An author who intentionally cut herself off from all digital technology for a year says that the experience — though difficult — helped her set her life back on course, ultimately bringing her back to her Christian roots.
Esther Emery, author of “What Falls from the Sky: How I Disconnected from the Internet and Reconnected with the God Who Made the Clouds,” told Religion News Service that she went without the internet and digital technology for a year back in 2009 — an experience that led her to move back to rural Idaho, have a third child with her husband and reconnect with God.
“I cut off everything digital, every form of digital communication in my life,” she said last year in a TEDx talk. “Of course, the Wi-Fi, but also the cell phone — even the credit cards and debit cards, because that counted to me as electronic communication with my bank.”
By abandoning the internet and various technologies, Emery said she was free to embark on an unfettered journey. It was, as the description of her book frames it, a “desperate attempt at a reset” during a time of intense difficulty in her career and marriage.
And in the end a reboot is exactly what she got.
“As a person who creates content for other people, as a writer and a person creating theater, I had a kind of persona. I had a face to keep up in the world, and reversing my attitude on particularly Christian culture was going to be something that would be really uncomfortable if I were doing it on a public stage,” she told Religion News Service. “At the point where I was no longer reporting my location in a public way day to day, I had this freedom to say, ‘Maybe I’ll check it out’ — to sort of confess that I did want something different than what I had had before in my life, and I needed space and time to work that out.”
Emery said she learned that “true silence” and experiencing God are “almost synonymous,” and that she could better sense God’s presence in the world without all the technological clutter, though she noted that the initial transition wasn’t all that easy.
In fact, Emery said in her TEDx talk that she quickly realized she was addicted to technology and even found herself irritable for the first 40 days of being disconnected. Eventually, though, she got over it and came to realize the benefits of her 12-month disconnect.
There was another notable element of her experiment, though, that must be mentioned, especially in the fragmented and contentious times Americans live in. Emery mentions in her book that there was a tension between her rural upbringing and the urban life she later had, with Religion News Service asking what the author believes people in both areas misunderstand about one another.
Watch Emery explain her entire journey below:
She said one of the areas of misunderstanding surrounds faith, explaining how political identity and cultural noise can sometimes perpetuate this dynamic. Emery said that by stepping out of the internet she was able to experience God in a more freeing way, shedding the “cultural context” that often accompanies the Christian experience.
“For many people the identity of ‘Christian’ and the identity of ‘conservative’ are so intertwined as to be indistinguishable,” she told Religion News Service. “This means that left-leaning or progressive people hold bias against Christians, and Christians hold bias against liberal or left-leaning people.”
With that in mind, Emery added that she believes the only real answer to saving both relationships and “the health of our political dialogue” is doing what she did and stepping out of the information machine to take a moment and reassess.
Her book, “What Falls From the Sky,” promises to take readers through her “unplugged pilgrimage” to show how it brought her to a place of peace with her life and with God — and offers the same experience to others.
Read more about that journey in “What Falls From the Sky.”
(H/T: Religion News Service)
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