BY REV. KURT TRUCKSESS - CROSSWINDS CHRUCH — SPIRIT LAKE
Statistics claim we check our smartphone 81,500 times a year, about every 4.3 minutes of our waking lives. In many ways, this is easy to understand. Our lives are consolidated on our phone: Weather, calendar, shopping, workouts, email and a camera — all in the palm of our hand.
One of the most frequently used apps is Facebook. In 2014, 70 percent of Facebook users used the app on a daily basis. That is more than 1 billion people with the same compulsive routine. The average Facebook user spends 50 minutes a day using the app. This world-wide addiction to distraction is not without consequence. Behavioral scientists tell us the more addicted you are to your phone, the more prone you are to depression and anxiety. You also have less ability to concentrate at work and sleep at night. The danger of digital distraction is real.
Why is the distraction of our phone so popular? What are digital distractions doing to us? What can we do to stop them? Let’s find out.
One of the reasons we love digital distraction is because it helps us keep away work. We procrastinate around hard things, like work deadlines, tough conversations, laundry and school papers. Social media is a way to avoid hard work. We would rather watch a YouTube video than make dinner, or reconcile our check book.
We don’t just use digital distractions to keep work away. We use digital distractions to keep people away. God calls us to love our neighbor, but we use our phone to withdraw from our neighbor. With our phones, we let everyone know we wish we were with someone else instead of the person in front of us. In a meeting, if my phone is put away, I am engaged and attentive. If my phone is face-up on the table, I am immediately distracted by someone outside of the room that apparently has something more important to say than the person talking to me. If I am scrolling through texts while in a meeting or checking emails, I project open dismissiveness to everyone else in my presence, since what they have to say is not worthy of my undivided attention. When away from work, it is easy to use the distraction of our phone to avoid associating with the lowly and hard-to-love people around us. We retreat to our phones, projecting scorn for difficult situations and boring people.
We don't just use our phones as a distraction to keep away unpleasant work, and to withdraw from the neighbor God calls us to love. We let the distraction of our phones keep us from the silence and self-reflection needed to hear from the Holy Spirit. When we are always distracted, we have no time to reflect on life and what we have become. When we have no silence, we don’t hear the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit that provides conviction of sin and guidance for life.
The level of our addiction to smartphone distraction can be measured by the feeling we experience when our phone is taken away. The moment our phone’s battery runs dry, or we can't get a good Internet signal, we panic as we face the possibility of solitary confinement and withdraw from our digital drug — the smartphone.
What can we do about the distraction of our phone in this digital age? Let me offer a few words of advice.
When you are home, put away the phone. We don't have to be always available for an instant response. God calls us to love our neighbor as ourself. Give your undivided attention to the flesh-and-blood neighbor in front of you instead of the digital neighbor trying to distract you. This is hard, but it is good. It is a matter of loving your neighbor. This is especially important around your spouse and children. Be fully present in the real world with them instead of constantly distracted by a virtual world that takes you away from them.
Master your phone. Don't let your phone master you. Our phone is a wonderful tool, but it is a harsh master? Understand that our phone, and the apps on it, were designed to take our time, not free up our time. Our phones are designed to become masters of our life. Refuse to let your phone be your master. Turn off notifications so your phone isn't a distraction. Spend time away from your phone. Read a paper book instead of a digital one. Use your phone as a tool that serves you, and don't let it control you.