Solitude in a World of iPad Apps

by Jim Manney

I assume that everyone reading this is immersed in the “always on” world of the web, blogs, iPods, email, smart phones, iPads, and other devices. Pay heed to Fr. Jim Martin’s plea to disconnect every once in a while:

Sometimes it seems as if we can no longer stand to be alone or be “out of touch.” People use Facebook, cell phones, and text messages as a way of staying in touch with friends — an admirable goal. Many websites, apps, and gadgets help us to draw closer together — even if it’s a virtual closeness.

But without some inner silence, it becomes harder to listen to God’s voice within. It is more difficult to hear the “small, still” sound, as the First Book of Kings described God’s voice. If your eyes are glued to your iPad and your ears stopped up by your iPod, it’s hard to hear what might be going on inside you. Cutting back on these gadgets, not answering every single e-mail and phone call right away, may be necessary for a measure of calm.

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Jim Manney

Senior Editor at Loyola Press
Jim Manney is a popular writer on Ignatian topics (God Finds Us, A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer) as well as the editor of many books on Ignatian spirituality, including What Is Ignatian Spirituality? He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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June 24, 2010

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle June 24, 2010 at 10:39 am

The NY Times recently asked readers to unplug, then make a short video about the experience (there’s only a little bit of irony there!). Having disconnected to make the Spiritual Exercises last year, I volunteered to give it a fly, then make a video comparing the the long and short experiences.

The short experiment was interesting. For me at least, the burden of being plugged into my array of electronics is more than the barrage of input that all that connectivity provides; it is having a clock in my face all the time. Every screen, it seems, has one. I realized how hyperaware I was of passing time, and how urgent it seemed to be doing something with it. When I plugged back into my devices, I hid the clocks on all I could.

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Meredith Gould June 24, 2010 at 11:17 am

I invite anyone who thinks spiritual practices are undermined by technology to pray with The Virtual Abbey on Twitter. I believe we reveal how spiritual life transcends boundaries of time and space. We’re committed to using 21st century tools wisely and well!

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Gabbione July 25, 2010 at 2:03 pm

I find technology actually brings me closer to God in several ways:

1) I use an app to pray the Divine Office … my technology reminds me to take time out from my harried world for God!

2) I use an app instead of a paper Missal in church to follow the Mass. No more having to remember which ribbon goes where, which ribbon comes next in the Mass, etc.

3) Pope Benedict XVI has called for us Catholics to “put a soul in the internet” and use it as a tool to advance God’s cause for humanity!

Disconnect? I think not! In fact, I think we need to be even more connected for after all, we are the Body of Christ and in my poor mind, I think anything that brings us closer together, anything that advances God’s work here on earth, anything that edifies, is of God and should be honored as that.

That said, I would say that some begin to see technology as an end unto itself and that is not bad. Look, I am a pre-Vatican II Catholic. I remember all too well the days of “pray, pay, and obey” where all too many Catholics reported in on Sunday and thought that was sufficient. Using technology, I am a stronger Catholic Christian. If we were really smart, we would be finding ways to employ more technology to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ! We Catholics have the best story not being told! Trust me, my protestant friends certainly are!

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