How often do you check your Smartphone?
We seldom find ourselves in places that don’t offer Internet access or phone signals these days. We carry Smartphones to work and to school. We glance at our Smartphones while we’re shopping and send text messages while driving. We have many small interactions with our Smartphones each day; but, some people spend hours checking e-mail messages and spend even more hours deeply engrossed in social media. If you’ve wondered if your Smartphone is taking over your life, here are some things you can try:
- Talk now. You can always text later, or tweet later, or email later. God wants us to put healthy boundaries around our times of leisure, our times with friends and family members, times when we’re sharing meals with other people, and times when we’re taking our “Sabbath-rest.” We often fail to fully “enjoy the moment” when we’re living with our Smartphone in our hand. And, here’s a thought: “Why do we always assume that Smartphone-interruptions are more important than what we’re doing at the moment?”
- Take a phone-free day. Part of learning to master the use of our Smartphones is learning the art of self-control. Every Smartphone has an “off” button; and yet, we are often unwilling to use it. How in the world can we escape the fear of “missing something important”? How in the world can we fight the dopamine surge that hits us when someone “likes” something we post or when someone re-tweets one of our thoughts? We’re driven to make snap decisions when we’re carrying Smartphones. Have you ever found it difficult to refrain from instantly responding to your Smartphone’s last beep or vibration? Perhaps, it’s time for you to break that routine. Use the power button on your Smartphone more often. Or, if that seems to be totally impossible, perhaps you could switch your Smartphone into “airplane mode” and relax for a few hours? Who’s actually in control—you or your Smartphone?
- Avoid searching for answers to every question. Embrace serendipity. Just think about how many interesting conversations you might have if you stopped trying to answer every question you have by searching for the answer on your Smartphone. People are fascinating and we can learn many things by simply interacting with other people. When was the last time that you asked someone for a set of directions? When was the last time that you asked someone to help you, or to explain something that you didn’t understand? Person-to-person interaction can be far more exciting than staring into your Smartphone’s flat screen. Why not give it a try?
- Keep your Smartphone off the table. God created us to share our lives with other people. And yet, we’re often tempted to snub other people by paying attention to our Smartphone when we’re sitting in the presence of others. Having dinner with a friend or family member is about far more than ingesting the calories. Dining with a friend or family member is an “occasion.” Have you ever been offended by a person who left their Smartphone on the table while you were sharing a meal? What are we saying to our friends and family members about the priorities in our lives when we leave our Smartphone on the dinner table while we are spending time with them, so that we can instantly respond to an unexpected call or text message? Maybe it’s best to keep your Smartphone out of sight (and out of mind) when you’re sharing precious moments with your friends and family?
- Look before you snap. I love to take pictures of my granddaughter; but, I’ve also learned that “living life” through the lens of my Smartphone steals the very moments in life that I’m trying to capture. I want to experience important times and moments, but I’ve learned that I don’t need to document everything. Living memories are even more precious. When important things are happening, why not simply live the moment intensely and entirely—and enjoy the memory?
- Don’t be afraid to kiss your Smartphone goodnight. It’s always going to be tempting to pick-up your Smartphone one last time. But, did you know that your Smartphone emits blue light, which your brain associates with daylight? This type of exposure can wreak havoc on your body’s clock. The last link that you visited, or the last tweet, or the last email, or the last text message can affect your sleep pattern for hours. Is your last game of “Candy Crush Saga”—your end-of-the-day series of text messages—or that last group of e-mail exchanges really necessary?
Adopting a special “Code of Conduct” can’t solve every problem. But being mindful and more attentive to the patterns in our lives can help us to break out of half-acknowledged habits. Smartphones are habit-forming, and we need to think about the habits we want to form. There are things in life that are worse than missing a telephone call. There are things in life that are worse than discovering that there’s a list of e-mails waiting for you after your vacation, or after a long weekend with someone you love.
Our “micro-interactions” with Smartphones can steal precious moments that can never be recaptured. And that’s why we need to be “smart” enough to put our Smartphones down for a while, and learn to enjoy the precious gift of life in a different way.