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Technology Fast

We’ve spent the first six weeks of Mission Year practicing a “technology fast.” The idea has been to disconnect us from our normal comforts and force us to confront the realities of our neighborhood more plainly. As a software developer by career and nature, I was less than thrilled at the idea.

What counts?

Our Technology Fast didn’t mean living an Amish lifestyle. We still benefited from a great deal of technology: books, lights, kitchen appliances, the laundromat and more. Our fast was specific to the computer and, in particular, the internet. We were asked to avoid computer use altogether while at home and abstain from sites social, news, and those consumer related. In addition to computers, we were asked not to use cell phones. Whenever possible, we left them off or at home.

As young adults growing up in a digital age, connectivity with family and friends via cell phones and internet usage feels natural. By severing these connections, we were forced to pay attention to one another, to rely on each other, and to engage the community around us.

Our fast was practiced every day but on our Sabbath (which is Fridays). On those days, internet and cell phones were permitted.

Technology’s Usefulness

None would deny the transformative power of technology. But I, along with others, would debate it’s usefulness. Many joke that our Internet Age has produced funny Youtube videos and email chain letters as its most common achievements. Indeed, on the consumer end, the internet often seems to me a sea of mediocre articles and, at best, funny gimmicks.

I believe that most people don’t benefit from technology as many who are developers (like myself) hope they would. No, I don’t really consider LOLcatz a great achievement or great use of the GHz processor at your fingertip. There was a time when the internet didn’t exist and I’m glad to be in the generation that can remember the distance between computer and internet popularity.

On that note, I can enjoy a computer a great deal and be totally disconnected. As a computer scientist, programming provides me an endless fascination with computation. On those grounds, I objected to the technology fast. The computer is a creative outlook for me. Would we label oil paints a technology and deny them to an artist? Why then deny me such a favored form of expression?


Though I objected at times, I submitted myself as best I could. I gave up my favorite news sites, social sites, and email . I peeked in on the sites I’ve developed only now and then during the week. It was hard. After reflecting a bit on the fast, I’m not sure I took much away from it.

I’ll admit that it forced me to connect with my housemates more. Shannon liked not vying for my time with the computer. I enjoyed not being expected to respond to some things immediately.

But I hated being out of the loop. I think it made the feelings of homesickness worse. And we often ended up gorging ourselves on Sabbath spending all our time on the computer.

Last Friday we had a service where we committed (now with some experience) to our Mission Year. Caleb, one of our city directors, described Mission Year as a season of fasting. Though our technology fast has ended, Caleb reminded me of the fast that God calls us all to:

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?