Where Did the Time Go?
How many of us wish there were more hours in the day? I know I typically have a list spinning through my head at the end of the day of tasks that still need to be accomplished. That being said, I have found a treasure trove of time, and it’s literally in the palm of my hand!
For my fellow iPhone users, did you realize that there is a handy-dandy feature called, “screen time?” (Sorry if you are still on the Dark Side and use Android, I know nothing about these paperweights.) But with an iPhone, you can check your settings, go to “screen time,” and see exactly how much time you spend on your phone every week.
For many of us, a general picture of time on our phones isn’t really fair. After all, many of us use our phones for music, Bible reading etc.. There are a variety of activities on our devices that don’t necessarily detract from our priorities. iPhones account for this as well! It breaks down for you exactly how much time you spend on each app, and even how many times a day you pick up your phone!
If your phone has such a feature, pause for a minute and look at those numbers. (Really, stop and look at it.) For me this was very sobering. While I don’t spend a significant amount of time on my device all at once, two minutes here and two minutes there add up in a hurry! And we all know the dangers of this. We have seen the studies focusing on the impact a lack of eye-contact and attention have on those we love (particularly our littles). We have all seen what I believe to be one of the most depressing scenarios ever; a family out to dinner with each member entirely focused on their own device. We can track the increase in device usage and the increase of anxiety and depression. We have seen the mental and emotional repercussions of social media on ourselves and those we love. So why do we keep picking up our phones? Why do we feel lost without them?
Sometimes it’s absolutely for healthy connectivity/safety. For instance all you Mamas whose children received their driver’s licenses before cell phones, I salute you! I can’t imagine sending my kiddo out on her own without her being able to let me know when she arrives safely. I also love being able to stay in contact with my husband throughout the day, and regularly check-in with my kiddo who is 10 hours away at college.
There are a variety of reasons we are attached to our devices, and some of those reasons are definitely healthier than others. Yet there’s one reason in particular that I rarely, if ever, hear discussed. One that I believe tops the list for many of us (myself included) that we have never even realized is motivating us. I believe that many of us have fallen into the trap of using our devices to self-medicate and numb. In my home we began to use the phrase, “downshifting.” I’m going to play on my phone for the next 15 minutes or so to “downshift” from my crazy busy life.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work that way. Our devices don’t take us to a place of calm and peace, but rather they provide a temporary disassociation where we aren’t being productive, but we also don’t feel the press of our stressful lives. It’s literally a period of mind-numbing where instead of processing our world, we have mentally and emotionally checked out of it.
For those who are going through a particularly difficult time right now (once again myself included) this sounds pretty appealing. I don’t have to feel my stress/anxiety/hurt and I don’t have to process it?! Yes! Win-win! Except that it’s not. In her now-viral TedTalk on Vulnerability, Brené Brown makes the following profound statement: “The problem with numbing, is that you can’t selectively numb.” What she means is that when we self-medicate by engaging in activities (including phone usage) that numb our emotions, it doesn’t just numb the “bad” emotions. We can choose to zone-out so that we don’t feel hurt, anxiety, depression or fear, however this also prevents us from feeling joy, love and peace.
When we use our devices to disassociate from the world around us, guess what, that means we are no longer living life with our loved ones. They no longer have the benefit of our emotional and mental presence in that moment. We may be sitting right beside them but we may as well be on the other side of the world for all of the connectedness we are experiencing in that moment.
In addition, not only does mind-numbing prevent us from processing through our day in a healthy way and being emotionally connected to our loved ones, with this approach we also fail to teach our children and grandchildren how to actively engage in the world around them. We don’t model for them how to continue to actively live life even on the hard days. Even when we are struggling with self-doubt, exhaustion, hurt or feelings of depression. If our response to these emotions is to pick up a phone and disassociate from the world, guess what our children are learning as their primary coping mechanism? Not to mention the fact that when we inevitably have to check back in to reality all of the yuck is still there waiting for us, and them.
So what do we do? How do we reclaim this treasure trove of time and plug back in to the world around us? Here are a few practical steps that I have been working on:
- Delete is magical. There were a few apps on my phone that were absolutely mind-numbers for me. Any time I wanted to check out of reality, I found myself going straight for them. I deleted them. This was a decision that my husband and I came to for our entire family unit, we went through and all deleted the games and most of social media off our phones. We do have various family members actively engaged in ministries using social media, so those apps stayed for that purpose, but everything else went straight to the trash.
- Pray. Almost two years ago I began a daily prayer journal, and it has been one of the greatest spiritual benefits of anything I have done. It didn’t take long for prayer to more fully permeate every aspect of my life, not just my bedtime routine. I don’t always succeed, but when life just feels like too much and I want to check out, I try to remember Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus knows when I’m weary, and He is always there for me if I will only give Him the opportunity.
- Study. There are so many incredible passages that deal with the mental and emotional struggles of daily life in a fallen world. For example: Psalm 121, Psalm 91, Romans 15:13, Philippians 4:6-7, Philippians 3:8, and Psalm 40 to name a few. Read about David, Job, Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Peter, Paul, Ruth or Esther. It’s highly doubtful that you and I can struggle with anything that at least one of these individuals would not be able to relate to.
- Remember that you are modeling life for your children/grandchildren. The truth is that life is not always easy, not for any of us. We all have good days and bad days. We all struggle with temptations and discouragement. We all experience hurt and growing pains as we strive to conform more to the image of Jesus. If we always put on our “happy face” and act like everything is fine, and choose to numb our struggles in order to maintain that charade, we are first of all being dishonest, and second of all setting those up to fail who are watching us. If my kids never see me struggle or have a bad day, how will they feel about themselves when they inevitably have a bad day? If my kids never see me work through being hurt and confused about God’s direction for my life, how will they learn how to handle it when they aren’t sure what God’s will is or how He’s working in their life in a given situation? Sisters, “…set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity,” 1 Timothy 4:12b.
We can’t do this by numbing our struggles with our devices so we can simply keep existing. We do this by being open and honest and saying, “You know, I’m really struggling right now. I’m not sure why this happened, or why we are experiencing this. I’m not sure how God is working right now or what His plan for us is, but I believe there is one. Why don’t you join me as I pray, and study, and plug into my relationships while God works in this situation.”
We all know that technology is a double-edged sword. We all know that it saps our time, energy and focus. We know that if we are not careful it can disconnect us from those across the room even while we are feeling connected to someone on the other side of the country. But dear sisters, it can also disconnect us from ourselves. If we aren’t mindful, our devices can become a crutch that we use to distance ourselves from our struggles. Let’s delete those numbing apps. Let’s get back to our focus on prayer, study and relationships when we are struggling. Look up, and into the eyes of those who love you.