It seems like we’ve all been home forever and there is no clear end in sight. While the rest of our lives have been interrupted, ‘online life’ has been largely uninterrupted. Laptops, tablets, and smartphones have allowed us to work remotely at our jobs, shop online, chat face-to-face, order groceries, meet on Zoom for Bible Study, watch church on Facebook, or download movies and music. In other words, our devices have allowed us to stay engaged with the world and fulfill many activities of our lives online.
With the list above, the world is literally at our fingertips. It’s true that smartphones offer connectivity. But for some, being stuck in your home has caused screen time to rise to unhealthy levels. Actor John Harlan Kim joked, “Weekly report available. You averaged 34 hours of screen time per day last week.
Phil Stamper tweeted, “Thoughts and prayers to everyone who just got their weekly Screen Time report. Is your phone quietly steal your soul during lockdown?
Take a look at the people in your life...are your relationships thriving or sinking? What about that stack of books you wanted to read? Are they collecting dust? How about your fitness activity? Is your yoga mat or treadmill still shoved in a corner? And the most important question, where is your Bible? Better yet, when was the last time you opened it? We all know how easy it is to get sucked into the virtual vortex online, so how do we stop our smartphones from stealing our soul?
Sheer determination? How’s that working out for you?
For some of us sheer ‘willpower and determination” techniques don't work very well. The reason is simple: With all this downtime in quarantine, we can easily become addicted to our phones.
“Smartphones and the social media platforms they support are turning us into bona fide addicts,” according to an article published by Harvard University. If you were an alcoholic, you get the alcohol out of your house. If you’re addicted to casinos, you stay away from those establishments. And if you feel addicted to your phone, even just a little bit, you’ll have a better chance of breaking the habit if you take action. If you aren’t sure it’s an issue, here are a few signs and tips to combat the issue.
1. You Perk Up to Notifications
You know that excited, jumpy feeling you get when you hear your phone chime? That’s dopamine. God created our brains with this amazing chemical to encourage us toward things that are pleasurable and rewarding. And it’s also the reason we get addicted to our phones. So when your phone buzzes, the hopeful surge you feel rushing through your brain is telling you, “You need to check this now.”
Lots of things stimulate dopamine. Hugs from a loved one, your favorite dessert, and even music. But when your brain is wiring itself to the chime of your phone, it’s time to turn off those notifications.
If you don’t feel the vibration of your phone or the sound of the notifications from texts, email, and social media platforms, dopamine loses its power.
It’s time to be honest with yourself. Do you really have to hear about every post, message, or tweet right now? When you think about it, I bet you’ll realize that most of them (maybe even all?) aren’t exactly urgent. Do you know what is urgent? Your time spent in God’s Word.
If you’ve been drawn to your notifications more than your phone, it’s a good idea to get into the settings of your phone to turn them off. The next step is to take a cue from Billy Graham. He kept his Bible open and near him at all times. Leave your Bible on your coffee table or on your office desk, wherever you spend the most time during quarantine, and pray for the desire to thirst for His Word.
2. You Can’t Stand Boredom
As adults, we've had so much going on in our lives before the pandemic that boredom just wasn’t possible anymore, but now it is! And it’s a GOOD thing. Have you ever thought that perhaps social distancing could be God’s gift to not only rewire your brain but take back your soul from the daily hustle?
Boredom is a gift. That’s right, a God-given gift.
Unfortunately for us grownups, we could be missing out on a lot by not being bored. Researchers believe that being bored can lead to some of our most original thoughts. Boredom encourages people's minds to wander, leading them to more associative and creative ways of thinking. In fact, being bored is both a warning that we are not doing what we want to be doing and on the flip side, it is what truly motivates us to switch goals and projects.
It gives us a chance to hear that still small voice.
Some believe that boredom can lead us to do altruistic things. When we're bored, we lack perceived meaning in our activities and circumstances. This, they say, triggers us to search elsewhere to re-establish our self-meaning of our God-given purpose, calling, and gifts.
When you put the phone down, it opens your eyes to the environment around you. People, textures, colors, sounds, or different shades of greens, browns and blues outside your front door. It opens your mind to the present and becoming comfortable living in the moment--the way God intended. You won’t believe how your perspective will change and the amount of gratitude that will come.
3. You Feel a Sense of Loss When Separated from Your Phone
You, my friend, have what is known as Smartphone separation anxiety. If you’ve ever been forgetful enough to leave your phone at home for the day or lost it completely, chances are you have felt smartphone separation anxiety. If you feel the same way during quarantine because your phone is upstairs and you’re on the couch, it’s definitely a telltale sign of an unhealthy connection to your device. It sometimes seems as if our phones function like an extra limb on our body. The average person touches their phone 2,617 times a day but that’s just the average user. Some touch their device up to 5,400 times daily and this is on the rise during quarantine.
We weren’t meant to live with anxiety. We were designed to commune with God. If your phone is causing anxiety when separated from it, or it’s always within an arm's length, put it down.
Set aside time every day to be away and off of your phone.
When you budget money, you don’t ban yourself from spending money ever. You budget a certain amount to spend while the rest goes into savings. This gives you the freedom to shop without guilt. Time is the same way. If you know you’ve given yourself 20 minutes to check texts and Voxer at 2 p.m., it’ll be easier to put your phone down at 10 a.m. This allows you to respond to messages that need responses but, on your terms, not that anxious feeling.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Ridofranz
4. Virtual Relationships Trump Real Relationships
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Do you roll over and kiss your spouse? Or do you grab your phone and start scrolling through social media or checking emails? Or what about this scenario: Your kids ask you a question, you reply, “Yeah, uh-huh just a second.” They pester repeatedly but get the same response.
Chances are you’ve been sucked into the virtual vortex on your phone.
We’re so focused on maintaining virtual relationships with people that aren’t in the room, that we don’t realize how it’s hindering our real relationships. It means we aren’t giving our full attention to those we’re actually, physically with. Have you ever wondered how cell phone affects relationships? Or perhaps, the better question to ask, has your phone injured relationships during quarantine?
Another sign is your significant other telling you they feel neglected. Do others ever ask you to put your phone down and it's becoming a source of tension? Typically, the big three disputes for couples are usually about sex, money, and kids but it seems smartphones could be on the rise, especially during quarantine. Being plugged into our devices means we aren’t truly present in the moment.
Remember what it was like to really look into the eyes of your partner? What about those inside jokes? Maybe you’ve forgotten what it feels like to be deeply connected because your phone replaced your partner.
It’s time to put the phone down and remember what it felt like to be in relationships.
Photo Credit: ©Courtney Clayton/Unsplash
Heather Riggleman is an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor for Crosswalk. She calls Nebraska home with her three kids and a husband of 22 years. She believes Jazzercise, Jesus, and tacos can fix anything and not necessarily in that order! She is author of I Call Him By Name Bible Study, the Bold Truths Prayer Journal, Mama Needs a Time Out, and a contributor to several books. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com or on Facebook.