A friend texted me late at night one evening after the 5th time I told them I was going to sleep but could see that I was still yet on my phone, “Erin, you’re enslaved to your phone.”
And they were right. Are right. I am enslaved to my phone.
It’s a problem so entrenched in our culture that I barely bat an eye. I’m tempted to respond with, “who isn’t?”. Yet that response is quite unhelpful to my heart.
“Just because everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” – my mother.
Okay I don’t remember how many times I heard that phrase growing up, and like most things my mom was right. Just because everyone else seems to be glued to their phones, walking around like zombies, and staying up way too late double-clicking photos on instagram should I? Nope.
A lot has been written about the impact that technology has in our society, our human psyche and even our faith. I’m still hoping to get my hands on this book (yes, book – I refuse to buy an e-reader) by Tony Reinke called 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You.
The impact of my phone is larger than I realize, for good and bad. I love getting to connect and communicate with loved ones when they’re halfway across the world or have access to inspiring leaders and teachers in other places. Yet, I need to remind myself that my phone isn’t real life. My online life and presence is a shadow of my true self. My mask, what I want the world to see. That’s not intrinsically wrong but something to keep in check. A device is needed to help us connect but shouldn’t be replaced with real in-person interactions to do ALL our connecting.
These are 2 reminders that I need in order to live my true and best life offline and in-person:
1. There is value in privacy
The truth is, 2018 has been an amazing year. And if you looked at my instagram feed (or stories) you would see the bare minimum, surface level stuff that I’ve skimmed off the surface. You may not know that, since I try to be vulnerable and sincere in what I post. But there’s way more under the surface that the internet hasn’t seen. And that should be true of every person. We need healthy boundaries in what we post and share.
There are people and things in my life that require more privacy in this season and that’s a beautiful thing. I realized the depth of this in January when I wasn’t posting on my Instagram stories everyday (which had been my pattern in the past). Simply put, my daily life experiences were just too private to share publicly. For now at least.
I still live in community and the people who live and work and do life with me know everything that’s going on – and they should. The larger world doesn’t need flashy reminders of every relationship and activity in my life. God knows what’s happening. I know what’s happening. The people around me know what’s happening. That’s enough.
2. Most significant conversations need to happen face to face.
I fall into a habit where I would text a friend, “How are you?” or check in with a situation that I knew about. Next thing I knew we were texting back and forth talking in depth about whatever was going on in their life. But that texting conversation about X issue isn’t as meaningful or helpful as in person.
Instead I’ve started fighting the tyranny of the urgent of feeling like I need to know right then and there, and made plans to connect with them in person to talk then. I don’t need to hear the details of my friend’s date over text, but I can wait until the next day when I see them at the gym.
I want to do regular life with the people around me face-to-face. Even when that’s impossible (in travel or living far away), I’ve discovered different levels of communication.
texting -> phone call -> video call -> in person
Texting for me needs to be bare minimum, a stepping block to get to one of the other ways to connect. Making plans to see or talk to each other for instance. The best friendships are built over presence, showing up and connecting. It takes intentional investment in another person. Texting isn’t true presence. It’s a mirage.
I need to accept texting for the limits that it has and stop pretending that it can offer more than it was ever created to.
Honestly, I don’t want to be enslaved by my phone and I don’t want my heath and relationships to suffer for it. Props to all my friends who are fasting social media for Lent – that’s super hard! I probably could do some mini-fasts or leaving my phone at home in doing errands or going to the gym.
Until then I hope these 2 reminders will help my relationships flourish and grow.