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5 challenges to disconnect from media and connect to each other

5 media challenges that boost relationships

My friends and I recently decided to challenge ourselves to cut back our media use (ex. smartphones, tablets, watching TV) in order to reconnect with friends and family. To help, we picked a few simple tasks to try, and then promised to report back what happened after a week.

One week later, we had nothing to report. We had completely failed the challenge.

After laughing at our universal lack of follow-through, we asked each other why it was so hard to cut back on media. Our answers weren't surprising:

Cutting back on media is hard

  • Texting is just too convenient to give up
  • Social media keeps us feeling connected to friends far away, and we don't want to lose that
  • The idea of cutting back and changing habits feels hard and overwhelming

Why media falls short when it comes to relationships

Though our answers were reasonable, we weren't entirely comfortable with our failure. Because even though our media use is convenient, useful, and fun, it's also impacting our relationships in some noticeable, not-so-good ways. For example, we acknowledge how distracted we are, even when people we love are talking to us. We confess that texts and social media comments feel inadequate when the person on the other end is experiencing a real life problem (ex. in spite of Facebook's new collection of emojis and responses, a heart doesn't quite communicate the empathy we're looking for when a friend posts her latest cancer-treatment updates). And we admit that face-to-face conversations trump emails and texts when we want to see what's really going on with our friends (body language, vocal tone, and eye contact can tell fathoms).

So, we're back to our original challenge to cut back on media. We're not cutting back completely, or permanently. Instead, we're trying a few of these prompts when inspiration strikes, and we want to invite you to join us. Pick one or all five. try them over the next month, and let us know how it goes!

5 challenges to disconnect from media and connect to each other

  1. Pray about someone you can call on the phone instead of text or chat with on social media
  2. Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you all day to set down/move away from your devices when someone is talking to you
  3. Pray about someone God wants you to reach out to and schedule a socially distanced, face-to-face get together with them
  4. Pick a typical "together time" for your family (ex. in the car, at the dining table, in the evening) and stash your devices in a basket/container during that time
  5. Carve out tech-free quality time by substituting a portion of your routine media viewing with an offline activity instead

After you're done, tell us what happened (a.k.a. reflection questions)

After you've finished one or more of the challenges, here are some questions to reflect on. We'd love for you to share your responses in the comment section, below.

  • Did the challenge highlight areas where media was shortchanging your relationships?
  • Conversely, did it identify areas where media enhanced your relationships?
  • What, if any, changes did you observe in your relationships?
  • What kind of resistance did you meet? How did you handle it? (Note: "I totally caved" is a completely valid response.)
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  • Cindy

    I actually gave up Facebook for the long holiday weekend. So not totally off my phone but not wasting time reading random posts either-I even “found” time to read my favorite magazines. I got together with a lot of family members and friends, and it was enough to interact with people I love face to face and creating family memories. That said, it’s summer so it feels good to go outside and do activities somewhat outside of my comfort zone to get kids out of the house. Instead of staring at my phone I try to interact with adults at the play ground, etc. who knows, I might be able to say something nice to someone who really needs it at that moment. I pushed my husband too-he can get lazy but made him get off his computer and drive the kids to see fireworks(just from the car-the little ones were totally asleep). It meant so much to the oldest, who stayed awake for the whole thing:)

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