Today we continue my Becoming Almost Amish series, where we look at 10 Amish principles to live by and I share how I have applied or plan to apply them in my own life to work towards a more simple, sustainable lifestyle. Each of these principles and strategies were inspired by Nancy Sleeth’s book Almost Amish.
Amish Principle #2: Technology serves as a tool and does not rule as a master.
The Amish are probably most well-known for their refusal to be “wired to the grid” and the denial of technology that comes with that. Since most of us would never be able to make such a drastic change, having grown accustomed to our technological life, we instead will be examining our USE of such technology and whether or not it is benefiting our lives. In Almost Amish, Nancy pointed out that the Amish don’t think technology is evil by itself (and often have things that run off battery-powered generators), it’s just that they see how quickly it can overtake lives, and choose to limit their consumption.
Here are some rather convicting quotes from Almost Amish:
“As the pace of change increases, we, too, would be wise to make conscious choices based on eternal wisdom rather than recklessly surfing the digital wave.”
“How can we hear the voice of God if we are multitasking nonstop? How can we see the face of God in still waters and green pastures when we are chronically refreshing the screen? The digital generation is a distracted generation.”
About 60 percent of Americans use the internet and TV at the same time.
The Average American spends just nine minutes per day in religious and spiritual activities.
Over the past several months I have been experiencing serious conviction in this area—specifically as it relates to establishing habits now and how we want to raise our children.
Here are some of the strategies suggested by Nancy in Almost Amish:
Turn off your phones
The best thing I ever did was disable push notifications on my phone. While I still get alerted to text messages, I don’t see any alerts for Facebook, Instagram, or emails unless I specifically go into the app to check for these updates. It means I get to control the frequency, instead of being controlled by the constant dinging. I’ve also made it a point to not bring my phone into the bedroom at night—mostly because if I do, I know it will be the first thing I reach for in the morning before I get out of bed, and it is easy to get sucked into the mindless acts of checking social media and blogs. Not exactly how I want to start my day.
Limit (or eliminate) TV
This one was not too hard for us, as my husband and I both agreed that we didn’t want to pay for cable. We didn’t have a TV for a few months after we got married, but cable was included in our rent, and we do enjoy the occasional football game, so we ended up purchasing a set once fall came around. But once we moved we agreed to stick to the antennae and we really don’t miss the cable at all! One time a DirectTV salesman came to our door and when I told him we don’t have cable he looked at me in disbelief and asked what we do. I told him we like to read, and he got really excited, telling me he’d been reading more lately, too—business and sales books. I applauded him for that, and he graciously went on his way, realizing he was not going to get a sale out of us. I read an article in Consumer Reports which showed the percentage of Americans who subscribe to cable or satellite TV service, and was surprised to find that most also have an online subscription to streaming video services such as Netflix or Hulu as well. We’ve passed on all of that, because we just don’t feel it’s worth the time (or the money). We will occasionally rent a RedBox, but our internet connection isn’t fast enough to stream videos, and we are fine with that.
Cut back on computer games
Back in middle school, I used to play the Sims until my hand went numb. True story—my brother had to uninstall it because I wasn’t doing my homework. Luckily that was a LONG time ago, and I have since grown out of that habit. Much to my nephews’ disappointment, I don’t have any games on my phone or computer. I know there are educational games out there and we will probably allow some games for our kids, but not until they are older.
Reduce incoming email
This is one I have been working actively on for the last few months, because I really doubt I will have time to sift through the junk mail once baby arrives. I’ve been unsubscribing from junk emails, filtering directly into folders, and using a blog reader feed to keep track of unread posts instead of subscribing to receive individual updates from each blog. I’ve also had periods of time where I have disabled emails on my phone, and set a specific time each day to check emails, since doing it repeatedly throughout the day can waste a lot of time. I think there is nothing more refreshing than an empty inbox, and every once in a while I achieve that goal!
Approach social media with caution
Ok, this is where I stumble the most. Social Media can be a serious idol for me. It was the nagging issue that kept coming up this summer when my Bible Study focused on finding sabbath and creating margin in our lives. After doing several time audits of my day (after wondering how the heck I was spending my time since not much seemed to be getting done), I was appalled to realize how much time I spend on social media. So I limited myself to 14 minutes each day, broken into two periods—7 minutes in the morning, 7 minutes at night. I was amazed at how quickly that time went, which inspired me to really prioritize what I was looking at and unfollow a lot of people whose posts I was skipping over. Even at 15 minutes a day, I was still spending close to two hours a week on social media, which seems like a lot. (Especially when compared to how much time I was spending on “religious and spiritual activities”—probably much less than the 9 minutes referenced above). I’ve decided not to hop on the bandwagon of snapchat, periscope, and all those other new platforms because I am afraid of how much more time I would waste. I know a lot of people who take a full day’s break from technology every week, and seem to love it. I haven’t really tried that yet, but I’m sure it would be good for me.
Another trick I tried this summer was to not multitask with my technology usage. So if I was watching TV, I wasn’t on my phone at the same time. I quickly realized that the TV shows I was watching weren’t very good, and the things I had been looking at on my phone were really not necessary. It’s amazing how quickly you can be deceived when you’re distracted.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not anti-any of these things. I like to watch The Bachelor as much as anyone else, and I will probably always have a presence on social media. I know some people who need to draw other boundaries, and that is great, because it’s what works for them. I am just happy to not feel the stress of “catching up on shows” before my DVR fills up, or feeling the need to have my phone on me at all times. Sometimes it’s nice to be unreachable. Sometimes we need space to let our minds relax. We need to have our eyes opened to what’s going on around us—so we can help others, so we can listen to God speak, so we can be at peace. I think THAT is the secret to the simple Amish lifestyle, and I challenge you to examine these areas of your life and see if there is anywhere you need to cut back.
I’d love to hear if you have any strategies of your own for making sure technology doesn’t rule as a master in your own life.