A Digital Rule of Life
By Josh Porter
Begin with prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Have someone lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief the teaching in triads (5 minutes)
If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender).
Spend a few minutes catching up on life…
Then talk through the following debrief questions:
Were you able to spend time on the practice last week? (Assessing your current rule of life in each category, as well as current Practices.) If so, how did it go for you? Did any of your current habits or rules—official or unofficial—surprise you or give you pause?
What stood out to you about this week’s teaching?
Does creating a Digital Rule of Life strike you as necessary and freeing? Challenging and unrealistic? Some combination of the two?
Read this overview
There is little debate among psychologists, sociologists, and ordinary people that for every leap forward in digital technology, we pay a cost. Inundated on all sides by screens, entertainment options, outlets for curating a fabricated image of our lives, we are—as Ronald Rolheiser worried—“distracting ourselves into spiritual oblivion.”
The endless dopamine drip feed of new information, photos, updates, headlines, likes, comments, and outrage have so dulled our once hungry attention spans that many of us—whether we realize it or not—no longer have the attentive wherewithal to endure a single meal or movie or conversation or get-together without our itchy twitching fingers stabbing at a touch-screen display.
The same digital technology useful for communicating, finding your way home, and enjoying art can also distract and anesthetize us, steep us in noxious fantasy, damage relationships, and incite us to sin.
In a world of normalized digital addiction, disciples of Jesus remember the uncompromising words of Paul, “I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6v12). Rather than allowing ourselves to circle the drain of the digital vortex, we instead “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10v5).
Rule of Life Workbook
In the Rule of Life Workbook, you will develop a Digital Rule of Life that will become your personal paradigm for embracing a disciplined lifestyle that rejects digital excess and sin.
Remember, though your Rule may read like a list of personal rules, it is more so a means of clarifying and articulating your values and purposefully integrating them into your schedule and lifestyle. It’s one thing to say you want to spend less time on your phone, it’s another to establish rhythms for how.
Note: Like the entirety of your Rule of Life, your Digital Rule will be unique to you, and much of the specifics subjective.
Do this Practice as a Community right now (15–20 minutes)
Open the workbook, and turn to the Mind category.
In triads, talk through the following questions. Document your answers and ideas in your workbook or journal as you unpack them.
Do you think the people who know you best would say you spend a lot of time on your phone, on social media, watching TV shows, in front of screens?
If you use an iPhone, go to Settings > Screen Time and note how much time you spend each day and week on your phone and doing what. How do you feel about what you find?
In what ways do you find technology/digital media potentially useful and good, and in what ways has it been personally detrimental?
Discuss the coming week’s Practice (5 minutes)
The Practice for this week is to populate the Mind section of your Rule of Life by beginning to draft a Digital Rule. Remember, your Rule of Life will be a work in progress, and you will likely adapt it as you find your way.
It is unrealistic and even dangerous to assume we might be the only people in the world who will avoid the pitfalls of the digital age without an organized, disciplined effort to do so.
This week, take time to do the following:
Think through the technological outlets that most demand your time and attention and what they are doing to you, for better or for worse.
In the Mind section of your workbook (or in your journal), begin outlining what will become your Digital Rule of Life. Be specific (e.g., something like “spend less time on Instagram” is vague and ambiguous, but “spend no more than 10 minutes a day on Instagram” is clear and quantifiable).
Here are some ideas to consider, adapt, or inspire:
Create a recurring schedule for when you your phone will be powered down and put away.
Minimize the number of apps on your devices.
Take a weekly sabbath away from devices and screens.
Establish limits and parameters for particular devices, apps, or media.
Establish “no device” zones, like the dinner table, the car, or while out with friends.
Parents, develop best practices and guidelines for your children and family. Consider how your personal relationship with devices will affect your children’s relationship with devices.
Work through these discussion questions before you call it a night (5–10 minutes)
How do you feel about all of this? Eager? At least open minded? Less enthusiastic?
How do you hope a Digital Rule of Life could shape the person you are becoming as you apprentice Jesus? Who do you want that person to be?
If there are parents in the group, how would you want your Digital Rule to shape and protect your family?