Do We Spend Too Much Time Online?



Dear Friends, 

I'm sure you may have wondered what 'happened to me' when I disappeared from the blog. I made excuses and tried to post.. but the truth was I got caught up in a seemingly innocent thing.. and it really did derail my life for a solid year.  I have hesitated to post this. I buried the post at the bottom of my devotional blog.  But when I think of how many people might be struggling with some form of online addiction whether it be facebook, games, surfing, texting, or even blogging, then I feel I have no choice but to be transparent with you. 

If this doesn't help you, you may have a teen or a spouse or friend who could be helped by it. Please, pass the word.  This form of addiction doesn't go away by accident.  

Lovingly,
Donna

How I have wept  over my lost year...a year of ignoring the regular pleas of my children to give up the online community and game that they had all grown tired of long before I did. I did not in any way want to share this story with anyone.  Never have I failed in such a way in my life.

 If you can hang in there through the story below.. I will explain.. what caused me to even consider that I was 'addicted' and then how I was able to get free. It all started with a bible passage I was reading that appeared to having nothing at all to do with the problem...


2 Samuel  The anger of the Lord burned against Israel when Satan tempted David, saying "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah". So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, "go throughout the tribes of Israel... and enroll all the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are."  But Joab replied to the king, "May the Lord your God multiply the troops a hundred times over and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my Lord the king want to do such a thing? The king's word overruled Joab and the commanders: so they left to go enroll (count) the fighting men.It took 9 months and 20 days to count all David's troops. And Then he repented when he realized what he had done.

A few things stood out to me so starkly in this story...

 First,what was it that compelled him to count those men? I realized..it was pride.. and self-worth.. wanting to enjoy what 'he' had accomplished in his kingdom.  No doubt it made sense and it seems a 'small sin' to us that he wanted to count his men. But I also knew that in God's eyes this was a HUGE thing. 

Second was his staunch determination to do what he knew to be wrong in spite of the clear and desperate protests those closest to him.  This was not an 'accidental' sin.. or a complete blindspot as the men he relied on most were calling him out on it.

Lastly, what shocked me most.. was not only did he willfully and stubbornly determine to do this against all reason and right and knowing God's heart on the matter..in spite of loud protests and begging by those under him to choose the right path and honor God, he did it for NINE MONTHS and 20 days. 

Can someone who loved God more than anyone else recorded in the bible, David, really have done this so blatantly and for so long and been so oblivious to the consequences? Self-deception is the only way I can fathom being able to persist so long in known sin.  Perhaps he didn't 'see' it as sin...just felt it was the most sensible course for organizing his armies.

 So... a surprising story... and I can only imagine how awful he must have felt when the full realization of his decision and the course of that nine months finally came to a halt.

What does all this have to do with you? or with me? As I was sharing this story with my husband and wondering why in the world the Lord might pick this as his 'word to me', suddenly, with horror, I saw it all.  Just as David did not SEE his sin with Bathsheba.. till Nathan told him the story of the sheep, I had not seen the full ramifications.. of my own sin this last year.. not in this light.

I have spent my whole adult life doing my very best to love the Lord and serve him with my whole heart and to help my children do the same.  I was the one begging, pleading, reminding my family not to spend all day online. My family, husband and kids, have loved and played computer games for years and years. I could not see what it was that they liked about them. It puzzled me completely.. until this year.

I had given up blogging (which I now see was where this started--a bit of hypocrisy here) because the kids hated that too. They felt I was giving too much attention to the women on the blog and not enough to them. They were right. Sadly so. But I could not see it. I was 'helping' others. Or so I thought. When I finally gave it up.. the family had just discovered a new game that was online and they could all play together.  After several weeks of sitting in the living room in the evening by myself I decided to 'try' it and join with them.

What I found was that online games.. can be very very fun. The sense of accomplishment, purpose, living in a 'beautiful home' (we had a very mediocre one), having a beautiful character, and even playing together in this amazing world with scenery beyond one's imagining.. (Lord of the Rings online), was a zillion times more fun than a movie or a book.

