Patience Is an Offline Virtue

What I’m learning from Lent without 24/7 connectivity.

The Internet will soon get faster. HTTP, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol, is the formatting and transmission system to call up sites on our browsers. It was created in 1991 and last upgraded in 1999, back when the web was transporting more text and fewer graphics. In a couple of weeks, HTTP/2 will be published, speeding the process “by using new ways of transporting data between the browser and server across the Internet.”

I’m neither a technophile nor a technophobe, but as a Lenten practice this year, I decided to restrict my Internet access. My husband changed our home WiFi password, and I turned off the cellular data on my iPhone. Though I’d still check email and social media most mornings off-site, for 40 days, I would fast from fast.

In Christina Crook’s new book, The Joy of Missing Out, she describes her experiment of Internet fasting disconnecting entirely for 31 days and chronicling the period with typewritten letters, which she mailed to a friend. “Letters to a Luddite” became The Joy of Missing Out, where Crook argues not for abandoning all things virtual, but for rethinking our digital connections and commitments.

She is a lay voice of caution, informed by academic theorists like Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, and Read Mercer Schuchardt. Schuchardt, who studied McLuhan’s work under Postman at NYU, doesn’t own a cell phone or a personal computer. He has warned against the perceived neutrality of technology. “That technology was a false God was Postman’s point. That there is a real God worthy of worship was McLuhan’s point.”

In one chapter of her book, Crook cites various reasons for fasting from the Internet: to awaken ourselves and refuse …

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