Here’s the situation, if you can bear it: you arrive at your holiday apartment only to find that, shock horror, the Wi-Fi is down. Or perhaps worse still, you realise the owner has intentionally decided not to have Wi-Fi installed in the first place. They offer no explanation, but you instinctively know that this was a decision made ‘for the customer’s good.’

Well, that was me this summer. And not only was there no Wi-Fi, but the cottage was so out in the sticks that I couldn’t even get 3G on my phone. How was I going to manage? I remembered reading Krish Kandiah’s article on the positive benefits of social media a few days before I left, but now here I was and I didn’t even have the option to decide for myself. And yet in the supposed barrenness of a week without Wi-Fi, I found life growing in surprising places. Here are five joys from a wifi-free holiday:

1. The joy of taking back the reins of my time.

Most of us probably think we’re in control of how much time we spend on social media. I certainly do. Obviously, on one level we are. After all, no one’s forcing us to open the apps or click through to the notifications. And yet a week off made me realise how much I was using social media by default, rather than by thought-through decision. If your social media usage is anything like mine, then it’s more about regular checking rather than extended periods of browsing. But, even then, the minutes soon add up. Technology should serve us, as we serve God, rather than us being its servant. Ironically, I was on holiday the week that Facebook announced it had a billion users in a single day. Well, sorry Mr Zuckerberg, but I wasn’t one of them. Instead I found I had more time for talking, reading, and just hanging with others, and I was grateful for it.

2. The joy of finding it easier to switch off from work.

It might sound crazy that someone would ever be tempted to check in on their work email account while on holiday, but I suspect more of us suffer from this than we might first admit. When you’ve got a work inbox on your phone, it becomes so easy to just have a look and see what emails are coming through.

Previously, I’ve told myself that it’ll mean I can action tasks more efficiently, or that something might come up that really can’t wait for my attention. Before I know it, a holiday has simply become a more exotic version of working from home. And yet we’re created to rest, and going Wi-Fi-free gave me the joy of being able to mentally switch off as well as literally switch off.

3. The joy of enjoying a holiday for the holiday’s sake.

That might sound like a strange one, but I found myself being present on the holiday much more, rather than always thinking about what I could be sharing on social media. The daily realities of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter mean that many of us are so used to sharing our lives on these platforms. Don’t get me wrong, I think these do present great opportunities – I wrote a book about it. And yet there’s a fine line between sharing moments and managing a profile. Because I didn’t have that outlet there was no point in even thinking: “Would this be a good shot to share on Facebook?” Instead I was freed up to be in the God-given moment with thankfulness, enjoying it with the people I was with for its own sake.

4. The joy of being able to focus more on the people around me.

I love how social media means I’m able to keep up with mates all over the place, as well as make new ones. And yet events like holidays do present unique opportunities to spend focused time with particular people, be it a spouse, mates, or, as in my case, extended family. Unfortunately, the so-called ‘opportunities’ of social media seem to often work against this, opening up our vistas to countless acquaintances, but meaning we’re less present for the people we’re actually physically with. Yet being Wi-Fi-free meant I was better positioned to be connected to those near me. I still had my selfish desires to deal with, but I couldn’t flit my time and attention between those around me and those on my screen.

5. The joy of realising I’m not in control.

I’m convinced one of the attractions of social media is staying connected. Whether it be with other people or just with the news, I’ve grown used to feeling the need to both keep up and keep in touch. Maybe it’s just severe FOMO,

but there’s a desire within me to be aware of what’s going on. Going Wi-Fi-free meant suddenly I was forced to confront the reality that I’m not in control, despite the impression social media can give. Life goes on, whether or not I see that status or tweet or news article. Surprise, surprise: the world is a big place and it has an even bigger God to keep it spinning. Me? I’m just a little creature, limited and bound to a particular place and time. And anything that reminds me who I really am has got to be good for me.

Have you had a Wi-Fi-free experience this summer? What have you learnt from the experience?

Written by Robin Ham // Follow Robin on  Twitter //  That Happy Certainty

Robin is a big avocado fan. He thinks the pen is mightier than the sword, and far easier to write with. He is currently a church-planter in Barrow-in-Furness. Amongst his greatest achievements are having his first band played on Chinese radio, becoming a dad, and being told he has the dress-sense of an Oxfam model.

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