Liberty University Center for Digital Wellness
A recurring theme throughout my writings over the past two years is that of digital addiction, and specifically the power that Social Media and other forms of digital communication hold over our lives and the way we use our precious time. I shall revisit such themes today, and though I do not see said power releasing its grip anytime soon, I will offer a message of hope; there are many prominent influencers taking notice, and they are working hard to motivate the masses to disconnect from the digital and reconnect to that which is present and authentic.
While I won't repeat all of my prior debating points here, you can read my thoughts on the topic in the following articles. While I may be biased, I do believe all are worth a read, and I do believe all will impact your life in a positive way should you put action behind my words.
Social Media vs. Social Capital - What is authentic social networking?
Technology Dependence & Addiction - Technology use rewires our brains.
Creation vs. Consumption - Create more and consume less. When we do consume, consume that which brings us closer to our goals.
Think! - Turn off the tech, schedule dedicated time to think, and put fountain pen to paper.
Deep Work - A review of Deep Work by Twitterless Cal Newport, who urges his readers to quit Social Media, go deep, and become true masters of their craft.
Monastic Trails - There is value in silence and solitude, for our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. The challenge is we must disconnect to obtain it.
In short, to summarize:
1. Airplane mode is your friend. Unplug. Disconnect.
2. Reconnect to real life. Take a walk. Have a face to face conversation. Read a book. Paint a picture. Keep a journal. Go for a run. Hike. Study. Learn. Live. Laugh. Love.
3. Reap the benefits - lower stress levels, increased academic and athletic performance, higher levels of personal productivity, more depth in our relationships, more passion, purpose, and fulfillment in life in general, and yes, more happiness as well.
In an aim to help our students here at Liberty to do just that, I am thrilled to share that we started a Center for Digital Wellness, believed to be the first of its kind at a university in the country. Say what you will about our beliefs; I would hope that even the staunchest Liberty opponents would agree that this is a good thing, and I believe we can find common ground around the above themes of digital toxicity and the need to disconnect more often.
I hope more universities and high schools follow our lead, as by and large, I believe this population group is the one most affected by the outbreak of digital addiction. While I can't prove such a statement, many experts in the field of neuroscience and cognitive psychology agree wholeheartedly, and I reference their research in the above articles. But don't take my or their word for it - simply walk down the hallways or sidewalks of your local university. Go there, and see such examples for yourself. On any given day as I walk the halls at Liberty, half of the students I pass are on their phones, meandering mindlessly about, as though zombies, stupefied in their own digital worlds. Try as I may, avoiding them is a challenge, indeed. An impending collision is a certainty, and I am surprised hallway accidents don't happen more often with so many students glued to their screens.
But there is hope. Liberty Professor Sylvia Hart Frejd founded said Center for Digital Wellness, and you can read more about the founding here. And thankfully, the word is spreading. Just this morning, Dr. Frejd joined Liberty President Jerry Falwell on Fox and Friends to share the news. You can see the segment of the show here. And finally, you can visit the Center's homepage on our website here.
This is an idea whose time has come, and again I hope more will take up the cause. As Charles Murray would say, we are missing out on the "stuff of life" because we are engrossed in our technology and digital worlds. The goal of our Center for Digital Wellness is to encourage a healthy relationship with our tech, with the understanding that while a useful tool, technology can be quite destructive when misused as well. Finding a healthy balance is key, and our Center aims to do just that. Take the Digital Wellness Challenge for example, which encourages students to do the following:
1. I commit to using technology as a tool that makes my life simpler, more productive, and embrace its many benefits.
2. I commit to finding my true identity in God and not in my likes or friend count.
3. I commit to being salt and light by engaging our culture in a positive way through Social Media. (Be Salt and Like)
4. I commit to seeking face-to-face conversations and connections as much as possible during my day.
5. I commit to practicing being present and savoring the moment and not try to hoard every experience through technology.
6. I commit to taking digital breaks throughout my day – where I breathe in fresh air, get sunshine on my face and do some exercise.
7. I commit to not using technology as an escape from my feelings and emotions and will instead use a journal for processing my feelings.
8. I commit to finding moments each day for SILENCE AND SOLITUDE, to make space to hear the voice of God, and resist a culture of noise and distraction.
9. I commit to not access inappropriate content through the Internet, and to enlist accountability when needed.
10. I commit to practicing digital wellness for a lifetime to live God’s purpose and calling for my life.
While not all may share the religious beliefs, certainly we can all agree that the above challenges are good, worthy, and should be taken up by all high school and college students. And we shouldn't stop there; ideally, in a perfect world, everyone accepts this challenge. Said world would certainly be a more friendly and productive place, both personally and professionally!
And yes, I understand fully the contradiction here; I am urging readers to disconnect from technology and Social Media, while writing my thoughts on an iPad Pro and distributing through a blog and...Social Media. See my thoughts on Creation vs. Consumption above; the key is calculated consumption, or the idea that we consume that which moves us closer to our goals in life, and ceasing the consumption of information that drives us from that which we desire to accomplish. Technology, Social Media, and the digital world are useful tools when used wisely; in my humble opinion the reading of this article was a wise decision, indeed. Now...feel free to disconnect!