BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge has encouraged Catholics to consider “digital fasting” this Lent.
He made the suggestion during his Ash Wednesday homily on February 14 at the Cathedral of St Stephen, Brisbane.
The Archbishop added digital fasting to the more traditional call to fast from food and other activities and habits as a mark of self-denial as Catholics contemplate Christ’s great example of sacrifice.
“We have become a culture of digital excess, which is why it makes sense to speak of digital fasting,” Archbishop Coleridge said after Mass.
“You only have to walk the streets of the city to see how compulsive, even addictive, the use of phones has become with heads down and eyes glued on the little screen.
“It would be the same at home with the bigger screens of computers and TV.”
Also known by various other terms like “digital detox”, “digital Sabbath” and “unplugging”, the idea behind a digital fast is to voluntarily and deliberately stop using all connected devices.
Weaning away from digital connectivity, and regaining a sense of self-control, might sound as easy as sliding a few switches to the “off” position.
However, for many people, a thirst for the latest information coupled with rapid-speed technology has come to rule our lives.
We are surrounded by screens: phones, tablets, computers, TVs and even refrigerators.
Many rely on apps to advise and calculate. We ask Google more questions than any person, and live more digitally than one could have ever fathomed even five years ago.
It’s surprising just how much screen time we indulge in every day.
But ironically there’s an app that can help the pursuit of digital fasting.
Moment is one of a handful of apps that can track daily iPhone screen time, sending reminders and coaching tips as users approach or exceed a daily threshold.
An extension of the app – Moment Family – allows users to manage their family’s screen time from their own phone and set up time for the entire family to be screen-free during family dinnertime.
According to data from nearly five million Moment users, the average person spends four hours a day interacting with his or her phone.
That’s a third of our waking hours.
We could be reading a book, walking or, dare I say, conversing. It’s time for a digital fast.
“It means giving up something which is not bad in itself but which can become compulsive, even addictive, in order to set ourselves free from the compulsion or addiction,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“Fasting is always about freedom, and digital fasting is about becoming free enough to engage in other and perhaps more genuine forms of communication.
“It’s also about breaking the power of the false gods who always destroy freedom.
“Fasting from food is one traditional way of doing that, and digital fasting is a more contemporary way of doing the same.”