Gary Rogowski said, “Leave good evidence of yourself. Do good work.” It was a secular context he was speaking into when he said that, but I think the sentiment of that statement carries more weight for those of us who claim to be living for a purpose that will still matter ten thousand years from now. I’ve preached sermons on the need to live for something greater than ourselves, to give ourselves to it, and to do it with all our might. I believe that this is one of the keys to finding fulfillment and satisfaction in life, especially for Christians who find themselves in a world that constantly pressures them to abandon their eternal perspective, live in the here and now, and make it all about themselves.
Therefore, I’ve decided to engage in a digital declutter.
For those who may not be familiar, a digital declutter is a term coined by Cal Newport in his book Digital Minimalism. In the book, and without using these exact words, he makes the argument that we have become tools of our devices rather than our devices being tools for us. The time that we spend on social media, video games, and Netflix has robbed millions of us of the potential we have to contribute something great to the world because we’ve become mesmerized by the allure of these technologies. Because of this, he advocates for a new philosophy of thinking through how we adopt and utilize new technologies, saying that we should only allow into our lives the digital tools that enable us to fulfill and achieve our most deeply held beliefs. Embracing this concept of digital minimalism, he claims, will restore to us the freedom. The problem, however, is that Newport’s book and his ideas came around way too late. We’re already addicted and distracted by our smartphones, laptops, and social media. So prevention of this kind of attachment to the digital world isn’t what needs to be discussed. What we need is to take ourselves through a form of digital detox, or what Newport calls, a digital declutter, removing what’s unnecessary from our lives and keeping only what enhances our joy and helps us reach our goals in life.
After reading the book, I was curious how my own digital use stacked up to what he was talking about. And what I found was surprising:
Okay, well, it wasn’t just surprising. It was humiliating. According to my Screen Time data, which is the picture on the left, I spend an average of nearly 4 hours a DAY on my phone. Those 27 hours per week are at least three somewhat substantive books per week. They’re potentially 15,000 words written per week. They’re time spent with my wife, my children. It’s time spent exercising or visiting friends. It’s time spent in the Bible or in prayer with the Lord. My heart grieves to think about the neglect that I’ve unintentionally shown to my wife. I shudder to think what my 5- and 4-year-old little girls understand about the presence of their father and why that little black box is so important to him. “Do we matter that much to him?”
Much has been written about this problem, and I’ve read much of it, but being constantly connected, being barraged with information, texts, messages, emails, alerts, notifications, etc., all this has done some serious shaping of my mind, focus, and attention, pulling me away from things I feel are truly most important. This digital world I’ve been living in has been shaping me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in ways I wasn’t even aware of.
That’s a problem.
The second picture above on the right shows how many times on average I pick up my phone each day. Embarrassingly, it’s 82 times. That amounts to 576 pickups a week and a little over 27 hours/week. On. My. Phone. But doing what? Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are my most used apps. I try to be encouraging on these platforms, stewarding them wisely, but if these numbers were even HALF true, then even still that would be a poor stewardship of my time.
I realized that something has to change. This cannot be my normal. That’s when I decided that I will not distract myself to death, and I’m not going to aimlessly and mindlessly wander through some digital world that robs me of experiencing this beautiful, divinely infused world God has placed me in. I’ve got to take control of my life rather than let my phone take control of me.
The Digital Declutter
So I’ve decided to do a digital declutter. According to Newport’s suggestions in his book, he recommends a complete 30 day fast from all completely optional digital devices/apps/services, etc. So the first thing I did was go through and delete all the unnecessary apps on my phone. Additionally, I’ve muted all notifications from everything, have Do Not Disturb constantly on, and have set it up to where the only time my phone rings or buzzes is when I get a phone call or a text from my wife or the other elders at my church. That’s it.
As well, all of my social media apps are gone except for two: Instagram and Facebook. Instagram I will keep for three reasons:
- One, we literally live 1,000 miles away from all of our family and I don’t want to deprive them, especially the grandparents, of pictures of the girls. So if you want to keep up with our lives, that’s where I’ll be most active.
- Two, I’ve got a new iPhone 11 Pro and I’d like to share some amazing shots I can get with that camera. When an addiction (because that’s what it is) has claimed 4 whole hours of each day of your life, it’s best to replace that time with something more constructive rather than quit cold turkey. Most people don’t have the willpower for that. I know I don’t. So perhaps photography can be a more creative use of some of those hours.
