Sabbath 2.0

Originally posted at Gathering Voices: Faith Conversations from

My family once rented a cottage on the isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland. While I remember little about the cottage itself (other than the view of sheep out the front window), I do clearly recall instructions in the guestbook: “do not hang out to dry laundry on Sunday.” Apparently it’s a faux pax on Skye — or perhaps just illegal — to publicly launder on the Lord’s day.

Though Sunday is the day on which my blog receives the fewest visitors, for many of us, social media takes no sabbath. As I consider my own heavy social media use and possible addiction (see Jenna Johnson’s article) I’ve become increasingly aware of those who abstain for a time.

Screen shot 2011-01-30 at 8.36.52 PMFor instance, last Lent several friends gave up Facebook. A technology writer I follow travels internationally for a month each year and sets her email to automatically reply: “I’m taking a month of vacation and will not read this email. Period. If you would like to contact me next month, please send another note then.” Other friends have stopped accessing Twitter or Facebook on weekends.

I haven’t taken the full offline plunge as of yet, though perhaps I should. Even contemplating a day offline, however, makes me aware of how I use the Internet for so many daily tasks and not just social media: cooking and recipes, news, movie times, emails, directions, and keeping in touch with friends and family. I don’t have a television, so my major source of news and information is the Internet and National Public Radio. While I can envision many benefits of not signing-in to Facebook for a few days, I would miss awareness of local, national, and international news were I to opt-out even for a day. And this would all get even tougher if I ownded an iPad or e-reader.

But why consider a social media sabbath at all? Two theological reasons come to mind.

First is the obligation of Christians not to worship idols. Certainly, I don’t ever pray to my smartphone or worship my laptop (though I am, admittedly, quite an Apple devotee). But if my use of social media ever stands-in-for my connection to God, if my attraction to technology obscures my personal devotion to God, then it’s high time for some major recalibrating.

Second, I try to approach all of God’s gifts — gifts of friendships, of creation, of money, of resources, and time — with a view towards faithful stewardship. So, when using technology I ask myself questions like: is ___ minutes on Facebook a faithful use of my God-given time? Am I using Twitter to connect to God’s people or build up my own ego? Do I really need to read another article on half-marathon training plans? While the cultural notion of wasting time or diminished productivity can be helpful, I also try to think of my use of technology with a more Christian understanding of stewardship in mind as well.

There’s not much internet access on the isle of Skye — certainly the island boasts more sheep than computers — but I wonder if the old advice of that guest book might be updated: sabbath-keeping 2.0.

image by carol henderson

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