Last month I started physical distancing from my phone. When I’m not at work I put it away and try to ignore it. I’ll check it from time to time or I’ll send a message, but usually, I try to maintain a two-metre distance.
It started when I noticed I was checking my phone more than usual. I was justifying it with thoughts like “maybe there’s a new COVID update” or “maybe the NBA season is starting again.” I knew I was becoming too dependent, constantly going to my phone instead of engaging with the real world.
My phone can easily become my escape. Whenever life is hard I can count on my phone to get me away from reality. And right now with all this COVID anxiety, life is especially difficult. The problem with escaping reality, though, is that whatever we escape to is not real. It never lasts. Worse, escapism leads to self-shaming thoughts: “I wasted my whole day” or “doing something useless must make me useless.” Shame is a hard emotion that leads to more escapism. It’s a perfect cycle that only ends with the sweet release of sleep.
Physical distancing from my phone may seem intense, but it feels necessary. I need the actual physical separation to stop looking at my phone so often. I’m not saying this is for everyone, but it’s been working for me. When I started, the first thing I noticed was how bored I was. I found myself pacing, wondering what to do.
But then I stumbled on the unexpected advantages of being bored. I found myself praying more. I’ve been reading my Bible more consistently. I’m more engaged with my family, especially my attention-loving son. It’s the underestimated value of boredom that really gives distancing from my phone its potency.
Even when I experience the value of the real world, the desire to escape maintains its powerful grasp. And it shows how much I don’t trust God when I want to escape the world he created to one created by the people he created. He said that what he made is good, but I somehow believe that I can escape to something better. What I really want is a comfortable and easy life.
Jesus, though, demonstrates a better way. He had the chance to come down from the cross and refuse to die for us, but he went headlong into death on our behalf. He gave up something good—his life—for something better—the glory of God in the salvation of humanity. Jesus shows us that giving up something good—like the time spent on our phones—for something better is worthwhile. He promises joy when we put our trust in him. One day we will escape from the brokenness of this world and experience full joy forever.