- Three, to reduce the amount of digital noise I’m exposed to, I’ve trimmed down those that I follow to essentially immediate family members and meme accounts. You’ll have to pry those memes from my cold, dead fingers.
Now the Facebook app I’m keeping around for different reasons. I’ve recently converted my Facebook profile to a Facebook page. Right now it has an obnoxious name (“Kris Sinclair Page”) that I find just tacky, but Facebook limitations won’t let me change the name for two weeks, so after a couple weeks it will just be my name. Converting my profile to a page gives me some good advantages that I feel are worth holding onto and the main one has to deal with my writing.
I love to write. And besides photography, like mentioned above, I plan on spending most of those extra 27 hours/week on writing. I want to improve and grow in this craft. But since I’m not Tim Challies or John Piper, I don’t have millions of people waking up each day and typing in “www.krissinclair.com” into their browsers eager to see what amazing new insight I’ve written about. So that makes marketing my writing on social media a necessity if I’m going to increase my audience, receive feedback for improvement, and hopefully land a book deal one day and be on the New York Times Best Seller list selling millions of copies so I can afford the iPhone 19.
To facilitate this, I’ve got a handy WordPress plugin that will automatically post my new articles to Twitter without me having to visit the site (@krissinclair_, y’all. Follow me. Pls. And don’t forget the underscore at the end), and once the Facebook kinks have been worked out, it will automatically post there, too. In the meantime, I’ve deleted the regular Facebook app and have downloaded the Facebook Pages app. This app only lets me manage my temporarily tackily named Facebook page and that’s it. There’s no newsfeed and no messenger—nothing that can distract me and no rabbits to lure me into their deceptively endless holes.
So moving forward, I’m expecting this website to be my primary online presence. The digital declutter recommended by Newport is only for 30 days. This allows enough time for your brain to be rewired into believing that you don’t need to be constantly tweeting, texting, scrolling, and catching up on cat pics on Reddit. Then after the thirty days he suggests slowly reintroducing certain technologies/apps/services but only if they help you achieve your long-term goals and are aligned with your deeply held values. I don’t know if that means coming back to Facebook and Twitter, or what. That will be the tricky part that I must navigate when it comes.
As for myself, I plan on devoting a lot of time, first and foremost, to my family. My wife and my little girls are too precious to trade for the dim glow of my computer screen. What a shame if I spend my entire life communicating with people online and ignoring those that I’m covenantally responsible for. I also plan on reading a lot. I’ve got a big stack of books I’m looking forward to. There’s also music, exercise, and all that jazz. How awesome would it be to be both buff AND an actually good musician? The possibilities!
And, of course, I plan on writing a lot as well! I’m hoping that the increased time spent reading and pulling away from all the digital noise that I’ve surrounded myself with will give me the opportunity to produce content that is helpful and engaging to the church, as ministering to her is my deepest desire and longing.
As far as communication goes, I couldn’t figure out how to deactivate myself from Facebook Messenger because I’m turning into an old man so don’t get upset if you message me on there and I don’t respond. Honestly, the best way to get in touch with me would be through the contact page here on my site.
The whole point of all of this is to be intentional with my life. I want to cultivate a life that’s worth living. I want to “leave good evidence of myself” wherever I go, but this digital addiction will not make that possible. I claim to live for something greater than myself, but my digital habits prove otherwise. I have decided to take responsibility for this problem and actually do something about it. I believe this will better serve my family, my church, my friends, and myself. But most importantly, I believe that Jesus Christ will be better served in my life by me being a better steward of my time.
I lied to you earlier when I said the biggest reason for doing this was for my family. It’s not. The main drive behind why I feel so compelled to reclaim my time is so I can spend it for Jesus. For His sake. The deep-seated belief that I want everything in my life to center around is the belief that Jesus Christ is worthy of me spending every ounce of energy I have making much of Him. He is the only hope that this world has and I believe that with all that is in me. I also believe that if I make Christ my focus, and if I make war against every rival distraction that would tempt me away from my devotion to Him, then my heart will be changed. And as I pursue Christ whole and pure heartedly, then all those around me will benefit as well. Perhaps someone will see a little bit more of Him in me. Maybe it will be my wife. Maybe it will be my Lyla Rose or my Clara Lane. Maybe it will be someone that I never even meet. And that would make giving all of this up worth it.