By Josh Porter
Begin with prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Have someone lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief the teaching in triads (5 minutes)
If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender).
Spend a few minutes catching up on life…
Then talk through the following debrief questions:
- Did you complete the last practice? How did it go?
- What stood out to you about the teaching on a Rule of Digital Life?
- Does creating a Rule of Digital Life strike you as necessary and freeing? Challenging and unrealistic? Some combination of the two?
Read this overview
There is little debate among psychologists, sociologists, and ordinary people that for every leap forward in digital technology, we pay a cost. Inundated on all sides by screens, entertainment options, outlets for curating a fabricated image of our lives, we are—as Ronald Rolheiser worried—“distracting ourselves into spiritual oblivion.”
The endless dopamine drip-feed of new information, photos, updates, headlines, likes, comments, and outrage have so dulled our once hungry attention spans that many of us—whether we realize it or not—no longer have the attentive wherewithal to endure a single meal or movie or conversation or get-together without our itchy twitching fingers stabbing at a touch-screen display.
The same digital technology useful for communicating, finding your way home, and enjoying art can also distract and anesthetize us, steep us in noxious fantasy, damage relationships, and incite us to sin.
In a world of normalized digital addiction, disciples of Jesus remember the uncompromising words of Paul, “I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6v12). Rather than allowing ourselves to circle the drain of the digital vortex, we instead “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10v5).
Do this Practice as a Community right now (15–20 minutes)
Talk through the following questions. Document your answers and ideas in a journal as you unpack them.
- Do you think the people who know you best would say you spend a lot of time on your phone, on social media, watching TV shows, in front of screens?
- If you use an iPhone, go to Settings > Screen Time and note how much time you spend each day and week on your phone and doing what. How do you feel about what you find?
- In what ways do you find technology/digital media potentially useful and good, and in what ways has it been personally detrimental?
Discuss the coming week’s Practice (5 minutes)
The Practice for this week is to begin drafting what will become your Rule of Digital Life. Remember, your Rule of Life will be a work in progress, and you will likely adapt it as you find your way.
It is unrealistic and even dangerous to assume we might be the only people in the world who will avoid the pitfalls of the digital age without an organized, disciplined effort to do so.
This week, take time to do the following:
- Think through the technological outlets that most demand your time and attention and what they are doing to you, for better or for worse.
- Begin drafting what will become your Rule of Digital Life. Be specific (e.g., something like “spend less time on Instagram” is vague and ambiguous, but “spend no more than 10 minutes a day on Instagram” is clear and quantifiable).
Here are some ideas to consider, adapt, or inspire:
- Create a recurring schedule for when your phone will be powered down and put away.
- Minimize the number of apps on your devices.
- Take a weekly sabbath away from devices.
- Establish limits and parameters for particular devices, apps, or media.
- Establish “no device” zones, like the dinner table, the car, or while out with friends.
- Parents, develop best practices and guidelines for your children and family. Consider how your personal relationship with devices will affect your children’s relationship with devices.
Work through these discussion questions before you call it a night (5–10 minutes)
- How do you feel about all of this? Eager? At least open-minded? Less enthusiastic?
- How do you hope a Rule of Digital Life could shape the person you are becoming as you apprentice Jesus? Who do you want that person to be?
- If there are parents in the group, how would you want your Rule of Digital Life to shape and protect your family?