There is no shortage of statistics that capture the number of hours we are on our phones, use various social media platforms, or consume media each day. The stats are certainly telling of our relationship with technology. One stat that has caught my attention is where we use our phones. Can you guess where?
According to a 2018 U.S. study 75% of those surveyed use their cell phone while doing their toilet business! Can you relate? The one place that was once a respite from the busyness of our day is no longer so. Our need to be connected, in the know, or entertained has us dependent on our technology. We are addicted to our screens and that causes us to have difficulty with being still.
During this period of physical distancing, dependency on our screens has been heightened, as our longing to be connected with others is felt more acutely. In fact, technology like our phones and our computers may very well be our lifeline during this crisis and we need to leave space for that reality. But what if, in this unique moment in history, we can intentionally lean into deepening our faith instead of diving deeper into the escape that social media provides? If that describes your current ambition, I invite you to initiate a season of setting aside your phones in order to practice stillness before God.
David, the shepherd-boy-turned-king, is the one behind a popular phrase: Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). David didn’t have even a fraction of the technology that is now available to us, but he experienced God in a deep and profound way through the regular experience of solitude. His day likely consisted of long periods of stillness.
The invitation extended to us right now is to experience such stillness in order to hear God above the noise presented to us through technology.
Let me be the first to admit, I like my technology. At present, I have 20 tabs open across four browsers, spanning two external monitors. Spotify is playing on my Google mini, with another keyboard connected to my phone. I want to be connected as much as you do. Consequently, I have become dependent on technology even during my time that I’ve set aside to be still! Before the pandemic, you could find me with my earbuds in, listening to my favorite Christian music, while journaling on my computer, and with my Bible app opened on my phone. But lately, I’ve tried to change it up.
While I’m not ready to remove all technology from my life and live in a monastery, I’ve been on a journey to reduce my reliance on technology. Here are some ways that I’m doing this, along with some principles I’ve been embracing along this journey. (As an aside: I’m totally aware of the irony that you’re only reading this because of the use of technology.)
Start small and be specific
- It’s easy to read this and think you need to do a huge overhaul on your technology use. No one starts training for their first-ever marathon by running a half marathon on day one. Identify the one device, the one app, or the one website, that you want to set boundaries around, and build from there. For example, if you find that you spend hours mindlessly scrolling through TikTok or Instagram, you may want to consider setting clear time limits around that app or taking it off your phone altogether.
Set aside space and time, and protect it
- Where and when do you want to have that set-aside time with God? Identify and declare that physical space and schedule space tech-free.
- Create self-imposed limits. There are plenty of apps (like Freedom.to) available to help restrict phone use. Apps that allow me to customize a schedule are extremely helpful. I noticed my inclination was to check email at the beginning of my day, and so I locked myself out for 30 minutes every day to help encourage me to lean into spending time with God.
Embrace the awkward and the ughs
- Sometimes self-imposed limits can be a little inconvenient at first. It may even be awkward, but it’s worth it. In this time of the pandemic, I’ve already had two video calls with friends that ended abruptly because 10 o’clock rolled around and my computer locked me out. Ugh. Awkward. But life moves on.
For a season, re-evaluate (it’s not an all or nothing deal)
- I started off locking myself out of certain apps on my phone by 10 o’clock, but I’ve had to move it earlier as I noticed I still wasn’t getting to bed early enough to get a sufficient night of sleep. I also wanted to have a little more mental stillness before bed and so I have had to re-evaluate and adjust accordingly.
If you’ve made it this far, I suspect you see some value in having a break from technology in your daily rhythms. If you’re looking to reduce your dependency on technology, I hope these tips will be helpful as you start this journey. If you desire to meet with God in that stillness, I pray that you’ll experience him richly in this time.
Do you have ideas that you can share with me and others? Leave a comment below.