I find it ironic that the very devices that are supposed to save us time and make our lives easier actually have the exact reverse effect. If you have access to read this blog, there is a good chance you also have immediate access to texts, email, news updates, social media, and more. Am I saying that your iPhone is evil? That your iPad or smart phone should share the blame? No. I’m saying that you’re in control of your electronics, and it’s time to stop letting those devices rule your time and your life.
You might be thinking to yourself that this is not an issue for you, and you’re already thinking of who you know who needs to read this article, but before you are so quick to highlight someone else’s problem, may I suggest you take a quick inventory of your own habits? (Matt. 7:3-5)
My point is not to help you figure out whether or not you’re in control of your electronics. With a little soul searching and asking those closest to you, you can probably figure that at out on your own. Instead, I’d like to discuss five reasons – inspired by my own personal experience and observations – of why I think this is such an important topic.
Constantly checking your phone every time you receive an alert kills your productivity and causes you to take longer to complete a single task.
I call this stop-start behavior, and I first noticed it in my own life rather than in others. Allow me to illustrate. You’re cooking dinner, and you’re trying to follow a recipe you’ve never made before. You are in the middle of reading step 2, and you hear your phone chirping. Your phone is within arm’s reach, of course, so you pick it up only to find out that your friend Jessica likes a picture that someone you don’t even know posted on Facebook. But oh, Jessica updated her profile picture, and you feel an urgent need to go look at that, so you click on it.
Then you start reading all the comments people have posted on how awesome her new picture is. After posting your own comment, you click on over to your home page for a “quick” scan of the news feed. After numerous finger scrolls down the page, you find yourself interested in an article that a friend has shared, so you click on that link. Not realizing how long the article is, you start to read it, and halfway through the article, you receive a text from your mom. As if the text were going to fly away if you didn’t read it right then, you respond immediately and then find yourself in an ongoing text conversation.
After several minutes of this, you suddenly remember that you are supposed to be cooking dinner. You get the point, and I’d like to say that I am exaggerating, but unfortunately I’m really not.
Clearly, when you stop and start what you’re doing, it takes you a whole lot longer to complete even the simplest of tasks. The messages and alerts you receive will still be waiting for you when you have a chance to view them.
As children, we are taught to “Stop, Drop, and Roll!” if we ever find ourselves on fire. As adults, we have translated that to “Stop, Drop, and Respond!” when your phone lights up. I realize this is very tempting behavior, but it is absolutely a thief of your precious time.
And speaking of stealing away your time, when you are enslaved to your electronics, it causes you to take away time from other, more important things in your life.
What things are you missing out on because you are so attached to your phone or iPad? Does it keep you from working out? Starting an organization or DIY project around the house? Spending quality time with your spouse or loved ones? Volunteering your time? We are only given so much time here on Earth. It’s up to us to use it wisely. Do we really need to know what our Facebook “friends” are doing all the time, what they are feeling, and what things they like? Wouldn’t that time be better spent pursuing our own spouse and investing in friendships in real life?
Another problem I see and have experienced myself is that our ability to constantly connect to so many people and messages can cause us to have unexpected emotion in response to what we’ve seen.
Sure, this reason might reveal a bit of our own immaturity or insecurity, but it is a distraction nonetheless. If you are in the middle of trying to accomplish something and then become enraged by something you see on Facebook or in the news, all of a sudden that seemingly simple task seems nearly impossible to complete. You were doing just fine before that, having a good day, enjoying what you were doing free from distractions, but now your day is wrecked because of what you saw on your phone. Just think how much better the rest of your day would have been if you hadn’t given in to instant gratification.
These habits can also lead to conflict in meaningful relationships.
I will concede that our electronics can be extremely helpful and convenient. These days, their capabilities are pretty much astounding, and in many ways, they can make our lives easier. However, something I have observed is that many times a person will pick up their phone, for example, look up the information they legitimately need, but instead of putting the phone away after that, they continue to use it as a recreational device. Under certain circumstances or seasons of life, this may not be a big deal, but when it causes you to ignore your family and steal time away from them, that’s when it becomes a problem.
The final reason I believe that we need to stop letting our electronics rule our lives is because we all need some “unplugged” quiet time.
Just because we have the capability of being reached at nearly all times does not mean that we have to be available to the world at all times. It’s not healthy to think of our cell phone as an extension of our being. We all need quiet time of some sort, and everybody’s quiet time will look a little different, but I encourage you to carve out time in your life where you purposefully can’t see or hear your phone. That may sound crazy to you, but think how crazy we look to older generations when they see us drop whatever we are doing to respond to a phone when it goes off. It is clear to them who’s in charge.
Whenever a child develops a strong attachment to a blanket, pacifier or stuffed animal, we help them learn how to function without it because we know it’s not healthy for them to be so strongly attached to an object. As adults, I believe we need to hold ourselves to this same standard.
If you want less drama, more peace, increased productivity, and more time to invest in meaningful relationships, take charge of your phone, and learn to exercise some self-discipline. You won’t regret it.