My iPhone is Eating My Life!
Once a year, I get the “Most Unpopular Youth Pastor” award when I tell the teens they can’t use their smartphones on the bus ride to camp. “What?! Are you serious? What if I just want to listen to music and chill?” Teens aren’t the only ones who feel like they can’t live without their phones: 84% of cellphone users say they can’t go a single day without their device, and the average American checks his device 100 times a day (that’s about every 6 minutes). The church has a new addiction on its hands. Without becoming Amish, how can we practically balance our technology usage?
Consider the constant-connection cost. Self-control starts by believing this is a battle worth fighting. Parents, please do not slash your teen’s smartphone time without helping him see how life could be better without it. Research shows heavy smartphone usage can cause us to be out of touch with reality. If a smart phone is visible while having a conversation, people tend to stay superficial in their conversation because they assume their phones will interrupt them. Many fall asleep with phone in hand wanting to be available for the next notification causing sleep loss. Social media can cause dissatisfaction while one looks at others’ happy moments from his seat in the real world. Yet, despite all its costs, the smartphone can be a helpful tool so it needs to be used responsibly.
Go old school. Just because your smartphone could replace every device sold at Radio Shack 15 years ago, doesn’t mean it should. I dislike clutter, but relying on our phones for everyday tasks creates more opportunities to be distracted by its beeps and buzzes. Many of us use our phones as alarm clocks, and it can be easy to see a notification while turning off your alarm and have a 15 minute distraction first thing in the morning. You can start off small by replacing your smart phone with the alarm clock or whatever that one thing is that would keep you more connected to reality. Of course the ultimate old school reunion would be replacing your smartphone with a dumb phone. This may seem radical, but it is a movement that is catching momentum as business executives see the cost of constant connection. For me, I would miss the camera and GPS so how can I start exercising self-control?
Have a plug in schedule. First off, keep your app notifications to a minimum. You don’t need to be alerted whenever someone likes your Facebook status. Every time your phone beeps or chimes, you are distracted from reality. Maybe you should take it a step further. Consider only checking your phone at set times of the day. You could leave it on “Do Not Disturb” the rest of the day helping you be present with others and focused on important tasks. Do Not Disturb will silence all notifications while still collecting them for you to check on your time. Plus, for iPhone users, Do Not Disturb will be bypassed if someone calls you two times in a row. But what if they need to reach me? Being available to your family is important so let them know your phone schedule and an alternative way to contact you (e.g.office landline), but trying to remain available to others “just in case they need you” can be a dangerous mindset that needs to be checked.
As believers we are called to run towards knowing God and making Him known. Hebrews 12:1 checks us for any hindrances “…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Is your smart phone a weight or a help to you in this great race? If it’s a weight, take action to lay it aside so you can run!