Have you ever left your house without your phone? If you have, you know the feeling of awkwardness as if you have lost your lifeline to the world. Questions start swirling in your head like “How is anyone going to be able to call me?” “What am I going to do without texting” or “What am I going to do in class without Twitter?” These are all legit questions, but if we take a step back and examine our habits, we have let our phones take hold of our lives.
Over this winter break, I had the opportunity to travel around Europe with a couple of friends. While we were there, we turned off all cellular data on our phone and could only connect to the internet through WiFi. What this meant was a whole lot of time not worrying about who texted us, what others were tweeting, or what picture we should post on Instagram. This time allowed all of us to live in the moment without a phone in our hand trying to document every experience we had or sight we saw. During this time, we sat at lunch and had actual conversations. When on the subway, we were able to ask questions about each other’s lives. For the first time in a long time, our phone was not dictating what we did.
A Too Connected Generation
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my iPhone. I posted plenty of pictures on Instagram and even tweeted about my days in Europe, but my time on my phone was limited. When we were sitting at lunch one day, we all began to realize how great it was to be disconnected. This conversation lead us to realize just how dependent on our phones we are, and how often times, we use them to portray the “fun” we had hanging out with our friends. But in actuality, that fun was just one picture taken for the sole purpose of social media, and the rest of the night we were constantly on our phone checking how many likes that photo received. Instead of hanging out with the friends right in front of us, we were preoccupied seeking the approval of those who follow us in the digital world. Many have dubbed us as the most connected generation. We have information in our hands in the matter of seconds and can communicate with others thousands of miles away, yet studies show that even as it has its advantages, it also leads to isolation, unproductively, and ultimately, making our lives more complicated (Chicago Tribune). I would argue that we are a generation too connected to our phones to be truly connected with people.
Wherever you are, be all there
When I got home from Europe, I came across this quote from Jim Elliot that says, “Wherever you are, be all there.” This hit me hard because as I was thinking about my phone use, I thought about how it draws me away from the present. Every time I pick up my phone, I’m giving less attention to what’s in front of me than what is on my screen. How many times have I neglected a conversation with someone else in order to check my phone? How many times have I given someone only half of my attention because I was more concerned about a text conversation? People need to hear the gospel, and in order to do that, they need to be fully engaged with. One of the simplest ways to show someone you care about them is to keep your phone at bay tip while you are with them. We need to engage with the people around us, and have real, uninterrupted conversations. People need to hear the gospel. Let’s not be too distracted to tell them about it.
Another thing we came to realize was how the digital world has become a new avenue for finding acceptance in others. Think about how often you look at the likes on Instagram or the favorites on Twitter. We have bought into the lie of a false reality. We do everything we can to get the aesthetics of photo right, edit it to bring out all the color, and then post it for others to see a polished, ideal glimpse into our lives. This is not how life is though. We are portraying to others a false identity. Truthfully, we can make ourselves look like who ever we want on media. No one sees the bad, only the good. Our depictions of ourselves on social media is just like model who is photoshopped to remove all blemishes. Now I’m not telling you to stop using filters on Instagram, but I just want to point out that it really doesn’t matter how many likes or favorites your post receives. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have either. What matters is who you are outside of the social world. So lets take some time to disconnect from the false reality and let us invest our time making followers of Christ, not followers of our Twitter page.
This is not a blog post about how terrible social media. I think social media is a great tool to be used, but with limits. Every good thing can become sinful if we allow it to, and the same goes for social media. One of the ways we can protect ourselves from this is by asking God to give us self control and allow us to take practical steps to set boundaries. Some of these may include allowing yourself only a certain amount of time on your phone during the day. Or making it a personal goal to not be on your phone when you are with people. Something that was very helpful for me was fasting from social media for a month. It gave me a new perspective on how to view and use it (A Month Without Social Media). One thing a couple of my friends have done is simply take all social media off their phone, so before class they aren’t looking down on their phone, but instead, they are able to talk to their classmates, make new friends, and engage with those around them. Everyones boundaries will look different, but we all need them.
Live in the Present
Along the same lines as Jim Elliot’s quote, God made us to live life through experiences. And social media should be used for only certain types of experiences, and it would do us good to think about what and why we post (5 Questions to Ask Before Posting to Social Media). As this article says, “Not every great moment needs to be shared. In fact, some of the best times are most enjoyed privately. If we suspend the present in an attempt to capture its beauty in 140 characters or less, we sacrifice our experience of the moment itself.” What makes an experience is not a picture; what makes a picture is the experience. Live the moments for yourself, not for the approval of others. Live life in the now, not for what you are going to post later.