We are living in the midst of a strange cultural shift.
For over 100 years the telephone was kept on a leash. I can remember as a seventh grader having a conversation in the living room closet with a girl I had a crush on because that was the farthest distance I could get from my brothers to have an uninterrupted conversation. I had to run the phone cord under the door before I closed it to try and get some privacy.
I can remember dropping a quarter into a payphone after going to the movies with my friends to call my mom and have her pick us up. Phones were literally kept on a leash at all times. Even when the first cordless phones came out you were still pretty much leashed to your house because the range on them was so limited.
It’s strange to think that just over 20 years ago if someone wasn’t at their house you would really have no way of getting ahold of them. All of your communication with that person was either face to face or through a phone on a leash in your living room. As you know, all of that has now changed. Approximately 95% of Americans own a cell phone of some kind, and 77% of them own a smart phone.
Phones are no longer kept on a leash, but the problem is now they have us on a leash. People can’t seem to live a single moment of their day without their phones.
When we fall asleep at night we sleep next to our phones (think for a second about how weird this is). When we wake up in the morning the first thing we do is grab our phones. Every time we leave the house we take our phone. When we’re out to dinner with our friends, we’re on our phones. When we’re watching Netflix we’re also scrolling through our phones (how bored are we?). When we’re at a red light we glace down at our phones. When the first second of boredom sets in we instantly reach for our phones.
Before we take our first bite of food at a nice restaurant we grab our phones to let all our “friends and followers” know what we’re having for dinner (as if they really care). Let’s be real, even when were on the toilet we’re on our phones. I could go on and on but I think you get the point. Phones are no longer just something we grab once or twice a day to make a call, but something that’s with us every second of every day.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
It’s honestly kind of sad to think that kids growing up in this generation will never know the feeling of genuine boredom. Remember growing up when you actually got bored and had to be creative and use your imagination to think of something to do? Remember when you actually used to go across the street to your neighbor’s house to play with other kids? Remember when you used to go on long road trips with your family and the only thing you could do for hours was read a book, play the ABC game, or I spy? Remember when you used to ask your parents about stuff you didn’t know and not Siri? Remember when going to bed actually meant you lay in bed with nothing to do?
Remember when your friends were actually the people you hung out with after school and not just someone who liked your photo? Remember when we used to eat our food and not take pictures of it on our phones? Remember when going a date was the result of actually having a great conversation with someone face to face rather than swiping right after seeing 1,000 people you weren’t interested in? Remember when we used to have real feelings and not just emojis? Remember when you used to get back from vacation and have to tell people how rad it was because they hadn’t already seen every second of it on your story? I do, and I kind of miss it.
Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-phone, however I will say that I think we have become a lot more attached to our phones than is healthy. I think if we’re completely honest with ourselves most people would say that their phone has them on a leash. You may think you have control over your phone but in reality, your phone controls you.
Think about it: every time it vibrates or beeps you immediately have to grab it and look at it. Every time a notification pops up on your home screen it captures your full attention and distracts you from what you were previously doing. The average American checks their phone 80 times per day and the average millennial checks their phone around 150 times per day. The truth is, we have a serious FOMO problem.
FACE THE FACTS
So where do we go from here? Phones are not going away any time soon and so we have to figure out what a healthy relationship with our phone should look like (and yes, you are in a relationship with your phone and it wears the pants). I wish I could just give you a simple answer for what healthy boundaries should look like, or tell you the appropriate amount of time we should allow ourselves to engage with our phones, but honestly, it’s going to be different for every person.
I think for starters we need to look at how much we have been using our phones and come to the personal realization that we’re addicted. I can’t convince you or tell you that you need to cut back unless you see it for yourself. Once you admit that you have a problem just like the rest of us, the next step would be to prayerfully consider what a healthy amount of time spent on the phone per day should look like for you. I mean this in all seriousness: ask the Lord how much time He wants you to be on your phone.
I think if we start there we will begin to take some steps in the right direction. May the Lord grant us wisdom and discernment to walk in the plans He has for us, and redeem the time that He’s entrusted us.