At first it was fine, we all had a great time laughing and everyone thought it was so funny how scared I was of fighting the bad guys or dangerous creatures. Mom was playing a computer game and how fun was that? :)  But what they could not know was the slippery slope I was on.

Coming from the background I did, I had a huge need for praise. And accomplishment was my medicine of choice for feelings of insignificance.  After Lotro, one of our sons told us about another game we could play as a family called Minecraft and we got it for Christmas.  So that we could all play together, even though this son lived long distance, and a daughter was moving out, we decided to get on a 'public server' so we could still play this game of survival in the elements and building beautiful homes of virtual blocks and we could all 'log on' together.

Whereas Lotro lost my attention pretty quickly, building beautiful homes in Minecraft fascinated me. The owners, two older teenage boys, were so impressed with my building skills that we were invited to move to a 'city' on the server. When I finished the 2 story English home , the owner made me 'admin' which meant help manage the server and the players.

The world of an online server can be so so addictive. The game is.. the community is.. and the positions of rank and leadership.. all are incredibly attractive.  But because life was normal.. the game stayed in it's proper place.  We only played at night.. and it was just fun.

But then Tim got a new job, and I broke my arm and could not do anything but sit around, and Tim and our 20 yr old daughter (after 15 yrs working at home) decided to move closer to the new job as we couldn't sell our country house right away things changed dramatically.  That same month, my other son Jacob moved to his first apt with friends.  It was down to me and Christian (our expert gaming child) in a house.. all alone... with a broken arm and an empty nest. Meeting on the server seemed like a perfect plan until the house could get sold and our family could be reunited.

 I feel so much better giving all my excuses...but sadly.. that's all they are-- excuses.

I was already entranced by the game before all this happened .. it's just that it would probably never gotten so bad but for the situation. Tim and I both thought.. oh how fun--we'll keep playing on our land, building our house, caving in the underground caves, mining for gold and iron etc (his favorite part) and on the server we can 'meet' every night.

I guess you can see where this is headed. The pain of losing my hubby's companionship after 15 years of being together day and night.. and kids was huge. My whole role in life changed from busy mother of teens, on the go all the time, just dissipated into nothing over night. I could only be with Tim on the weekends.   Every Friday night was heaven.. and Sunday was a day of grieving... and the game and the little friends became a solace.

Later, on a much more mature server,  I ended up with a lot of friends who were much older than the young teens,  so it was quite a fun group. We all loved to create beautiful things.. cities, massive structures...anything you could imagine.. we built it. Lots of fun banter but.. almost all non-Christian. :(

 What was probably more insidious is that being a part of their lives felt like a ministry too. So many lost, desperate, lonely teens with no one to advise or comfort them but their own friends. My heart aches for them. But that element of the scenario helped me 'justify' the addiction. How deceitful our hearts can be. :(   It's not ministry if it's not God's will and your heart is not right or your family suffers. Enough said about that.

Hours slipped into days.. into weeks.. into months. But so did my heart, my affections, my time with the Lord, and my focus Getting back to real life was the hardest thing I ever did and only the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the constant kind encouragement of my daughter and another Christian friend who was on the server with me (he was 22), could bring me out of it. Both regularly challenged me on my time with the Lord, his word, and getting my 'real life' work done.

 Until I 'woke up' as David did, I had no idea just how awful the consequences had been. How much I regret the things I didn't do that year.. that the Lord would have liked for me to do. How different my testimony could have been if I had turned to the Lord to meet my deepest needs...instead of a worldly substitute.

Thankfully, Debbie and Laurie took me out to lunch one day and challenged me to tell Tim--look things have gotta change. We managed to get an apt together even though the house had not yet sold.. but that was seven months later.

But my sin was OH so like David's.  I turned to my own resources.. and to worldly accomplishment and tons of praise and adulation instead of to the Lord in my great need. The kids adored me and the owner who was in school all day was thrilled to have a mom who could help manage the server during the day while he was gone.

This is truly the heart of idolatry and the fuel for addiction...turning to something else for your happiness and significance.  David turned to his armies for security and validation.. I turned to an online community. Either way, the Lord got left out altogether. 

