I walked into the room and pulled up a chair. It had been at least a year since we had all been together, likely since the last Holiday season. So much to catch up on and talk about.
But as I looked up I saw the tops of everyone’s head. Every single one of them looking down at their phones.
After 15 minutes of this fractured conversation I got up and went into the other room frustrated by the lack of desire for any meaningful connection.
But as I reflected on the situation I realized I had done a similar thing the day before. My face down at my phone for an extended period of time while others were trying to connect with me. I was just as distracted as they were.
That type of distraction is all around us this time of year. At exactly the point in the year where we usually have more time to slow down and reflect on what God has done in our lives, or connect with friends and family more deeply, that’s when our habits of distraction seem to get even worse.
The Distraction Super Machine
While technology is all around us and it seems to spin faster and faster our phones are a special breed of “distraction machine”. Because they provide so many functions that we rely on during the course of our days and because they often live in our pocket always within arms reach they give us both the excuse and opportunity to be constantly distracted.
At a moments notice they can pull us into another world from where we are presently. We’re at the mercy of those notifications that ping to their own timeline and not according to ours.
We’re also accustomed to the distraction of those notifications and so we reach for the phone even when we don’t get one. Or we feel for that phantom phone in our pocket even when it’s not there.
The phone is a special struggle as we seek to live in whole life-giving ways that glorify God. To help us move toward those life-giving things I’d like to suggest 7 things I think we’ll gain if we put our phones down for awhile this season.
7 Things We’ll Gain When We Put Down Our Phones
1. Connect More Deeply. When we choose to give ourselves time away from the superficial interaction of our phones we allow ourselves to connect at a deeper level. It’s what writer Neil Postman called ghost-to-ghost communication. It’s a fraction of ourselves coming through but it’s certainly not a full person-to-person connection. When we lose the distraction of our phones we create more space to connect more deeply. Of course, it doesn’t guarantee that. We still need to make eye contact, ask questions, withhold judgement, and other aspects that allow us to form a connection with someone. But removing the distraction is the first step.
2. Grow in Empathy. Related to the first but worth mentioning separately is that in our age of interacting with each other is devoid of empathy. Most of our interaction is done through what I’ll call mechanical means. A text message, comments on an article, Facebook comments. All of them are lacking that full person connection that helps us to understand where someone is coming from and give them more grace.
3. Better Sleep. Our sleep is suffering from our phones. The blue light that is emitted from it tells our body its daytime. That we should be up and alerts. And the stimuli of emails, Facebook, etc… gets our emotions going when we should be winding down. Putting our phone in another room or across the bedroom is a great first step. We’ll be ready for sleep and wake more refreshed.
4. More Gratitude. Social media can drive us toward very unhealthy comparisons. As humans we’re prone to always be in comparison toward others but social media has 10x’d the opportunity for us to live in constant desire for what others have. As we remove our dependency from our phones I think we’ll be more likely to realize the miracles and blessings that surround us every day and be grateful for them.
5. Margin Time. Our phones can steal our margins of time. A simple check of the time on your phone often leads to an email that needs a response or a text or an article we need to read before we forget. And just like that it’s gone. This margin time is a gift. It’s a time for prayer. A time to move our bodies. A time to perhaps even be bored for a minute. It’s time for our minds to rest.
6. More Joy. When we lose the distraction of our phones for even a few hours we’re able to experience the joy of the present moment more clearly. Even seemingly unimportant moments can be full of miracles and meaning for our lives. An opportunity to anticipate someone’s needs and minister to them which brings more joy. We’ll enjoy each moment more if we’re present and expectant of what God is doing.
7. Rest in God’s Presence. I’ve saved the best for last. We get more of God’s presence when we put down our phones. God’s presence is always with us but cultivating an awareness of that presence is lacking for most of us – myself included. We’re just too busy and too distracted. What’s better than God’s presence? For the follower of Jesus simply nothing is and so we get to experience Him more intimately when we slow down and put away the distraction machine.
I hope I’ve at least started the curiosity to begin of what we might be missing when we’re looking at our phones. It will be a chance to build in rhythms of your life that exclude these devices for a time so we can connect to God, ourselves, and others in more meaningful ways.
The first encouragement is to start with small actions. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a destination in mind. The perfect situation where you’re not pulled toward your phone at all. But it means that you start walking toward that freedom today, right now even. Leave your phone at home for that family get together. Turn it (really) off in your pocket while talking to a friend. Even put it away while in line at Starbucks so you’re open to connecting with a stranger. Start small and see what happens. I think you might be surprised.
The second encouragement is to notice how your phone has changed you. Our call as followers of Christ is to become more like Him and often our phones pull us in other directions against that call. Usually in a very slow and subtle way. Whether we like it or not they are changing us. And so, taking practical steps is only part of the story. We need to be in tune with those heart level changes that have happened and ask God to change our hearts. Hearts that are present to Him, to ourselves, and to those that are in our lives.
If you’re not sure where to start in the quest to overcome your phone’s distraction or need a bit of guidance along the way then join our challenge. I created the Put Down Your Phone and Live 7 Day Challenge as a way for us to walk together and begin to put down our phones and start truly living. We start December 4, 2017. I look forward to having you join us.
Share below – What did I miss? What tips or habits have you put in place to help with your phone use? Jump in and share below.