Lately I’ve felt convicted about using my phone too much. I don’t have the answers, but I decided rather than just feel guilty, it was time to do something about it.
Jon Acuff mentioned parents should use our phones the way we want our kids to use their phones. They won’t do what we say, they’ll do what we do. We can’t text and drive and expect them to listen when we say don’t text and drive.
If we look like this now…
We can’t complain if our kids look like this later….
Ours is the first generation of parents with smart phones. We don’t know what we’re dealing with exactly. Already my toddler likes to “text” “swipe” and take photos. He hands me my phone if I leave it in the other room because he’s used to me always having it.
Of course I can justify it. I’m writing! I’m being productive! I’m keeping up with friends! And honestly, I’m so thankful for an easy way to read and write while holding my baby constantly.
But it all looks the same: unengaged.
Same goes if you aren’t a parent. Multitasking on our phones isn’t actually efficient – it just means that whatever we’re doing is suffering. People who are on the phone or texting while at the grocery store have a harder time paying…much less acknowledging the cashier. Always having our phones nearby when we talk to friends creates distraction and distance. Real relationships and real conversations are in danger.
We relate to people differently in real life than we do in text. The ability to empathize, to read emotions and to gain true understanding are restricted to face-to-face interactions, according to the book Reclaiming Conversation.
This book has made me even more aware of how prevalent these everyday distractions are. People in line at the mall. People who are supposed to be driving. People waiting for an appointment.
Apart from relating to others, technology has also changed how we relate to ourselves. Anytime there’s a spare moment or gap in our activity, we turn to the phone. We hardly give ourselves time to be still and alone – to be bored. It’s in boredom that creativity is sparked, both in both children and adults.
For the child psychoanalyst Donald W. Winnicott, a child’s capacity to be bored – closely linked to the child’s capacity to play contentedly alone while in the quiet presence of a parent- is a critical sign of psychological health. Negotiating boredom is a sign of developmental achievement.
I remember when I was younger I’d sit and look out the front window for hours. I was quite content to be alone with myself. What happened to that childlike sense of wonder and contentment?
According to technology critic Alexis Madrigal, rather than be alone with our thoughts, most of us retreat to a numbed state she calls the “Facebook zone” where our minds aren’t completely disengaged, but we’re able to “flow” without any real thinking or difficulty involved. “When you’re on social media, you don’t leave, but you are not sure if you’re making a conscious decision to stay.” Hours go by wasted that could be better spent either alone for self-reflection or engaging with those who are physically present.
So what can we do about this?
Put the phone down for a week or a month. Read a book instead. Look out the window instead. Pray instead. Play with your kids uninterrupted. Maybe allow yourself to log onto the the actual computer to check emails and social media, but only once a day.
Create rather than consume.
Maybe you’re like me and utilize your handheld device to create while holding a child nonstop. Okay, then limit your consumption. If your excuse is creativity, then make a point for a weekly or monthly challenge to create rather than consume on your phone. Take photos, journal, blog, plan, jot down ideas. Don’t shop, browse, scroll, watch videos, or take part in pointless arguments.
Set a timer.
You could alternatively give yourself time limits. Take advantage of time-limiting apps that are out there. This will force you to prioritize your browsing time and be more productive with your usage.
Not around the kiddos.
This is what I plan to do. To intentionally set down my phone and be present with my kiddos this month. Maybe I’ll get bored, but that’s okay. Maybe I’ll read them more stories or catch up on some journaling. No message is so pressing it can’t wait until nap-time or bedtime.
Take the challenge.
Join me and Josh on a self-imposed phone challenge this month. Choose any of the variations listed above or create your own rules to address your own weaknesses. Be proactive. If you feel like you have a phone / media problem, don’t just accept it. Change something. Challenge yourself. It’s within your control. If you’d like to commit to this challenge, let me know and let’s hold one another accountable.
I’m writing about this because I’m personally not very good at it yet. This will force me to be more aware and hands-on with my kiddos. Not gonna lie, I’m writing this right now on my phone! Gonna wrap things up and go play now!
Here’s to owning up to our weaknesses and making positive changes!