Force Quit

Michael Metzger

A Force Quit might be one of the good things that occurred in Covid-19.

When I open the Apple icon on my computer, the drop-down menu features a Force Quit option. Useful when you can’t quit a program. I feel we’re seeing people select this option during Covid-19. Mostly in youth activities and tech—and maybe work.

Take youth activities. In a CivicScience poll of more than 2,600 parents, 31 percent of families said they are quitting some of the activities they participated in before the pandemic. Some are quitting them all, preferring to prioritize family time. Don’t know if it will last, but Covid-19 was a Force Quit, shutting down many of these activities, maybe for good.

This is true of youth sports. The Aspen Institute reports that a growing number of youth have no interest in returning to the primary sport they played pre-pandemic—nearly 3 in 10 now. Covid-19 Force Quit hectic sports league schedules that helicopter parents made mandatory. Turns out, 3 in 10 kids don’t like ‘em, preferring playing in the neighborhood.

Covid-19 has Force Quit some families in taking a tech sabbath. Technology’s inherently good, but there is a such a thing as too much of a good thing. As Covid-19 ramped up the time people spend on the ‘net, some families began to quit spending too-much-time on tech.

Tiffany Shlain and her husband have been doing this with their two daughters for 11 years. The author of 24/6: Giving up Screens One Day a Week to Get More Time, Creativity and Connection says “taking full day off each week resets our tech usage. It’s like a muscle—the more you practice it, the easier it gets.” Covid-19 pushed some folks into tech sabbaths.

This comes none too soon for Generation Z. Numerous studies confirm that time online, especially on social media, and the closely related decline of in-person socializing account for today’s teens’ high rates of anxiety, depression and self-harm. Jean Twenge has called Generation Z “the loneliest generation on record” (check out the image on her website).

Last but not least, let me throw out another possible Force Quit: the “iron cage” of western capitalism. Talcott Parsons coined “iron cage” in translating Max Weber’s The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Weber felt western capitalism organizes and measures space and time as never before in human history. This relentless maximizing of time and efficiency traps workers in an iron cage of productivity and long hours.

Not healthy. The World Health Organization found that people who work 55+ hours a week have a 35 percent higher risk of stroke and 17 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease. The cause is high stress, which is often found in highly successful people, at least financially successful. It’s a hidden cost of a consumerist society that few talk about.

Those who do lay the blame mostly on modern western societies failing to understand why God calls us to sabbath. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said modern society imagines “space” and “time” differently than ancient societies. Older societies recognize time and space cease to exist in eternity.[1] This eternal perspective governs how they understand space and time on earth, including the need to regularly sabbath in order to perceive how to best cultivate the earth. This view is seen in pre-Enlightenment faith traditions that founded capitalism.

The Protestant Work Ethic is more recent. It coincides with the Enlightenment, a mechanistic view of society. This created a mechanistic view of capitalism, one that seeks to control the earth but hardly cultivates an eternal perspective. It’s mostly about efficiency.

The Protestant Work Ethic treats “space” as something to be filled (i.e. market share) and “time” as something to be organized. The aim is getting the highest return on investment. This ethic has resulted in impressive innovations and earnings (for some), but at the cost of trapping an inordinate percentage of workers worldwide in an iron cage of exhausting work.

Freeing workers from this iron cage requires a Force Quit, a Sabbath, rooted in pre-Enlightenment understandings of capitalism. Rabbi Heschel captured much of it. And so did Senator Marco Rubio in 2019. More on that next week.


[1] C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Cambridge University Press, 1964)


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