busted me for getting a new cell phone this week. Great to provide laughter however I can.

1 p.m.: Just got invited to see a movie (Rushmore, a classic) downtown at the Alabama Theater. I love theAlabama but tonight not happening.

2 p.m.: Just made a “hey you can facebook me that info” comment before my brain realized what it was doing. I followed that comment up with a quick mumbled, “I might remember to read it next week.” That’s a great thing about the facebook, rather than having to remember what musician / movie / book that was just recommended, you can zip over a link. Now I have to remember it through the rest of a 9 hr shift.[12]

3 p.m.: Making fun of my inability to use the media this week is the new black. I was relating how not facebooking has made me actually talk to people. Response: shouldn’t you do that anyway.[13] Game, set, and match my kind friend. You had me at shouldn’t.

4 p.m.: Just made a really funny joke that I wish I could have posted to twitter: that kind of humor could have landed me an NBC gig.[14]

7 p.m.: Long day ends. I am mentally and emotionally drained. I would love to curl up in a ball and watch Big Bang Theory (laughter would be good). I can’t so I cross the street and grab some dinner.

Good news: Just read an amazing quote from Pope Benedict which I will place here (so as not to forget): Scripture cannot truly be understand historically or academically. It has too much future potential. To be truly understand that potential must be unlocked by being ‘lived out’ or ‘suffered through.’ I sat in the food court staring blankly to the side in contemplation (mentally writing a sermon on topic). Hope, I didn’t look too weird. Although it couldn’t have been as weird as the chick in front of me who kept raising her burrito and yelling ‘dang you burrito.’ That joke may have been funny the first time (I didn’t hear any of the set-up). But I’m pretty sure it lost all steam because her friend stopped laughing after the second time. Wish I could have facebooked that.[15]

7:45: Wondered around mall looking for the verizon store I remembered being there. Map had store in place that did not exist. Wish I had some gadget that would allow me to search some sort of database and find the current location and / or phone number to call for location. Oh wait, I do in my pocket. Instead I wander aimlessly. I eventually wound up in the Radio Shack, where the kind associate looked at me thoughtfully then showed me how easy it was to set a ringtone. My bad. I’d write you a postivie comment for your kind service, but then I’d have to go online.

8:45 p.m.: Just threw in some laundry been avoiding this task as it is usually done while watching TV. This must be what smokers go through while trying to quit. You honestly want to stop, but every 5 minutes you’re thinking how much better this would be with a cig in hand (or in my case a TV on).

9:46 p.m.: Just sat staring at the screen daring myself to remember the joke or thing I supposed to watch and / or listen to next week. Killing me, smalls, killing me.

10 p.m.: Just remembered the joke. Co-worker and I were joking about having a rumble. Someone said to facebook event it. I wondered if I would be allowed to view the event listing or would be forced the miss my own rumble.[16]

10:10 p.m.: Seriously though this is the first day I really missed the media.

 

Friday 1/27/12 Otherwise known as the day I longed for Jon Stewart…

9 a.m.: Really had a good morning. Spent time reading a devotional and thinking though some things. Planned out the month of February as it relates to the blog I am attempting to re-establish. This may seem a strange way to spend time during a media-less week. Maybe like a person in detox planning out his or her next binder. But I love writing and a blog seems a way for me to get back to doing something I love doing. The point is not that web-connectedness is bad, but that the self-centered narcissism which it can inculcate is. A healthy life has a place for social media but one that is structured and disciplined and reflected upon.

10 a.m.: Went for a walk. This needs to stay a part of my life. I had gotten lazy, and stayed inside tweeting and such. But 20 to 45 minutes a day needs to be used for exercise, and having done this all week, I need it to stay.

11:30 a.m.: Just received a “late” birthday card from a person to remain nameless. It included a gift card to Fandango, they know me to well. Normally I would plan on using this thing quickly, but not gonna happen this weekend.

2:00 pm.: Listening to a sermon from Jim Wallis. Interesting connection in our lives: both of us were told at an early age to play with children that were being ignored, and both of us were instructed to always stand up to bullies even if we were not the actual target. These simple playground rules have influenced both of us in our adult politics.

3:30 p.m.: Someone at work mentioned Obama’s State of the Union Speech. My brain went “what speech, I didn’t hear about any speech.” Normally my news-junkie self would have watched it live, flipped to the internet for reaction, and read multiple papers the next day. [17] My next thought, “is this what regular people feel like when talking to me normally—‘wait there was some speech this week, by a politician, they do it, really, seriously…’.”

5:30 p.m.: *&^% it Obama threw out a groaner of a joke, I was not able to see it. *&^*(. You watch Jon Stewart religiously waiting for one of those priceless moments when he just nails some politician for making an oblivious flawed statement, then the mother of all dumb jokes lands the week, you weren’t watching.[18]

7:30 p.m.: Someone just mentioned that Gingrich may have once again destroyed his momentum by dropping a dumb comment during an interview. I miss all the good stuff. Wait, maybe that will be on Stewart’s Monday show (I mean it is late Friday, a man can hope).

Good news: blood pressure does not shoot up when someone relays one of Gingrich’s inanities. Seems only exposure to the man himself is bad for the blood pressure. I can see why my friends say that they do not listen to politicians.

