I have recently been introduced to the urban slang ‘going dark’ and have applied it to my life. ‘Going dark’ has three meanings. The first comes from the world of espionage, where an agent does not speak or communicate for a given time to protect himself from possible danger. The second, applies to the general populace when they purposefully turn off their cell phones, computers, and other social networking devices for a period of time. Finally, going dark also has an environmental meaning whereby consumers turn off electrically powered devices for a period of time to conserve energy and make a positive impact on the environment.
I am very much ‘plugged-in’ having an iPhone, laptop, and many social networking sites. I use technology with my family, which is spread throughout the United States, to share family photos and updates. Technology assists me in sharing my art and message with the world by maintaining a website, blog, and other social networking sites and sending out newsletters like this one. As you have seen in my art presentations, I also use technology to bring my art ‘to life’ and to enhance my performances. My laptop is an alternative art canvas where I create customized animations, cartoons, caricatures and other artwork, and it is also the keeper of my schedule, and where I write. Yes, I am plugged-in. I’m sure I check my email, texts, Facebook, and Twitter pages a little too often.
Now, knowing all of this, you can very well see why the idea of “going dark” is appealing and beneficial to me, and I think quite possibly to you as well. When I am connected electronically I am at those times disconnected with other areas of my life. The internet has this “super market time loss” effect on me. Sometimes when I go shopping for a few groceries I get sidetracked and unknowingly walk out an hour later with items I don’t need, and a loss of time I regret. The same is true when I’m online; I lose time. (Perhaps some of you know someone like that. Perhaps it is you.) It is better for me to go into the market with a list and an eye on my watch then go in blindly. The same is true for my online time. I monitor it much more carefully now. I also set predetermined times to “go dark” and completely abandon online activity. These dark periods are gifts. Some times that I choose are special times like family dinner, my girls sporting activities, and dates with my wife, while others include work related activities like writing. Without ‘going dark” some of my projects would not be finished on time. Just because we can be reached 24/7 does not necessarily mean we should.
I realize ‘going dark’ is just an exercise in discipline, and I accept that, but it works. I encourage you to discuss periods of ‘going dark’ with your spouse, children, and coworkers to enhance the personal social interaction that is at times lacking. Set up some guidelines for yourself to keep you safe, and productive and more importantly, personally connected. Some corporate offices have recently implemented ‘no email’ days and ‘no texting’ zones in their buildings to increase productivity. There is now even software available for downloading that will disable your computer to get online for set periods to allow you opportunities to focus on offline activities. The entire world attempted to ‘go dark’ on March 28 for Earth Hour to increase environmental awareness. Millions went unplugged simultaneously in 88 countries for a single hour.
The Season of Lent this year has been an exercise in ‘going dark’. I have greatly disciplined my online presence and used that time to mediate in prayer, scripture, and reflection to grow closer with God and with my family. My work has not suffered, in fact the added discipline has brought forth a renewed sense of focus and energy. I have benefited greatly from this practice.
In short, the social networking technologies of our modern age are wonderful tools to allow us to reconnect with family members and friends, and the entire world, but used poorly, however, and they will damage or destroy our most important relationships and steal from us the precious and irreplaceable gift of time. May your homes be filled with much laughter and happiness this month as you consider the possibilities and rewards of going dark.