Who Else Needs A Social Media Sabbath?
I’m advocating the idea of taking a social media sabbath.
One day a week to unplug, disconnect, and switch off emails and social media. Will you join me?
The lingering smoky aroma of a million incense sticks soaks the stones. Thousands of years of Buddhist faith are symbolised in the classic temple architecture. Hundreds of years of revolutionary Vietnamese history seem etched into the paving stones. I watch as a young shaven-headed monk in an aubergine cloak pulls something out of his cloak. It was an iPhone 6, he then took a selfie.
Was he updating his Facebook page for the Bhikkhu in his temple to see? Is it a new tradition to collect selfies at famous temples? Can you check in at www.theshrine.com?
Hanoi is a frantic affront on your senses. Thousands of scooters weave together in an intricate dance at road junctions defying the logic a collision should happen. The chorus of horns never stops. The noise of street vendors, hawkers, and touts fill the air. Hanoi sucks the silence from your mind as the power of the lastest Dyson vacuum sucks the hidden dust from your carpet.
Ngoc Son Temple, Hanoi’s most visited temple sits on a picturesque island near the North end of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Dedicated to General Tran Hung Dao, La To (patron saint of physicians) and the scholar Van Xuong it’s peace and tranquillity is an oasis of silence in the desert of din that surrounds you in the city. Crossing over the scarlet red bride called Rising Sun, I see that the ancient temple courtyard had few visitors.
A local woman appeared to be on her lunch break. She shovelled spirit money into the entrance of a furnace with the faith that the money would help her dead ancestors. The acrid smoke of fake $100 bills mixes with the heady cloud of smouldering incense. There are a couple of other tourists and the temple cat.
The young Buddhist monk crossed the bridge and entered the temple complex. It seemed natural, it seemed perfect and, if I’m honest, it presented the perfect photo opportunity. It was when he reached into his tangerine nap sack and pulled out the latest iPhone and proceeded to take a selfie it struck me something is out of place here. Later we chatted and he asked me if I would take some more pictures of him in the temple.
Everywhere in Vietnam is connected. The bus to Halong Bay which snaked a 4-hour white knuckle ride from Hanoi had high-speed internet. Every restaurant, each cafe and even, (and this is entirely real) street food stops have Internet. The Vietnamese are no different than the rest of the world. Huddled under a conical hat the familiar crouched position of a mobile phone posture is seen everywhere.
The shackles of connectivity seem to hold us tight. Are we prisoner to download speed and photo upload? It has changed the world. It is changing the world. It will continue to construct a new culture for the future.
I’m not some Luddite who sees this progress as destructive, nothing could be more from the truth. I see opportunity. Endless opportunity. Markets are opening where they never were before. Education is no longer restricted. If you have a smartphone, you can learn anything. Of course, many don’t, but it seems to me that owning a phone these days is a priority for even those with little means. A priority over even more vital requirements it seems, but that is a post for another day. Seeing that young monk whose supposed absence of possessions symbolises simplicity, made me ask a question. Are there times, places and seasons that could benefit me more by the lack of distracting connectivity?
For now, I’m left asking the question, does it serve my life more to be connected permanently or unplug for one day a week? Will I really miss something that important? Would it be better to be present rather that virtual? Could the lack of distraction serve me better?
Well, I’m going to find out. I’m going to unplug one day a week.
My social media sabbath is going to be a Tuesday. Want to join the movement?