Is your phone a piece of glass or a god?
This question cuts deep because many of us know we have a problem with our smartphones. We are turning into screen zombies and losing our humanity in the process.
But is there a better way forward? Can we learn how to enjoy our smartphones as goods, rather than functional gods? I think we can, and here are five steps forward:
1) Fear missing God more than missing out.
On average we check our smartphones every 4 seconds. I think most of that is due to our fear of missing out. FOMO has made us slaves to our notifications. The buzz of a new text message, news story, sale, or comment on social. So we answer all the dings and vibrations, while missing the small still voice of the Lord. Our constant distractedness keeps us from connecting deeply with God, and we often miss Him because we are staring at everyone else. To correct this, we must fear missing God more than we fear missing the buzz in our pocket.
2) Like people more than pixels.
We are commanded to love our neighbors. This means knowing, serving, and helping the people around us, yet often we settle for liking and being liked through glass screens. This interaction feels like true community and friendship, but it is actually a very thin version of the real thing. So take some time this week and trying loving someone apart from a screen, and remember how real human interaction feels.
3) Create more and consume less.
Smartphones turn us into consumers. We consume endless YouTube videos, buy one-click on Amazon, and scroll through endless feeds of trivial content. All this is perfectly ok in moderation, but often moderation turns into digital gluttony. To fight this we need to remember that God made us to be creators, not mere consumers. In Genesis 1-2 God made us to work, keep, and rule over the garden. So fight the craving to constantly consume, and put your phone down and go mirror God by create something that others can enjoy.
4) Be present in public, and alone in private.
It’s been said that smartphones allow us to be “private in public, and public in private.” We now wait in lines starting at screen, rather than striking up conversations with those around us. We eat meals circled around tables starting at backlit screens, rather than eyeballs. Then we go home with the whole world in our bedroom through social media and the internet.
This needs to change. We must learn the art of being present where we are. We must stop answering texts while talking to another human being face-to-face, or checking email on commute instead of looking at trees and smiling at people. Then we must cultivate the discipline of actually being alone. Learning to spend our alone time with God, reading, thinking, or just going to bed.
5) Use your phone on purpose not impulse.
As the digital age continues to advance at rapid speed, we must learn to use technology on purpose rather than impulse. We must stop picking up our phones every 4 seconds because they ding or we are bored. We must start using our phones on purpose. Text a friend, check your social, buy a needed product, but then get off your phone and back to real life. The difference between purpose and impulse maybe the best indicator whether you are holding a piece of glass, or holding your functional god.
Because at the end of the day, smartphone addiction is not just a thumb problem, it’s a heart problem. So use your glass well, while worshiping Jesus alone as your God.