I don’t know about you, but my laptop is almost always on these days – very rarely will I shut it down completely, but rather hibernate like some mystical woodland creature, or most arts students. And with smart phones giving us access to the internet 24/7, on the move, on the go, we’re continually connected. It can be difficult to get away.
Christmas is a time for family. No problem. But, if you’re anything like me, after a couple of hours, you can be looking for a way to escape, to find some kind of separation. For my Grandparent’s generation, that’s generally found in the form of a sleep by the fire whilst the Christmas dinner settles. But for me, that doesn’t quite cut it. More and more often, I find myself retreating to the comfort of the gleaming screen of wonder, possibility and, let’s be frank, epic procrastination avenues.
As part of my course, I’ve been looking at how the internet plays a role in religion, and it’s struck me that using the internet has moved from an active to a largely passive activity. We’ve moved from email, to easier and easier, less intensive forms of communication. Email wasn’t personal enough, along comes social networking. Blogging is too labour intensive, so we have micro blogging. It amazes me that, despite this, I can find myself browsing pretty idly for hours at a time.
I dealt with a pretty horrible addiction last Christmas that involved the internet. The results have been amazing – God has had so much more space in my life to work out his plans and intentions, and I’ve simply had more time to invest in friendships and work. But the internet is still a routine part of my life, social networking especially. How little effort we need to put in to stay related – would you like to ‘add’ this friend? Why yes I would, thanking you very much.
What would our day look like without the hours we spend online? I’ve just watched the film Fireproof, in which the principle character deals with his online pornography habit by ripping the monitor from the wall, and setting to it with a baseball bat. I’m not suggesting that’s the best approach – the internet is undoubtedly a useful tool for that many of us would struggle to be without indefinitely. But is it distracting from the ‘real’ relationships we should be investing in?
In Jesse Rice’s Book, The Church of Facebook, he quotes Anne Jackson, who writes:
When we spend more time staring at a glowing monitor than we do into the eyes of those we love, it might be time to shut off the computer
That’s my challenge to you this Christmas. Shut the computer down, if just for one day, and spend Christmas actively seeking to serve your family and friends in authentic relationship, as an act of worship and gratitude to the God that has created us to be connected. This may be impractical for some, but the vast majority of us should be able to spend one day without checking for that all-important email which, if we’re honest, could probably wait. Let’s honour the ones we love this Christmas and make the most of opportunity that Christmas gives us to spend quality, real, unvirtualised time in their company. Have a blessed, beautiful, offline Christmas!
Tom Barber is a finalist theology student at University College Durham, who serves on the worship teams at Kings Church Durham and Hay Hill Baptist Church in Bath (www.hayhill.org). He’s currently working on his dissertation, which come with the funky tagline “Worship Defined // Worship Evolved // Worship Apparent”, and is currently looking for famous worshippy peoples to interview.