In late May, I had the amazing opportunity to take a pilgrimage with Lutheran Campus Ministry to the monastic village of Taizé in France. (See Pastor Kate’s blog here!). While this community is known around the world for numerous things, such as their beautiful prayer services and the Brothers themselves, one thing that I particularly grew to love while at Taizé was their limited use of technology and the internet, and how that helped me take a break from the world and find peace after coming from such a hectic semester.
I’m actually surprised how relaxing and freeing it was to be completely disconnected from the outside world because I am such an internet junkie; just about anyone can tell you how much I love social media or how I reference random Youtube videos all the time.
Even when I’m travelling and I have the rare opportunity to set down my phone and be thousands of miles away from my stressful, sometimes chaotic life, I don’t let myself get away from it all and just be.
This lead me to be a little worried about the low tech aspect of Taizé that I had heard so much about because I am so dependent on it. Yet, it also made me excited to leave my stressors behind and just have a week focused on faith (which truth be told was something I really needed).
While at Taizé, I didn’t use my phone for an entire week. There wasn’t cell service, so I wasn’t texting or calling somebody every few minutes. There wasn’t WiFi surrounding the village, so no easy access to Facebook or email. (In fact, if you wanted to use the internet, you had to be quite methodical about it and buy a Wi-Fi card. Then, you had to go to a specific area of Taizé which was the only deemed Wi-Fi zone).
The first night was admittedly difficult because I’m so used to scrolling through my phone at night. But after that, I was thrilled to be rid of my phone and internet; I didn’t even once think about going to buy a Wi-Fi card.
At Taizé, I met so many amazing people that I have now become friends with from all over the world and the best part about interacting with them was that none of us were distracted by our phones. When I would talk with someone, there wasn’t a screen in front of our faces the entire time; we would just talk, pure human interaction. This unhindered communication allowed us to really open up and get to know one another in an extremely fast and deep way, which is nearly impossible to replicate back in the States with technology so readily at our fingertips.
Yes, technology is fantastic and technology is actually what is helping me keep these great Taizé friendships thriving. But we need to remember on a daily basis not to let it own us; our phone is just a hunk of plastic and we have the power to turn it off for an hour, or even a day, to get some alone time.
It is also worth remembering that there are few things greater than having a face to face, in-person conversation with somebody and we should try our best to not let our phones get in the way of building those relationships. I truly believe we see God through interacting with others, and when we use our technology to put up a wall between us and the other or to distract ourselves from the world, we aren’t being fully present on this earth and we aren’t being fully present with God.
As stated before, I am a self-proclaimed internet lover and I’m not looking to give it up anytime soon. But after coming home from Taizé, I am continuing to make efforts to curb my usage of it, like by turning off my phone while I pray, leaving it in my purse when hanging out with a friend or just listening to the sounds of the city when walking home from work, instead of blasting music. It’s hard to pull yourself away sometimes, but when I do, I feel so refreshed and not as overwhelmed by the busyness of life.
It’s amazing the beautiful, normal, everyday things you can miss while being sucked in by technology; I want to intentionally choose to miss out on less of these things.