The Time My Phone Died
Like most of us, I have come to depend on my phone for a lot of daily utilities like sending and answering texts, making phone calls, sending emails, and checking social media. That all came to a screeching halt recently when my phone decided it did not want to charge any more. I took the phone to a local repair shop and remained without a phone for the better part of the week.
Because of my forced smartphone sabbatical, I thought I would use the occasion to think about the potential impact that smartphones are having on our lives. My goal is to share some random thoughts and observations about the impact my smartphone usage may be having on me, and probably you too.
I haven't missed my phone
There I said it. Isn't it interesting how dependent we have become on our devices? Perhaps we feel naked without them. I admit, the first couple hours without it, I felt a little naked. Thoughts like, "What if someone needs me?" or "What if I miss an important email?" or even worse, "What if I miss something important on social media?”
We live in the tyranny of the immediate and smartphones feed that impulse. You know what I have found instead? The world gets along pretty well without me. My church members are not pining for my attention. Knowing that, I don't miss my phone that much, and frankly it is freeing me to focus on other tasks with my whole heart and mind. We may feel we need to respond to every email or text within minutes or the whole world will spin off its axis, but the truth is the world does not need me as much as I think it does.
I am less anxious
Research shows that there is a direct correlation between anxiety and the use of smartphones. I am naturally an anxious person but I have noticed that my anxiety has increased over the past few years. Church planting can be anxiety inducing, but I have felt a growth in my own anxiety over the past 3-5 years. I assume that my smartphone usage is contributing to the growth of anxiety in life because I own a device that assaults me with unending information. As I sift through blog after blog about ministry, parenting, and marriage, my mind cannot handle the information overload. Often I am left with the sense that I am falling short compared to that church plant or that pastor and his family. When we live with this constant anxiety, we are robbed of meaningful relational interaction in the present as we anxiously focus on the future.
I am more clear minded
Without my phone, I feel more focused and able to give my heart and mind to other tasks. As I deliberately unplug from the never-ending barrage of information, my mind doesn’t race from one thing to the next. Over the past couple of weeks, I have seen some of the benefits. I have been resting better at night and have a better mental grasp on each day when I wake up.
And probably like you, I love to read books. I have no research to back this up but I believe the more I use my phone, the less I read books. I suspect this is due to the impact that screen time has on the brain. The cycle is toxic: The more we use our phones, the more our brains are numbed. The more our brains are numbed the more use our phones. It will take deliberate action to change this cycle.
I am more available to those I love the most
Over the course of a few weeks, I have been implementing a deliberate plan to put various spheres into their proper space in my daily life. Not only do I need to put my ministry responsibilities & goals in their proper place, but also my personal and family responsibilities everyday. Here is the kicker: my devices, especially my phone, play a big part in that. For example, when I am deliberate in putting my phone away at the end of my workday, I feel more available emotionally, physically, and mentally to my family. When I put proper boundaries on when and how I respond to messages, emails, phone calls, and when I look at social media, I am more available to focus on exercise and a good diet.
I suspect some of us might need to consider reframing our smartphone usage. I personally am considering dumping my smartphone in favor of a flip phone. Even so, conscientious Christians need to be judicious in our liberty and mindful of the impact our phones are having on us. Whichever we choose, let us choose to use our phones in a manner that glorifies Jesus, is beneficial to our health, and advances the Gospel to the world.
My name is Tom Agnew. I am the Lead Pastor/Planter of Grace Church in Smyrna, TN. Grace Church is a confessionally Reformed Baptist Church that partners with the Acts 29 Network and the Southern Baptist Convention. I have been married to Amanda for 13 years and have 3 amazing boys: Caleb (11), Asher (9) and Judson (6). As a family, we love soccer and college football!