10:45 p.m.: Just got made fun of for keeping a journal of my week without media (while planning to post such a record online next week). I think the idea is so meta as to be fun. Oh well one man’s meta is another man’s *lighthouse*[19].

10:55 p.m.: Driving home from work and thinking about how to cheer a friend up (been having a bad week). They start a new job next week and I had considered having a basket sent on the first day. Two problems with this plan: 1) I have no way of getting in touch with them to casually ask what day it is, and 2) I cannot go on-line to place an order to be delivered at a future date. I rethink my plan. Now have something that can be done and delivered next week. See, no onlinesees worked this time.

 

Saturday 1/28/12 Otherwise known as the homestretch…

7:45 a.m.: Woke up before everyone again. Usually when it’s just me awake early on Saturday morning, I watch a little TV (usually something unappreciated by others) and kinda roll into the morning.

Bad news: Now I just have to remember said plan on Monday…

9 a.m.: Sketched out some more plans for the year: plans to include 1 day a month disconnected (it’s a start towards a healthy disconnect), a dedicated period of fasting each month (often wrapped around some important event that month).[20]

10:30 a.m.: Just did breakfast with the family. I cooked my cheesy scrambled eggs. Good times.

4:30 p.m.: Another Obama-joke joke. I missed comedy gold, evidently.

What did I learn from this experience? I am not exactly sure. I did seem to get more sleep and be better rested. I did seem to be able to concentrate better. I did seem to be a little more relaxed and peaceful. But I also did seem a little more unable to socialize. I was off my game a little bit, a little uneasy with all the noise and commotion that goes with being around people (although this would probably ease out over a longer period). Each work day did seem a little terrifying as I stepped from my quiet cocoon into the music, commotion, and activity of the work day. The media does seem to have an ability to relax one even as it ratchets up the panic and furor. That said life works without the hustle and bustle, one is a little behind the loop, but one is also forced to seek face-to-face interaction which is a plus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Times are somewhat arbitrary. I have been going through day, thinking about my actions and thought, jotting some ideas, but actually sitting down and organizing this thing in the evening before bed. I hope this to a funny, somewhat more polished version of my day than what actually might have happened. Consider this the Emma Thompson version of my day (as opposed to the Will Ferrell version). Wow that was a harder sentence to write without IMDB (notice the movie name is not mentioned as I could not come up with it on short notice- I’m just glad I remembered the lead actors names.).

[2] Just for the record on Tuesday my cell buzzed and I looked down and started to read the text message before my brain said, “tut, tut, tut…” I stopped but not before I realized it was someone asking me a question on FB. Ironically it was one of those people always concerned that no one actually reads her posts. I considering making an exception, but I posted a “Do Not Post Me” Post so not my fault. Sorry I did not let you know I am alright. Score: My desire to be liked: 0, Media Fast, 1.

[3] This is particularly bad as I normally would be driving to work and listening to The Herd on radio (arm feels twitchy, nose is running—I just need a little fix to tide me over, come on).

[4] Cue wah-wah sound effect. Oh, wait, no music cues to my media-less life.

[5] Not sure this is spelled right but as I have no internet I cannot check myself before I wreck myself.

[6] Just kidding I don’t smoke after you know what. Wait I’m a single evangelical and so I don’t do that other thing either, jokes on me.

[7] Again without smoking or I mean watching the TV.

[8] Again something I have been meaning to do. Write reviews for website: except now I am not too distracted to do so.

[9] Check, please.

[10] Now if demolishing the author’s complementarian / hierarchial assumptions were only so easy. This guy may have issues dealing with the women in his life.

[11] Note to self: the next time you do this, do not order any electronic gismos that will tempt you. Bad planning on y part.

[12] For the record: not gonna happen, see 9:46 p.m.

[13] But that’s thing isn’t it. We don’t actually have to engage people using social networks; we can, in a sense, show we care without actually having to show we care. We can have connection without having a connection. Likewise in a public setting the i-pod or phone becomes a way to show others that we do not want to be approached. Stay away I’m not interested in conversation, the use says.

[14] Do I remember it now, see 9:46 p.m.

[15] O.K. so most of you are probably glad I couldn’t.

[16] O.K. so the joke wasn’t that good. O.K. It would have passed for big laughs on NBC but that doesn’t make it funny. I guess you had to be there, or perhaps it was dumb and….

[17] For the record I do this with every State of the Union address regardless of the president’s affiliation. This yearly address ranks up there with the Super Bowl, the Oscars, March Madness, and the World Series. If E wanted to do a red carpet run for it, I guarantee I would watch it. Imagine the comedic value of asking Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney who he’s wearing this evening. This is pure comedy gold. Seriously someone needs to sell this idea now while my networking skills are still weak.

[18] I take some solace knowing that Rick ‘FauxPa’ Perry dropped out of the race last week. At least I haven’t missed him having a mental breakdown on live TV.

[19] Sorry only some of you will get the joke. For us chickens, a lighthouse is a flawed comment to be mercilessly ragged.

[20] Lent, Easter, Christmas, Election Day etc.


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