Facebook & Twitter vs TV & Gaming

On August 1, I wrote a post explaining my decision to give up Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Bejeweled, and Television for one month. If you would like to know why, I encourage you to read that post. If you’re interested in some of the things I learned during this technology fast, keep reading.

Lesson #1 Learned: I’m not very good at giving up things

My draw to all things technical was stronger than I imagined. I could start listing excuses for why I caved a little bit, but let me instead cut straight to the results…giving up the video game Bejeweled was easy. Never played a game. Never missed it.

Giving up TV was fairly easy. Since my family didn’t give up the same, I was often in the vicinity of television, but I assure you there’s nothing they watch which interests me.

Giving up Google+ was just my covering an anticipated loophole so I wouldn’t give up Facebook & Twitter for Google+. Now for the cave…I did post a few things remotely via Stumbleupon, but what felt like the bigger cave was not changing my browser homepage, and not closing the Facebook tab when it automatically loaded. I sometimes read what was on that opening news feed. I also took a hiatus from my tech fast during Hurricane Irene. Like I said, it appears I’m not great at giving up things.

Lesson #2 Learned: Facebook & Twitter are a better use of my time than TV and Video games

Quite simply, nobody but me benefits when I play video games. Please understand, I LOVE video games—always have. I find they keep my mind sharp, help with hand-eye coordination, and help me to decompress after a stressful day. For these reasons, I plan to keep playing video games, but in much greater moderation. I concede that playing video games is an anti-social activity and, as such should be limited.

TV is not far behind on my list of “Useless Activities I Enjoy”. This is not a rant about the quality of television shows. I would say this even if I only watched the news and professional sports. No one in my household but me benefits when I watch TV (unless the members of my household want a break from me!).

Facebook and Twitter are in a different category altogether. They are interactive–they truly are social. Within the first 24 hrs of my tech fast a friend from the Kirk sent a message to me challenging me to rethink this. His argument was that my online presence was an encouragement to those who track with me on Facebook and Twitter. To the extent which that is true, I am humbled. My friend’s point lingered with me, but from the other side—I hugely missed reading the online updates of my friends and family.

Lesson #3 Learned: Face time with family, and prayer time with God is the best use of my time

Did I not know that before August 1? Sure I did. But, somehow, the portioning of my time did not accurately reflect my true priorities. Having coffee with Allie on the front porch massively benefits our family. Getting 3 stars on every Angry Birds level does not. Investing 2 hours poolside watching my daughter swim massively benefits our family. Investing 2 hours watching Major League Baseball does not.

I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m now anti-video games or anti-television. I’m not. I’ve simply been reminded of the helpful phrase, “Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1Cor. 6:12).

I’ve also been reminded that Facebook and Twitter are merely social tools. These tools can be used, or they can be ignored. These tools that can be used to tear people down, or they can be used to build people up.

I’m grateful to know that, in some small way, people have found encouragement from my online commentary. The writer of Hebrews exhorts me in this regard: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24). I’m eager to do this. And Facebook and Twitter are going to help me.

“It’s Not You, It’s Me”

I’m breaking up with Facebook. And Twitter. And Television. And Bejeweled. And maybe Angry Birds.

Those who know me well, know that I am a bit of a techie nerd. I own 2 laptops, an iPad, and an iPhone. I build websites, I frequent all of the major social networks, and I love playing video games. None of these things, on their own, in moderation, are bad. I am very much pro-technology.

However…I was rereading parts of Tim Keller’s book, “King’s Cross”, yesterday and was massively convicted by the following quote: “After you’ve repented of your sins you’ll have to repent of how you have used the good things in your life to fill the place where God should be.”

I would never consciously try and put something in the place of God–that’s idolatry–but my attention is sufficiently arrested as I consider the time I would win back if I ceased certain online activities.

After being convicted by Keller’s comment, I then came across a quote from Billy Graham that sealed the deal for me. Pastor Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of Billy Graham, recently asked his “granddad” for some advice and then posted Graham’s answer on Twitter (ironic, I know): ”If I could go back, I would’ve studied and prayed more.”

I’m thinking through Billy Graham’s answer trying to imagine what he put in the place of study and prayer. I’m guessing things like preaching and evangelizing. I then consider where I might find more time for study and prayer and the answer is markedly different: Break from, or massively curb time spent, engaging online social networks and playing video games.

So, for the month of August I’m giving up Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Bejeweled, & Television.

I must admit, I am sometimes cynical when I hear about other people “giving up things”. I have a sensitive nose for legalism and I don’t want to trade in my silly indulgences for self-righteous austerity. But if I don’t fill this newly created pocket of time with things that bring me and my family closer to God, then this exercise will have been in vain.

Accordingly, my aim will be to read more, write more, pray more, spend more time with my family in the evening hours and go to bed earlier. As much as I desperately need this lifestyle adjustment, I suspect that my family might benefit from these changes that I am seeking to implement. There were days when my young daughter would follow me onto our front porch with her Bible–to do what her papa was doing. Now, more often then not, she reaches first for her iPod Touch. I suspect she has learned that from me also.

One of my favourite passages within the Psalms reads: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25, 26).

I long to be able to echo that sentiment by the way I spend my time.

“Technology, I’m sorry. I think we need to take a break for a while. Honestly, it’s not you, it’s me.”