Am I Addicted To My Phone?

My phone and I seem to be a little codependent these days.

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That’s why I love it when my husband is free so we can drive together to events. Awww…you’re thinking…what a couple of lovebirds. I hope I’m like that when I’m as old as they are… 

I hate to disillusion you, but it’s not so much that I treasure his company. I simply like it when he can be my chauffeur so I can use the car as my private office. It gives me a chance to check my email and return some texts and pop into Facebook and take a glance at Twitter and …

He took off his chauffeur hat recently and called me on it, “Do you realize you do that every time we’re in the car together? Are you addicted to that thing?”

I started to protest by claiming that I was just trying to use my time efficiently. But I was busted. I am addicted, and I see it. I whip out my phone often.

  • When I’m at lunch with a friend and she heads to the restroom
  • When I’m waiting in line at Costco
  • When I’m at a stop light (but only at the long ones…)

My default motion throughout the day is to whip out my phone and check something. Anything. Everything.

We’re spending a few posts together talking about Tony Reinke’s new book, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. He opens the book with this quote:

“All things are lawful for me,”

but not all things are helpful.

“All things are lawful for me,”

but I will not be dominated by anything…

“All things are lawful for me,”

but not all things build up.

–Apostle Paul

Using my phone isn’t unlawful, but being addicted to it is.

Distracted By Design

Although each of us is culpable, it’s not all on us. A recent article in The Atlantic exposes what we’ve long suspected, that getting our attention and keeping it is a science that brings big money into the tech companies that use it.

The success of the most addictive apps depends on their ability to trigger our “deep-seated human needs.” It’s our time they want, because that time translates to money. So they hijack our best intentions with the digital equivalent of junk food–salt, sugar, and plenty of fat.

Knowing this doesn’t mean we can shift the blame to them. But it does let us know what we’re up against.

The enemy is out there as well as inside us.

What Am I Avoiding?

We test our appetite every time we open the refrigerator–or our handheld device. What am I choosing? But even more revealing, what am I avoiding?

Reinke suggests we’re choosing to be distracted so that we can (pp. 43-44):

  1. keep work away
  2. keep people away
  3. keep thoughts of eternity away

If you’ve ever sat down at your desk and thought, “I’ll just check email…” you know the pull of avoiding work. A mom with young children deals with the temptation of avoiding those little people many times during her busy day. Her phone promises a mini retreat.

But I hadn’t thought much about the third avoidance. Is it just a topic that the secular person wants to keep at arms length? Or do I use my phone to block thoughts about eternity, too?

From Addiction to Anticipation

I’m not afraid to think about eternity. But when I’m busy with the now, the hope of the world to come doesn’t seem very real to me. I know it’s true, but I’m not thinking about:

  • the nearness of Christ’s return
  • the finality of judgment
  • the hope of glory
  • the fulness of joy

No, instead I am completely absorbed, not just in the important here and now of my work, but in the stupid here and now of all the data bits that dance across my screen shouting me, me, me, me, ME!

What if I took a break, as Reinke suggests (p. 47), and held my hand out in front of me face up, fingers together? That is a hands breadth. It is how much time my whole life takes up on the timeline of eternity that stretches from horizon to horizon.

“Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” Psalm 39:5

Compare that brevity to the infinite joy that awaits each one who has placed his or her hand in Jesus’ own nail-scarred hands. Then take a deep breath and let that change of perspective fill your lungs and brain and heart for a moment.

“The beauty of Christ calms us and roots our deepest longings in eternal hopes that are far beyond what our smartphones can ever hope to deliver.” (p. 50)

Anticipation of the joy set before us is the only substance powerful enough to challenge our addictions.

When do you feel most addicted to your phone?  What trigger could you use to switch your focus to anticipation?

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