The Offline (or Red Pill) Challenge

The maximum running speed of a human being is 28 mph. That is how fast the human body was designed to go; however, with the technology of automobiles, a human body can travel much faster than it was designed to. Upon an impact at 40 mph, the chance of fatality increases by 50%. At 50 mph, it rises to nearly 70%, and at 70 mph, death is virtually assured. We have compensated for this technology of speed with seatbelts, brakes, airbags, and impact design that slows and pads the body upon impact.

The human brain is no different than the human body; we have a limited capacity for what we can tolerate. Before modern locomotion (meaning the vast amount of human history), most people lived their entire lives within a 30-mile radius of where they were born. Their towns and communities were tiny according to our standards for most of human existence. In fact, in research known as Dunbar’s Number, the maximum number of stable social relationships a human is capable of is 150 people. The upper limit of people we can even recognize is 1,500 people. Even if one does not accept the research number, it is undeniable that we are not omniscient and that God has given us a limited capacity. Most of human existence was lived within that capacity.

According to data from 2019, Hillsborough County alone has 1,471,968 people. Or put another way, 981,312% more people than we could have a social relationship with and 98,131% more people than our brains could even recognize. Now expand that to all the news, issues, people, problems, drama, and viewpoints around our nation and world that are constantly being fed to us through the internet. The average number of Facebook “friends” is 338, well over the amount of meaningful interaction, and that doesn’t account for followers on other platforms or relationships that only exist in real life.

We are inundated and notified of things way past the ability of our brains, emotions, and spirits to take or were even designed for. The problem is, unlike the automobile, there isn’t a seatbelt for the mind. Every relationship is a choice, and investing emotional capital in people you will never meet means a relationship you won’t have with someone right near you. We were not built for this amount of information, nor to deal with this amount of world problems. Rather than the accusation of having your “head in the sand,” being constantly immersed in issues and people that you cannot affect is actually having your head in the sand to the relationships right in front of you.

None of this even addresses the type of content that internet media delivers to us. The amount alone is a problem, let alone the messages and indoctrination it also gives. I haven’t even addressed the ethics of gamification and psychological manipulation that many internet programs and websites employ to create addiction. Neither does this deal with the danger of a cyber-Gnosticism that disconnects our thinking from the material world. Furthermore, neither does it confront the issue that internet media is often used as a convenient way to hide from our inner selves and God.
Technology, however, is not going away, and technology can be a great tool if we know how to use it well. While the top speed of an average car is 120 mph, we recognize that it would be unsafe to constantly go that fast even though the technology allows us to. We need to press on the brakes of information technology that demands more and more from us. It doesn’t mean altogether abandoning its usage. Still, it does mean learning to use it responsibly and in line with the limitations God has given us. So how do we do that? I acknowledge it will look different for each person, but below are some steps to discovering what that means for you and your family.

The Analog Challenge:

  1. Internet usage is permissible as necessary for work, school, or bills.
  2. Non-work internet activities will be limited to 2, 15-minute periods in a day at the times you choose to check announcements, emails, text messages, or other online communication forms.
  3. Other than the usage mentioned above, internet activities will not be used, including but not limited to social media, news, music streaming, video streaming, video gaming, etc. Digital activities like video games or computer activities should also be checked.
  4. The Analog Challenge is not intended as a punishment or legalistic method of asceticism but to find fun and relationships in new ways. Books, board games, painting, coloring, drawing, writing, outdoor activities, radio or pre-recorded music, broadcast TV, newspapers, puzzles, religious activities, visiting places, walks, social activities, talking on the phone (using non-internet related apps), acts of kindness to neighbors and friends, conversations with people in front of you, or any other analog activity is allowed and encouraged. Be creative.
  5. You may find that you have to “detox” off the internet. It will be hard. You may instinctively reach for an internet device out of habit. Catch yourself, and keep it either in a different room in the house or turn it off. You will be bored. That is when you know it has started working. After a week or more, you may adjust by being more or less strict about the activities, but be thoughtful about the adjustment and in conversation with those in your life.

Join me in stepping out of the “Matrix” and waking up to the tangible world around us.

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