Learning to be offline in an online world
By Leow Sue Yu
I am your typical Gen-Z girl. Whether it’s for socialising or shopping or keeping up with the news, I do it digitally and online. The introvert me absolutely loves it. But even you, the extroverts or ambiverts, we’ve all been living life online. It is just so convenient.
Many of us are familiar with a daily lifestyle surrounded by electronics. Without it, we would literally not be able to function. That’s the exact situation I am in. For months, this has been my daily schedule:
9 am: Wake up, check whatsapp and telegram to reply messages, check Instagram.
9.30 am - 6 pm: Start work (which means I’m on my laptop throughout the day, except during my lunch break.)
6 pm onwards: Rest (watching shows while I eat dinner, watching YouTube videos, catching up with friends via text messages, etc)
I am so used to (and still kind of do) living my life this way. Until one day, it hit me that I was too online. Here are some red flags:
- Sore eyes
I was staring at screens so much that my eyes constantly felt sore, tired and strained.
- Lack of physical movement (I am getting lazy…)
I didn't like moving around or leaving my bed since I could just use my phone for most things. I was that girl who would WhatsApp message my parents even though they were just 10 seconds away from me.
- Being protective of my electronic devices.
It felt weird (and almost uncomfortable) to be away from my phone for too long. I would wonder if I was missing out on any messages from my friends and just constantly felt the itch to check my phone.
Lack of focus and becoming restless
Since I was constantly on my bed doing the same few things, I hardly engaged my mind with critical thinking. Literally scrolling my life away.
I was too online.
Something in me is screaming for change. I needed to be more offline.
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? - 1 Corinthians 3:16
I started visualising The Holy Spirit in me, watching me do things that rot my body and mind as I consume online media aimlessly. How can I continue to let that happen? How can I then be a better steward of this temple that God has given me?
Thought I would share five practical steps that I am taking to be more offline in an online world with you this week:
- Say no to using digital devices first thing in the morning.
Here’s my new routine: After I wake up and wash up, I would water my plant and make either coffee or tea before starting work.. Taking time away from my phone / laptop first thing in the morning allows me to not be thrown into the hustle mindset and prepares me to start the day right and fresh with a clear mind.
- Take small breaks away from screens throughout the day.
Close your eyes and rest for a few mins after every 2-3 hours on the screen. Go for a water break. Take a few mins to look out of the windows, look at the trees (or grass). Let your mind wander a little before resuming back to screen time.
Every now and then, I would go for outdoor runs without my phone. Without my phone as a distraction, I started appreciating my surroundings more.
I remember there was once, I was running and suddenly felt so overwhelmed by the beauty of nature. I stopped, sat near the lake and just watched the sunset. I just sat in the quiet and marvelled at His work.
Let meal times be 100% meal times.
I avoid using my phone during meal times now. Leave it in your room or bag when you’re out. It was definitely uncomfortable when I first started doing this. But over time, I've gotten used to this new habit.. Meal times are now 100% about spending quality time with the people that the Lord has blessed me with and relishing in the food I love!
- Downtime before sleep, not screen time. Try praying?
I am also trying not to use my phone before I sleep. I’m sure we’ve all heard this phrase, ‘Don’t use your phone 30 minutes before you sleep.’ I’ve always find that that is impossible to achieve. I’m often on my phone till the very second I sleep. In fact, my roommates would not be able to tell whether I was asleep or not because my eyes would be closed but my phone will still be in my hand.
Instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media, I pray instead. I love sharing with God about my day and expressing my thanksgiving. In way, I find that I’ve been able to fall asleep better, in comfort and with a heart of gratitude.
Read a physical Bible instead of the app version
I love the Bible app! It’s so convenient and useful. I can increase the font size, compile notes, and highlight. The functions are so amazing. But personally, the biggest downside to using the Bible app was that I was more prone to distractions. WhatsApp was one notification away, Instagram was also several taps away. Even if I turned off my notifications or was on airplane mode, the digital world is still so accessible. But when I read from a physical Bible, 100% of my attention was with God.
There is a time and place for the digital version of the Bible, like when I’m on the public transport or when I want to check a verse real quick. But when it comes to the intentional reading of the Word, I find reading from the physical Bible much better. All of me could soak in the wonders of His Word without being distracted by the online world.
I love the online world and am so thankful for it. I still consume heaps of it! But I have definitely learnt to be more cautious about how much time I spent online and whether that time is well spent. I hope my little nuggets of wisdom will help you manage your time in the online world better this season!
If you adopt any of these methods, let us know how it works out for you! It may have different effects on different people. If you have any other ways you disconnect, share it with us @TheProjectJSg on Instagram too!