Putting down the electronic device

Screen shot of Kardashian app / video game showing Dawn's avatar at a photo shoot.

I can admit that I have been obsessed with the Kim Kardashian game. If you’re not familiar with it, “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” is an app in which you – or at least a fantasy avatar version of you – have a chance encounter with the one and only Kim K., which sends you on the path to stardom. Michelle Dean at Gawker explains it well.

Now, I would hardly label myself a Kim Kardashian fan; I find her family’s reality show, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” mildly entertaining because I think it’s an interesting study in celebrity and self-parody. But I’ve only ever seen a handful of episodes. I’ve never purchased – or even been tempted to purchase – anything from the Kardashian sisters’ clothing or cosmetic lines, and I didn’t see Kim’s record-breaking Instagram wedding photo until the media proper picked it up.

To be perfectly honest, I only started playing this game because: A) in the last few weeks, most of my favorite journalists (Ann Friedman!) have written about it; and B) my boyfriend was out of town last week, so my evenings were suddenly very free, but I was too drained to tackle the copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma I had started reading last month while waiting (and waiting and waiting) at the DMV.

So that’s how, last week, I found myself consumed each night (okay, okay . . . and during my lunch break) with tapping on my phone screen like a mad woman so I could earn the points necessary to pose and network myself up to the celebrity A-list.

I don’t normally play games on my phone, so the last week has been an informative experience – especially in light of the piece Sr. Kathleen Bryant wrote for the Global Sisters Report about detoxing in the digital age. In describing the pervasiveness of the Internet, Bryant talks about feeling drained at the end of a long day, yet somehow managing to muster up the energy to check email anyway.

And that’s kind of how I feel about the Kim Kardashian game.

As I mentioned, one of the reasons I started playing was that I was too mentally exhausted to read a book of substance. And yet, this game – regardless of the lessons it may teach about vanity and image – is not mindless. Part of what has me hooked is the fact that it’s a game of strategy, one that requires several levels of thinking in order to advance. And if I can do that for hours, why not read a book instead? Why not spend those hours in quiet contemplation?

After a grant to study contemplation in the digital world, Bryant found that the best way to break the Internet’s hold on us is to immerse ourselves in beauty and nature. Luckily, I was forced to do that last weekend when one of my college friends got married.

Because she’s a Presbyterian pastor, the ceremony was beautifully liturgical, (she actually wrote the call to confession herself) and the Gospel message was woven throughout. Additionally, the wedding was in Toledo, Ohio, where toxic levels of algae made the city’s water undrinkable and, for a time, untouchable. For me, that brought into sharp focus the power of God’s creation; I mean, it’s funny how quickly you come to understand water’s inherent beauty when you can’t have any.

In many ways, last weekend was a mini-retreat. Because I drove the 700 miles between Kanas City and Toledo, I was forced to put down my phone on Friday and Sunday. At the ceremony on Saturday, I was able to sit quietly and soak in the word of God. And although I would prefer to meditate on the beauty of God’s creation while still being able to bathe, I think the time spent in waterless Toledo was good for me as well.

I haven’t played the Kim K. game in five days, and in those five days, I’ve been able to recalibrate as Bryant suggests. Will I go back to playing it this week? Probably. But will it consume my life again? No. The game, like any other form of entertainment, provides a break from my day. It stimulates my brain, and it’s fun. But I’ve had a good detox and think I can find balance again.

[Dawn Cherie Araujo is a staff reporter for Global Sisters Report.]

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