10:08 a.m. I log onto the Internet.
10:09: I promise myself, “I will only be online for 15 minutes. That’s it. No more. I have a blog post to write.”
10:10: Realize that I really must reply to all my Facebook notifications. After all, it would be rude to not reply promptly to someone’s reply to my wall post, right? (Even if Carrie did comment last night, she must be waiting anxiously, hovering beside her computer for a word from moi.)
10:15: Check iGoogle account. Master the urge to read every new post on the fifteen-plus blogs I follow. Decide I have to check my blog for any comments.
10:20: Check blog. Have 2 spam, both linked to nasty sites. Spend ten minutes searching help for how to block this spammer who has sent me these messages every day since I posted one particular post. Figure it out. Check blog stats. No clicks for today. Disappointed.
10:30: Check gmail account. Wait. Wait. Wait. This email account is s-l-o-w.
10:43: Shut down internet connection and start writing. Oops, that was thirty-five minutes, not fifteen. How’d that happen?
One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time. –John Piper
I promise, I don’t hate Facebook or the internet. But they don’t just make time fly. They make time morph into the spaceship Enterprise and send it into warp speed to explore the Final Frontier.
And it isn’t only my prayer time that suffers. If I don’t tame this monster, it grows into a ravenous beast that devours the time I spend writing, playing with my children, talking with my husband, and doing all the household chores that are necessary if I don’t want to live in squalor, dress in filthy clothes or starve to death.
So how do I tame this monster called the Internet?
One thing I have to remember is that this monster can be quite friendly at times. After all, I wouldn’t know as much as I do about writing or publishing if I didn’t have blogs like Rachelle Gardner’s or Chip MacGregor’s or sites like FanStory.com or the Writer’s Digest’s community.
I also must remember my purpose for my online activity—and, surprisingly, it’s not just to promote my writing or learn to write better prose. God played a little practical joke on me, complete with a divinely ironic punchline.
Here’s what happened. I spend most of my day at home. I don’t have much daily contact with other people aside from my family and a few people at my gym. So I can easily become self-absorbed, withdrawn and isolated, concerned more about the trials and tribulations of my novel’s characters than real people.
Then I joined an online writing review site called FanStory. I post pieces of my writing, review other people’s work and receive reviews on mine. It went smoothly enough. Then I became “fans” of certain writers’ work and started to learn about them. We became friends. Obviously, I didn’t actually “know” them, only what they shared about themselves. But there were writers that I cared about. Sometimes I would read a deeply personal post and feel compelled to pray for that person: a man going through a painful divorce, a woman grieving over a lost child, a person needing encouragement. Suddenly, I was praying more than before. Not substantially more, but a little more.
Originally, starting a Facebook account was to promote my writing. Join writer’s groups. Network with potential readers. I wasn’t thrilled about it, especially when I realized that some friends apparently spent all day doing the Facebook games-and-quizzes thing. Then I joined a few groups where the members needed encouragement. I received prayer requests in my newsfeed. I felt compelled to pray for others.
Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think? What I started doing for selfish reasons became a way to focus less on myself and more on others. What could take away from my prayer time has added to it. What I intended to promote myself sometimes led to promoting God.
It’s still a monster, though. Like Piper said, wasting time on the internet can make me believe I have too little time to pray. Saying a quick little prayer for my online friends is no substitute for an extended time with God. Checking my email every five minutes to see if I have any new prayer requests from my church or small group.
I have ask:
- What are my motivations?
- Am I using this time to glorify God or to piddle around with trivial things of no eternal value?
- Is this site I spend my God-given 24/7 bringing me closer to him or distracting me from him?”
And that includes Facebook.
(Note: I have blocked games from appearing in my newsfeed. Sorry, I really don’t care about Farmville, Virtual Pillow Fights, etc. Wouldn’t it be more fun to have a real farm or a real pillow fight? At least you’d have milk from the cows and exercise from jumping on the bed, smacking a friend with a pillow as feathers scatter around you.)