How I wanted to not share this story!  I wanted to hide my sin... I wanted to repent and fix it but never have to tell anyone. :(  But the Lord will not let me. Our ladies' bible study lesson on repentance...is staring me in the face. And I can't ignore it. How many tears I cried over whether or not to share this.

But I know I must.. that however awful I am.. or have been.. or how badly I failed.. I know I am not alone.  For the sake of others who might have failed in some other way, I will make a fool of myself here publically (thank goodness it's a small crowd ) and share the shame... but also.. the glory.

How God has restored.. and changed me!  I have no words. The peace and joy are beyond description. The fellowship with the Lord I have now is so much more amazing than when I first became a Christian. I am walking in the spirit strictly because of the overwhelming quantity of grace God is pouring out on me.

In order to break free, I had to cry out to God day and night.. over and over till I could 'tie my 'happy' to Jesus instead of to players on the server.  Never in a million years could I have imagined a scenario like the one above happening to me.

How many of us can imagine doing what David did... like committing adultery. I can't. You can't. But yes, even if you love the Lord very very much.. you can get so busy.. doing the things you believe God has called you to do.. that you start slipping... and getting busy... which before this year was happening to me. And you don't realize you are relying on your own strength.Then the temptations come and you hardly realize what has happened.

All I can say is that the Lord has restored me... and brought me closer than I have been to him in the whole of my adult life with the Lord.  He has changed my focus so much that my life at home has truly been transformed.

I've learned to love his word like the very air we breathe.. like the food we eat. Without Him, I cannot be happy. I discovered what it really means to 'walk in the spirit' and you WILL NOT fulfill the lusts of the flesh.  This is a reality every day for me..and it can be for you too.

This is terribly long but the Lord seemed to want me to write it so here it is... and my reputation along with it such as it was. But I leave the results to Him for his praise is all I want or ever need.  If you or someone you love is addicted to online games, facebook, texting, blogging, or even alcohol.. please consider this website, www.olganon.org .

Love in Christ,
Donna

9 comments:

Debby said...

Words. For thought for sure. I spend a lot of time blogging. I have not gotten into any games. I also stay away from Pinterest since in blog already too much . I truly value the friends I have made thru blogging . Since I am a empty nester, I don't see the harm in it. No one personally suffers from it as far as I can see.
Sometimes I think you don't give yourself enough praise. You have given so much of your time for your family and never seem to give any to yourself. Your husband took another job that paid a lot more but he was further away from home. I think that you may miss your old life . When you first said about the money he would be making, I knew you were in for a change. We had that for about 191
About 10 years and then the bottom fell out. It took a few years to adjust to about 60 percent less income and no more job security. Now I can live on less and in one home. I like this life better. My husband is trying to make it to full retirement age since we lost so much money from his retirement funds. But I feel content in the fact that since we live more of a simple life we will be okay.
My hope for you is that you will replace that time that you feel you shouldn't have wasted with something just for you. No matter if it is serving The Lord or having lunch with a friend. Don't beat yourself up so much. Hugs

Donna said...

Ah Debby lol I am not beating myself up at all. But I do know my heart in a way that of course you could not. I knew what my real motives were.. and I knew that i got addicted. I knew that I couldn't stop.. and it took over my life. But I thank you for your kind words. :) There's a difference between having fun and being consumed. I was at that mental consumption point. I never thought about it but if you read the symptoms.. that's what got me that first day..I had most of them. It was scary! Still God is so good and now blogging, facebook, even games I don't think would hurt me because they are just 'outside things'.. and my 'inside'.. my heart is fixed on the Lord for my needs. Thanks so much for sharing. :)

Donna said...

