Let's be honest, how often are we on our phones? It's a lot! Don't believe me? Research shows that the average smartphone user checks his or her smartphone 46 times a day, and in the US, people do this a collective 8 billion times every 24 hours (App Annie). More specifically, we check our smartphones about 81,500 times each year, or once every 4.3 minutes of our waking lives (The New York Review).
Now, I'm not going to throw shame at anyone because of it; I'm a part of this research. My phone is always with me. Let me be very clear here: smartphones are in no way evil and they are not sinful. Smartphones are one of the most useful and incredible resources we have. We can do so many great things with them, but that can be both good and bad.
So what does it look like to have healthy phone habits? What does it look like to protect yourself from the negative affects of having so much stuff available at your fingertips? Here are some thoughts and practices that have been fruitful for me in recents months.
I'm not the type of guy that goes anywhere without my phone. I don't want to miss a call or text. Truthfully, I pride myself on being available and reachable at all times. But, I've seen the negative effects of always having my phone.
At times, when I'm laying in bed, I have my phone in hand, scrolling Facebook or Instagram, instead of talking to my wife and spending time with her. Unintentionally, I’m creating distance between me and my wife that otherwise wouldn't be there. As a result, I started to feel that distance and knew that something needed to change; but I wasn't sure what to do.
I'm a tech guy. I like having cool toys and gadgets. I like having high-quality, functional equipment. Little did I know that spending $20 on Amazon would create some mental space and clarity when it came to my bedtime phone use.
I was looking for a stand to hold and charge both my watch and phone, and I stumbled on to a stand. It was a stand where I could plug both of my gadgets in, charging them all night. I thought it was really cool!
As I began to use this stand, I realized that once I plugged my phone in, I couldn't pick it up and use it while charging. It had to stay in the stand in order to charge; at first, I was annoyed by this. I used to plug my phone in and then spend 15-20 minutes per night perusing social media and the Internet; but after having this stand for a few nights, it hit me—I was more present with my wife and 5-month-old son when I wasn't on my phone. I didn't need to spend that 15+ minutes on my phone. I had better things I could be doing.
Have you ever heard someone complain about getting too much sleep? Me neither! Sleep is always something we need more of; and we don't just need sleep, we need rest. Whether or not we know it, our phone use can encroach on our rest.
How many of us check our phones the first thing in the morning? Or maybe you’re like me and spend time each night on your phone before bed. If you are like me, it happens far too often. And, what is it that we usually check? Social media.
Is that a bad thing? Maybe.
The University of Pittsburgh examined the relationship between social media use and sleep. According to just-released research, time spent on social media may be seriously undermining nightly rest. Here's what they found:
The scientists’ analysis showed a strong correlation (a relationship, not a cause) between social media use and sleep disruption. Among participants, heavier volume and frequency of social media interaction was associated with significantly greater likelihood of sleep problems. The highest volume users of social media—those in the top 25 percent—had nearly two times the risk of sleep disruption than those in the lowest 25 percent. The most frequent social media users—again, those young adults in the top 25 percent—had nearly three times the risk of sleep disturbance as those in the lowest 25 percent (Huffpost).
The amount of time we spend on our phones has something to do with sleep loss; and if you lose sleep, you're not as rested. If you have been an adult for more than 10 minutes you know that rest is very important. We see that rest is important in Scripture as well:
In the beginning of all things, we see that God set precedent for the need and observance of rest. If you track the theme of rest throughout all of Scripture, you see that rest is a very important piece to God's design for the world. Don't believe me? Check out the 4th Commandment.
God designed us to need rest; and we may be limiting our rest by the constant use of our phones. Don't let anything get in the way of your rest, especially your phone.
Like I mentioned earlier, my phone can totally hijack my time with my family and I use that language intentionally. When I spend time on my phone it is most likely Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. It can take me prisoner without me even realizing it.
What happens is that I replace my time with my wife and son to peruse the heated Facebook arguments or funny YouTube videos. When I write it out, it seems so foolish; that I would pick scrolling through meaningless content online over spending time with my beautiful family. But it happens. It seems like such an easy choice to make to resolve this problem, but is it?
Now, I know I have control over using my phone or not, but some research shows an addictive pattern to our phone usage.
Ofir Turel, a psychologist at California State University Fullerton, warns that Facebook addicts, unlike compulsive drug abusers, “have the ability to control their behavior, but they don’t have the motivation to control this behavior because they don’t see the consequences to be that severe” (BostInno).
You see, you can be addicted to Facebook (or any other social media platform). Addictive behavior involves impulse control, or a lack-thereof, as well as the motivation (as shown above) to change the impulse or behavior. So how do we avoid this lack of impulse control? Unplug.
Intentionally, set aside time without your phone. Create times where you don't have it with you. Plug it in and charge it in another room overnight. Turn it off at night. There are many options.
Regardless of how you do it, you need to unplug. Don't let your phone or social media impede upon your ability to stay present. Unplug yourself and invest in your family.
At the height of my sexual addiction, the most prevalent time of struggle was late night boredom on my phone. It was as if I knew where I was headed, but I told myself I wasn't going to end up sinning. I was usually wrong.
If you create guardrails for yourself, you won't end up in sticky situations. You can avoid so much temptation and triggers if you put protective practices in place. Look at what Paul says in Ephesians 5:
Paul commands us to not allow even a hint of sexual immorality into our lives. This means, whether or not it seems insignificant or silly, do whatever you can to keep sexual sin at bay. Whether it's charging your phone in another room at night, or not having a smart phone at all, we can take simple, yet powerful, steps to set ourselves up for success.
This is why I'm thankful for my phone stand. It adds another layer of protection for me in my pursuit of purity. It's a way for me to unplug and protect myself. Unplugging is an excellent way to protect yourself from temptation.
My plea to you is this: regardless of where you are at in your journey toward purity, put proactive and protective practices in place. Don't be ashamed of the severity of these practices. Do what you need to do to stay in purity.
Now, this blog may sound like I'm telling you what to do—I know, it’s over 1000 words—but truthfully, I'm sharing something I discovered, which was important for me to address in my life. I've come to see that my phone, though it is an amazing piece of equipment with many positive elements, can cause problems for me, my purity, and my family.
All I'm suggesting is that you consider what ways you can unplug yourself from your phone. Think of ways to get quality times of rest in order to find refreshment and fulfillment. Create ways to stay present with those you love, keeping them the priority in your life, which is what God intended. Maintain guardrails and protection for yourself from potential pitfalls.
Though it may seem small, taking steps to set yourself up for success can go a long way! You can do it. Unplug.
On one such worship night in 2013, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper something to my heart that both thrilled and scared me. I questioned whether I had heard correctly, so the next day I shared with a trusted friend. “Last night as we worshipped,” I explained, “I feel like the Spirit told me that one day I would exceed Ted Roberts.” My friend listened patiently, and then thoughtfully replied, “If that’s what the Lord chooses to do, why not?”