For the past few weeks, every Saturday, I’ve been doing something crazy. I’ve turned my phone off for the entire day. At first it was really hard. I would reach for that little rectangle instinctively. I’d tap my pockets for no reason. And then I felt phantom vibrations—you know the ones you feel when you think your phone is going off even though it’s not even next to you.
These are all signs of an addiction, and I’m not alone. Experts say the addiction to our phones that many of us are struggling to shake is commonplace, and far too many of us are unaware we even have it. But the signs are obvious: Phones are the first place we turn when we’re bored. The overwhelming majority of us can’t make it through an hour without reaching for them. (We can hardly make it through 30 seconds at the stoplight.) When the group conversation lulls, everyone immediately checks their social media feeds. All of this points to too much dependence on our phones.
We Are Too Connected
About 15 years ago with the introduction of the Blackberry and the Palm Treo, we started getting email on our phones. Then a little over 10 years ago with the introduction of the iPhone, we started to get everything else. The smartphone promised to connect us to everyone and everything… and it may have done its job too well, because now we are practically chained to our devices.
Part of the problem is that there is simply too much available at our fingertips. No question is ever left unanswered. There was once a time when, if you were in a conversation with someone and the two of you were stumped on some trivial fact, you just didn’t know it and you moved on. That doesn’t happen anymore, because now we can whip out our handy little devices and Google it. Mystery solved.
As nice as that can be, it also reveals something else that is true: every time we open our phones, we are flooded with information. Twitter is an endless stream of breaking news and outrage. Instagram is no better, as we spend our time scrolling through people’s highlight reels and staged behind-the-scenes “vulnerable” moments. Facebook is a cesspool of grandparents and distant cousins arguing. On top of that, a million articles a day are released on a million things we’re all interested in.The smartphone promised to connect us to everyone and everything… and it may have done its job too well, because now we are practically chained to our devices.
If this wasn’t enough, Netflix is meeting all of our entertainment needs, dropping a hundred shows and movies about everything, every week to its app. Apple, Amazon, Hulu, and all of the traditional players have their own shows that they are trying to draw us in with too. There is simply too much to keep up with.
While we are constantly being entertained we are also always connected to work. Many people’s commutes to and from work are spent answering emails. They get home and log on to answer more emails or complete work projects. In our connected age, the lines between work and home have blurred, and nearly disappeared. This leads many of us to overwork ourselves, bringing us down the path of exhaustion.
And that’s just the entertainment and the work—all of this is before we throw everything else in: parenting, workouts, obligations to family and friends and community and church. All of this scurry over constant connectedness and information overload leads many of us to ask the question: when can I rest?
We are more connected than we have ever been. We have more entertainment and things to do than ever before—and yet studies are showing, especially amongst teens, we are more depressed than we have ever been. Somehow, all of this connectivity is making us feel more lonely than ever. The cherry on top is that the majority of us are feeling more tired than ever. We simply cannot keep up the pace that modern life has set for us.
We Need Rest
We need a break. In the Book of Genesis after God creates everything, He rested. The reason He does this is not because He was fatigued from all of this world building but to model for us what rest looks like. Our act of rest is showing that we trust Him to take care of this life thing rather than presume the weight of it upon ourselves.
We are tired because we over work ourselves. We are tired because we are stretching ourselves thin, pulled in every direction. We are tired because there is an endless stream of content for us to consume, and most of us consume way more than we need to. Our nights are too often spent in front of the screen trying to veg out on some prestige television or mindless sitcom. The things we choose for relaxing are really just keeping our brains going at that same pace and don’t actually bring true rest. This is why we are urged to cut the screens off well before we go to bed, so our brains can slow down.
So many of us are running on empty and simply need a break. It’s ok to do nothing sometimes. You don’t have to read every article, listen to every podcast, or watch every show. It is not just ok to disconnect, it’s required. We weren’t meant to be this connected. We weren’t meant to hear every story, know every fact, keep up with (but not actually talk to) the person we went to elementary school with but now lives 100 miles away.
We Need a Sense of Self
You know that Snickers commercial where people act all nuts and then have a Snickers and are suddenly back to normal? In it they say you’re not you when you’re hungry. For many of us, being this tired has led to the exact same place: you’re not you when you’re connected all the time. We lose a true sense of self because we are connected all of the time to everything but we are disconnected to our own hearts and souls.
Too many people wake up each morning and look to the internet to tell them what to think, feel, and be outraged about each day. Our words and thoughts are merely parroted clips of what our favorite follows have said. We are too tired to think for ourselves. Too brainwashed by the constant stream of content.
It’s time to unplug. If we’re going to find true rest and have a true sense of self, we need to set some boundaries.
The biggest lesson I have learned from turning my phone off is that the world doesn’t end when I disconnect from it. Just like the world was designed to keep in motion when we take a Sabbath. By disconnecting, on purpose, I have been able to engage in meaningful conversations with the people around me. I notice things I hadn’t seen before, things I was missing by looking into the screen all the time. Most importantly, I’ve simply been present.We weren’t meant to hear every story, know every fact, keep up with (but not actually talk to) the person we went to elementary school with but now lives 100 miles away.
Turning your phone off isn’t just good for you, it’s good for the people around you. These are the same people who are losing pieces of you every time you put your face in your phone.
They get this right at the Masters. At this event, biggest golf tournament of the year, there are no phones around. Thirty thousand people are forced to put their phones away or be kicked out. They are forced to live in the moment—and they talk to each other, and they simply enjoy the game right there in front of them. They rest from this tech obsessed world to watch the most analog sport we have.
If we put that same principle into practice, we too would enjoy the moment we are in and the people we are with. It would cause us to simple be present and slow down—the very thing our hearts and souls are crying out for, the very thing God designed the Sabbath to be for us.