A Screening Tool for Excessive Gamers (or other online pursuits)

Are the majority of your friends those with whom you play games?
Do you try to find ways of playing your online game when you are not at home?
Are you unable to predict time spent gaming?
Do you deny addiction to a a gamebut somehow still feel the need to play?
Do you feel preoccupied with gaming (do you think about previous gaming activity or anticipate your next session)?
Do you spend much of your free time surfing game-related websites?
Do you spend a significant amount of time outside the game in activities relating to the game?
Do you often check your gaming boards before doing other things that you need to do?
Do you feel your heart racing as you control your character in a flee from danger?
Do you feel a sudden rush of intense joy/sense of euphoria and relaxation after an in-game accomplishment?
Do you experience stronger emotions while in your online game than you do in real life?
Do you occupy uninterested friends/family/partner with conversation about the game?
Do you attempt to get friends/family/partner to play, so you can play more?

Have you withdrawn from real life hobbies?
Do you eat at the computer while gaming or do you skip meals to game?

Have you experienced physical effects from excessive gaming (e.g. carpal tunnel, eye strain, weight change, back ache, sore neck, arms, wrist)?
Do you spend real money on the purchase of in-game items?
Do you often become defensive or secretive when you are asked what you do when you are gaming?
Do you deny, rationalize and minimize the negative consequences of gaming?
Do you feel the need to "stand up for gamers" and proclaim that your life is perfect by listing all of your life's achievements, and yet still game for 4-6 hours per day?
Do you neglect household chores to spend time gaming?
Have you given up or reduced time spent at important social, occupational, or recreational activities in your real life to play the game?
Has your excessive gaming caused trouble at home?
Have you missed work/school because of your game playing?
Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of your game playing?
Do you wish people would mind their own business about your gaming and stop telling you what to do?
Do you try to hide how long you've been gaming?
Do you often snap, yell, or act annoyed if someone interrupts you while you are gaming?
Do you tell yourself you can stop playing the game any time you want to, even though you keep playing when you don't mean to?
Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop your game playing?
Do you have difficulty staying away from gaming for several days at a time?
Do you feel the need to play games for increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
Do you often fear that life without gaming would be boring, empty, and joyless?
Have you ever decided to stop playing the game for a week or so, but only lasted for a couple of days?
Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop your gaming? Does it go away once you have started gaming again?
Have you lied to family members, a therapist, or others to conceal the extent of your involvement with gaming?
Do you use gaming as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g. Feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?
Do you envy people who can play the game without getting into 'trouble'?
Do you feel guilt, shame, anxiety or depression around the time you spend gaming?
Have you ever felt that your life would be better if you did not play the game so much?

Donna said...

If we substitute blogging, facebook, or texting.. we get a good idea if we have a problem or not.

MeOfCourse said...

Hi Donna. I don't do Pinterest, Facebook, and quit Twitter. I do have my Fine Art America for selling my art and Flicker for photos. I'm not hooked and wouldn't let myself get hooked because I know it can be addicting. So I post on Fridays and sometimes on Wednesdays and I don't miss it anymore. I'm really a little tired of blogging but do pop in to say hi to a few friends. That's about it for me. Hope things work out for you and that you find the freedom from not blogging too much. Take care and be well. Hope your injuries heal fast.

Donna said...

I'm glad to hear it Gloria. I do love your art so much. Blogging and a lot of things on a computer can get tiring. Somehow it seems like real life things.. feel so much more restful.. even a good bout of housecleaning. :) lol I need to do some catching up on your art by the way.

WANNASEW said...

Hello. The answer to me is: Yes! I spend too much time blogging. I started my first 2 in 2008, got on face book 2009, left for about a year, came back. Started twitter around 2009, but left for good on with them about a year later. Enjoy keeping up, but it is addictive. God only knows how many hours of Bible study time I've lost....not to mention sewing time.

I've been convicted lately had have reduced the time. Thank you for sharing. :-)

Donna said...

You're welcome Wanna.. and if you need more encouragement or help along the way, I do write my devotions and post them regularly at www.songsofhome@blogspot.com. I read and pray daily anyway.. so it's mostly for me.. but if it helps someone else.. then all the better. I don't try to get followers, don't promote it normally, don't worry about comments.. I just throw it out there on the off chance the day's verse for me could help someone else. No pressure. :)

WANNASEW said...

Hi Donna. Please forgive my slight delay. Thank you for your recent blog comment. :-). Very helpful.May the LORD bless you and keep you. :-) -JC