I might be unusual, but have you ever wanted to go to an uninhabited desert island to get away from it all: from work, from busyness, from noise, from people and from problems?! After a few days of exploring and sitting around, being on an island would probably quickly become a bit boring and lonely, but the idea does point to a longing we all have – a longing to disconnect! We might not be able to go to an island, but with the summer and summer holidays coming up, there is a good opportunity to try to disconnect from our normal situation and what we normally do. A holiday can still be an active one or a quiet one, but the key ingredient in both is to try to disconnect.
In the past, disconnecting happened more simply when we physically went somewhere else away, however now it is not so simple where our world comes with us via social media, emails and the web. But how can we be on holiday if underneath we are still online back to our usual world?
Maybe we don’t think this is a problem, but there are growing concerns about how dependent we are becoming on social media, the use of email and constant web browsing….the deep need some of us have to being connected at almost any cost could be argued to be an addiction at worst, or at best a serious problem:
-we give more attention to our virtual community than the one around us e.g., family, friends and meeting new people
-we struggle with separation anxiety from things and people we have become unhealthily attracted to and so feel isolated or want to be somewhere else all the time
It is hard to disconnect from Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram, but there are great reasons to try to encourage each other if we can over the summer:
1. Disconnecting is good for our body. We all spend far too long hunched up, staring down at screens. Let’s look up and gaze at real people. Don’t forget that holidays are supposed to be where we rest and relax, and we can’t switch off if we are permanently switched on.
2. Disconnecting is good for our mind. Psychologists suggest that the overload of information we get from internet use is changing the way the brain works. Memory skills are in decline and we no longer reason in a linear fashion, using sustained arguments, but, instead, think only in disconnected fragments. Many frequent users of the Internet confess to struggling to read through a chapter of a book. Disconnect on holiday and, in digital silence, your mind be more at peace.
3. Disconnecting is good for our relationships. Holidays are an essential time to connect with those around us, whether a spouse, family or friends. There are many couples with busy lives who go away on holiday needing to have issues discussed, bonds built or even wounds healed. Yet, sadly, this may not occur because one or both are too busy staring at their smartphones. To put social media before talking to your partner or family is to make a tragic statement about our values and priorities.
4. Disconnecting is good for our spirit. Some people have such an intense relationship with their smartphone that it can only be described as idolatry: the worship of a little handheld idol that brings them comfort. We are to relate not just to each other but to God, and it’s all too easy for digital connectivity to get in the way of both.
So the message to myself and all of us this summer…..let’s disconnect from social media and the web and instead connect with God, spouse, family, friends and even maybe some new people we meet.
With my prayers for a disconnected summer!
Revd James Hunt Rector St Peter’s Bishop’s Waltham and Blessed Mary Upham
9th July 2019