This morning I discovered our internet wasn’t working. When you work from home, this is nothing short of a major disaster. After a long phone call to IT support during S’s morning nap, I learned that the modem was, in technical terms, “fried.” As in: no hope, kaput, dead.
So the entire day’s schedule was rearranged so that we could make a trip to BigBox Store to buy a new modem. Then I gave up my work time during S’s afternoon nap to install said modem, reconfigure wireless service, etc. Forget today’s planned grocery shopping excursion, I decided. We can go a day without milk, but not without internet access.
And that’s when it struck me how pathetically dependent I am on the internet. I will admit that my initial freak-out of the morning was, “Wait, I can’t check my email?! Or Facebook? What if I miss some really important news?”
Then my next – and more serious – realization was that I could not work At All because my boss and I work off a shared intranet site to store all our working documents. So without the internet, I literally cannot go to work.
I sat at my computer for a few minutes this morning, just staring. What good was it without the internet? I couldn’t connect with anyone, I couldn’t tackle any of my pressing work to-dos, I couldn’t even idly procrastinate. I felt paralyzed. It felt pathetic.
F and I often joke about going “off the grid.” I know that in some people’s views, not having cable TV means we’re already halfway there. But all joking aside, we both find the idea of living simply very appealing. Some days I honestly do fantasize about canceling the cell phones, pulling the plug on the internet, chucking the laptops out the window. It would be freeing – exhilarating, even – to get back to a simpler, slower pace of life.
But then this morning, the plug got pulled – not by my own accord – and I completely freaked out. I rearranged the entire day so that I could get back online. And why? So I could work? Certainly. But also because I felt so disconnected and isolated. I am much more dependent than I thought. I’m stuck on the grid.
There is much theological reflection to be done on this fast-growing aspect of modern life. We’re hyper-connected to each other, but we’re lonelier, too. We’re aware of all the wars and violence and poverty and natural disasters happening all over the world, but the information overload leaves us paralyzed. We believe the newer, faster, bigger (or smaller) gizmo will make our life or our work so much easier. And then our technology ends up owning us.
(Suddenly Sunday’s reading about the golden calf doesn’t sound so ancient anymore.)
I believe there is a call from God in all of this frenzy to slow down, turn off, breathe deeply. To connect with others off-line, face to face. To embrace a Sabbath of rest. I want more of this in my life. But I also want to stay connected to those I love, and I recognize that there is good to be found online.
So how do we find balance? Do we need to fast regularly from email, Facebook, whatever addition is consuming us at the moment? Do we need to work harder to maintain relationships offline? And when our work requires us to be connected, how do we draw healthy boundaries?