I’m ashamed to admit it.
But for the sake of integrity I must – social media is addicting for me.
Smart phones. Facebook. Instagram. The internet. Google. Internet Movie Database. All of them. They’re stumbling blocks for me.
Here are three ways to know that you, too, may be a bit too cozy with your smart phone:
- Your phone goes with you everywhere – even to the bathroom.
- You can’t refuse the impulse to check any notifications – text message, email, PUSH notifications for apps, etc… – and you might even insist on checking things even when there AREN’T any new notifications.
- You use your phone to look up pointless information that doesn’t directly, or indirectly for that matter, pertain to your life, even slightly for no reason at all. (If you find yourself using Google to look up information about Steve Guttenberg then this pertains to you…unless you’re writing a biography about Steve Guttenberg, in which case I feel a tiny bit sorry for you. If you don’t know who Steve Guttenberg is, you get a cookie.)
What can be said about the life that is plugged in constantly?
Wasn’t the information age supposed to be a wondrous things? Another leap forward in the name of progress for all of mankind and hipsters alike? If you emphatically answered yes then look around you while you’re out to eat at a restaurant and take note of the number of noses poked into smart phones instead of being engaged in conversation and get a sense the disconnect that we have with one another socially. Do that and then try answering the question again.
Hold that thought.
I was watching the movie Eat. Pray. Love. the other day. And while there are certain facets of the film that I personally disagree with, it is none the less a woman’s journey to finding fulfillment. What that fulfillment ultimately is can be a topic for disagreement, but for now let’s stick to the subject at hand. Essentially her journey consisted of learning how to really love, learning how to really savor what matters and learning to be connected to her spirituality.The film’s content aside, there are parts of her story that are ultimately pertinent to real women.
What is contentment? How do we find it? Are we made for more than big box stores, smart phones, electronic gadgets, granite counter tops and emails? More than a life that follows a straight line through A, B and C?
During her stay in Rome, Liz encounters Italian men at a barber shop and listens to their worldly wisdom about leisure, contentment and life. One (overly) boisterous Italian man declares that “Americans don’t know how to be bored.” He insisted that we feel GUILTY for having free time because we think that we have to earn every spare moment that we have.
We don’t even know how to seek out what really gives us joy, he declares, because we rely on simply being told (by pop culture) what’s fun and afterwards, it leaves a foul taste in our mouths. Because we were empty to begin with, really.
That part of the film was so telling to me. Do I sense joy in my own life and know how to savor what matters? And more telling, do I know what actual boredom even looks like anymore?
Now I can assure you that every mother out there is trying to shout at me through the computer screen and tell me THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BEING BORED WHEN YOU’RE A MOTHER. There are always dishes, always crying children, always laundry, always bills to pay, always dogs to brush, always floors to mop, always play dough to scrape out of the carpet….IT NEVER ENDS.
And you’re right about that. I’m writing this blog post and ignoring the bathroom that needs to be mopped and the toys strewn about my kitchen.
But for our own sanity, at some point, we have to stop. We have to find rest. But can we know that rest the looks like when we’re plugged into our smart phones, 24/7?
I know that I for one don’t even recall what a day spent without a 4 inch screen to look at is like anymore. I can’t tell you the last time that a small white phone didn’t travel with me everywhere that I went. I don’t know the last time that my morning routine didn’t begin with checking Facebook and my email.
Is this the life that I wish to lead? Will my children remember me for instilling in them the value of creativity and spontaneity and the ability to turn minutes and hours and days into moments worth savoring? Will I notice the little stuff that happens in the quiet moments of having nothing to do?
In this day and age when little kids are learning how to unlock iPhones by the age of 3 and our children are growing up in a world where chalkboards are obsolete because we now have computer screens to transmit information – how much attention from my life, of THEIR lives, should computer screens really be getting?
We can set boundaries, sure. Turn the phones off, put them on silent or leave them at home. And while I would agree that all of those things are effective they aren’t nearly as important. We need to get to the heart of the matter and…well, get to the matters within our hearts. That’s why they call it “getting to the heart of the matter,” I suppose.
The thing about social media and the great, wide inter-web is that they ARE extremely useful and helpful tools. I love keeping in touch with family, I love sharing pictures of my children with folks who otherwise wouldn’t get to see them. I have a lot of fun online.
On top of being useful, they’re also effective. Effective at pulling our eyes away from what matters. Ridiculously effective at causing us to be discontent in our own lives and in our pursuits (hello, Pinterest). Really effective at de-sensitizing us and making us less careful with our words. And you almost couldn’t find a better tool that is as effective at siphoning away our time and leaving us more sponge minded than we were before.
We are a society that is never bored, aren’t we? We have everything at our fingertips constantly.
This isn’t about me just wanting some more “Carpe Diem” in my life. This is me examining how *I* order what I think matters to me most. We wage spiritual battles, everyday, folks. And when I get to the core of the issue for me personally I recognize that the internet has become an idol for me.
Somehow, the worth of my iPhone has slowly crept up to a place of prominence in my life. And what’s telling is that I didn’t see it coming. I would never have believed that I would end up being glued to a screen filled with people taking selfie pictures in the bathroom making duck lips. It wasn’t something that I thought would be my weakness, but that’s the way with things, isn’t it? An addiction is an addiction.
Unplugging can look like different things for different people. Some folks can unplug easier than others, some need to remain connected for work or obligations. That is understandable. You will have to test the waters and see what works for you. Ultimately you have to consider how much of your attention and time your electronics deserve and are worthy of.
Instead of simply unplugging ourselves and finding something else to do, we need to consider it an act of letting go of the junk so that our hands are open to receive. So that we can actually see what really matters most to us. For me, this looks like: my wanting to forget when the last time I checked Facebook was, or not even noticing that I didn’t even have my phone with me because I’m busy elsewhere. I’m looking for boredom. Sheer and utter boredom.
Spend some time in prayer and in the word. Ask the Lord to seek this struggle for you and for direction. I know that’s what I will be doing. And hopefully, eventually, I will have praises to sing as I seek out contented boredomm.
John 4: 7-14
13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,
14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.
The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”