I want to throw my phone out the window. I want Facebook to disappear. I want Twitter to crash permanently. I hate how compulsive I am about checking my phone for a new text. I hate it because while I do this, my buddy Jackson sits across the table from me as I pay more attention to my phone than my friend.
My preoccupation with my phone has infiltrated every part of my life…even spiritually. The last time I prayed, I turned on the lamp in my cool, dark room and knelt beside our well worn futon. With warm, yellow light gently falling on the pages of Psalms, I began to pray. I thought with subtle whispers, “Father, I…”
EMAIL! I’ve got to check my email. I forgot to send something to someone. Holy cow! This is important and I must put God on hold, drop everything, and send that email NOW.
That’s what you call a problem. I have developed an expectation that communication should be immediate. When I don’t offer that to others, I feel guilty. When they don’t offer that to me, I’m annoyed. I turn to my phone and log into my social networks because when I do, I feel like what I have to say matters and that everyone on the other end cares.
But honestly, I don’t need it. I don’t need the interactions I have on Facebook to validate me. I don’t need to rely on the attention people pay to my profile to affirm me. I don’t need some girl I like to text me back. I don’t need to receive that email about my upcoming internship the second it’s sent. I don’t need the good feeling I get about myself when someone likes my status or comments on my photos or tags me in a post. I do, however, need the love of God. I need Him to answer my prayers.
A few days later. I still don’t like my phone. This morning, I woke up way too early, but I couldn’t fall back asleep. I stared at the ceiling and finally thought, “This is stupid. I should pray.” I got up, stuck a chair in the bathroom, and prayed a Psalm or two. Now I’m sitting at Starbucks watching customers line up for their caffeine fix. In line, they’re all checking their phones.
Here are my reflections:
- To find God, to still my soul, I must practice intention. This morning as I lay awake, I had to make a choice: I could stay in bed, I could waste some time online, or I could pray. Technology provides an endless set of excuses for why we shouldn’t do what’s hard or important. Email, Facebook, and Twitter can get easily overshadow meaningful interactions with God and others. We often fool ourselves by thinking that we experience genuine community with others or communion with God while online. We need to be intentional about seeking communion with God above anything else.
- The reason why I don’t practice intention (see above) is because my need for affirmation is something only Jesus can rescue me from. I compulsively turn to technology because, somehow, I think it will make me happy. I think wall posts will affirm me. Or that my status “likes” will make me feel valued. The reality is, the only sustained source of love, value, and affirmation comes from God. All other sources eventually fade.
- In and of itself, my phone is not evil. But our human desire for validation has taken these tech tools and created a monster. We need a reality check. We need to be conscious of how distracted we can become from God and remember that the purest source of affirmation comes from the Him, and the He secured that source permanently through Christ’s sacrifice. And we need to not let the tools He’s given us the intelligence to create also create a barrier between Him and us.
Eric has worked with World Vision for years and has a huge heart for inspiring churches to serve the poor. Currently, Eric is driving from Dallas to Seattle to spend some time in the Pacific Northwest and start a new role with the 30 Hour Famine team. He’s been in Dallas for the last two years working on a degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.