Veruca Salt, in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, summed up the last decade way back in 1971. Personally, I find it extremely amusing that this movie is available from all the “On Demand” type services, or if I simply must have the 4k Blu-ray, Amazon can get it to me tomorrow.
More and more, we are only content when we get exactly what we want and when we get it now. It’s not just merchandise and movies. We want policy changes in the government now. We want to lose 40 pounds now. (Well, in my case, it’s a little more than 40!) We want an answer to our email/text/phone call/letter now.
Having everything now is not good for us. Our culture’s gospel of immediacy is also a gospel of impatience and, often, vain materialism. There are many ways we can fight these unhealthy tendencies.
One great way is to pick a day every week to do a digital fast. On that day, you’d only use your phone, tablet, and computer for calls, texts, emails, and whatever you’re required to do for work. A digital fast means not getting on social media, avoiding YouTube, Netflix, and all of that. It’s a day to take a step out of the immediacy of modernity and back into a place where we can rest and be in relationship with one another. Let’s be honest: it is much more fulfilling to spend a few hours talking, eating, or doing some sort of activity with a friend than to watch a movie with them, and both are more fulfilling than spending three hours on Facebook or Twitter. Fridays would be a great day to do this digital fast. The Church still calls on us to make some sort of sacrifice every Friday. While not eating meat is an option outside of Lent, another great option is a digital fast.
Why is a digital fast so effective against all these things? Social media, while it can connect, also promotes a strange sort of vanity where self-worth is quantified by “likes.” Online shopping, while it makes all sorts of things more accessible, makes it easy to fall into materialistic tendencies where our self-worth is quantified by “stuff.” Online video, games, and all of that, while they entertain, often gives us an escape from our surroundings so that we can withdraw from reality and completely lose ourselves. All of these things show us that results are possible right now, and they give us the illusion that we are in control of our immediate future.
When we break the stranglehold that our digital culture has on us, we start to recognize how unrealistic and unsustainable our instant-fulfillment culture is. We begin to recognize the beauty of the people around me. We can see that it is not always a big deal if something takes a little while—that sometimes the best things are the ones you wait for.
In the peace of Christ, who made the sloth too,