When I was growing up, Lent was always a time we were encouraged to give up something we enjoyed eating. I can recall marking the 40 days before Easter by giving up chocolate, potato chips or even Reese Peanut Butter Cups.
It had been a number of years since I’d made a sacrifice, so last year I tried giving up some technology that I enjoyed. I’ve read about other people’s experiments with giving up social media, or shelving their iPhones. I wasn’t ready to go that far. For all of the distractions those devices bring into my life, they are still tools I use to connect with friends and my professional networks.
I decided on a compromise: I’d give up using my iPod when I rode the subway to work. At the time – it was a sacrifice. I used to to listen to music and audiobooks and podcasts and to check Twitter and my RSS feeds. Giving it up meant I’d have to travel in silence.
The first thing I noticed is that I read more. Over the 40 days of Lent, I made it through 4 books.
I also culled my podcasts. Going into Lent, I had quite a list of shows I listened to each week. Quite frankly, it was a struggle each week to get through them all. Lent forced me to prioritize. Since I was going to do without them for several weeks, which ones could I survive without? I ended up cutting back on several TWIT podcasts (which I found were getting annoying – not having much of a signal to noise benefit for me). The ones I wanted to keep up with – Slate, I would listen to in the kitchen as I cleaned up the dishes. After lent, those were the only ones I kept listening to. No more MacCast, or History of Rome.
And my habit of reading while take the subway continued, long after Easter was over. Now when I’m on the TTC, you’re more likely to see my nose in a book (or an e-reader) than see my ears filled with white earbuds.