Four Lessons I Learned from Putting Down My Phone
Last week, I went on vacation with my family. During those four days, I thought I would try a little experiment. I made the conscious decision to keep my phone put away for four entire days. Now this may not sound like a big sacrifice for some of you, but it was much harder than I thought it would be.
The first day was the most challenging and I didn’t stick to my plan perfectly. But by the fourth day, I created some new habits and learned four valuable lessons from this little experiment.
1. I spend more time on my phone than I think. Technology has evolved over the years and the Internet experience that used to require a desktop computer now fits easily in the palm of your hand. I didn't realize it but slowly over the last few years, I've conditioned myself to pull my phone out during any amount of downtime—standing in line, waiting at a red light, even when a face-to-face conversation pauses for a minute. It wasn't until I made the decision that I wasn't going to do this anymore that I realized how powerful this habit is. Whether it’s checking email, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or news apps, I spend more time connected to the Internet in an average day than I would have ever guessed.
2. The reason for my constant connectivity is simple: FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I realized when I put my phone down for a few days that the real need I was trying to meet was to stay up-to-date about world news, current events and my friends’ lives—I don’t want to miss out on anything important. This desire in itself is not bad. In fact, I find my online connections valuable in many ways. But there is a point of diminishing returns. The constant desire to seek out new information can distract us from pursuing our dreams and living in the moment.
3. I’m missing out on the life that is right in front of me. After I got through the first day and created a new habit of keeping my phone tucked away, I became very aware of just how much was going on around me that I would be missing out on if I was on my phone. I noticed that I engaged in conversations more often, took in my surroundings and as a whole, enjoyed my day much more when I wasn't constantly connected. The time I spent with my wife and kids during this trip was even better without the constant distraction of outside voices.
4. Constant connection is not necessary. I realize most people don’t have the luxury of going completely unplugged and I’m no exception to that rule. I set specific check-in intervals for email and other essential communications. Normally, I would have these communication tools on all day, every day with notifications pinging me with every little request. But I found that checking in twice a day was sufficient to answer all those requests in a timely manner. If a true emergency had arisen, people know how to contact me through text or phone call. I found an unexpected sense of both freedom and productivity in this approach that I hope to apply during my regular workday, too.
Overall, I’m glad that I made the effort to put the phone away for a few days. It gave me time to reset my usual habits and be more intentional about how I use my phone. Technology provides incredible benefits for us. But it’s up to each one of us to set personal limits so that we get the maximum benefit from it.
“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
What God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously.” Micah 6:8 (The Message)
What area of life do you need to take less seriously today, so that you can focus on what is truly important?