At a birthday dinner party last night, I was sitting around the table with friends (one of my favorite things to do) and the topic of technology came up. Someone described their observation that many “young kids nowadays” seem to be having trouble listening to and receiving guidance from grown-ups who care about them, and this seems to be at least partly connected to their increased absorption in TV/video games/iPads/smartphones and other hand-held devices. It appears that some kids are not learning the subtleties of relating: having thoughts and feelings that they can express to someone else, active listening, empathizing, and responding in a conversation based on critical thinking or conviction. It’s too common to see kids looking up from a screen with a blank stare.
It was a good discussion, and none of us around the table were all that old or immune to the problem ourselves. I don’t think human nature has gotten any worse over the past century, but the moment-by-moment opportunity to be distracted from our own hearts certainly seems greater now. Just like the kids, we grown-ups need to be receiving guidance, love, and wisdom from our heavenly Parent on a daily basis. But are we too distracted to connect and listen? I know I’m distractable, so here are three daily practices that help me stay centered with the One who knows me best and keeps saving me:
1. Don’t make looking at your phone/computer the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night. Those are precious minutes to be alone with God in the palace of your soul as Theresa of Avila would say…to get centered, to be directed, and to reflect. Protect them and be nourished; read the Bible and pray, even if it’s only for a few moments. I bet you’ll be more likely to approach the day with a sense of who you are and what you’ve been given to do, rather than just reacting to circumstances or being led around in other ways. You’ll probably have less anxiety and get better sleep too.
2. When you’re not traveling, put your phone down somewhere instead of carrying it around on your body. At home it’s in my kitchen, in the office it’s on my desk. This reminds me that I am not part of the machine, shockingly, and it is not part of me. I can check it thoughtfully, when I’m really available, instead of it checking me with every new tweet.
3. Look around at your physical environment. I hope that sounds dumb to you because you do it all the time already. Look up at the vastness of the sky and pause at the trees you pass. You’ll be reminded of the loving Creator in all this beauty. Notice the people around you and consider what they might be going through. We don’t want to miss opportunities like this story Jesus told because our heads are stuck in our phones.
This word from a Spirit-led ancient challenges me to take the long view with my smartphone habits: Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. —-I John 2:15-17, The Message.
Good lessons here, Rachel. Thanks! I usually have my phone on me and sometimes I even look at it in the middle of the night when Elaine wakes me up! I replied to a text at 2:30 a.m. the other morning! Brutal!
Again, great advice Rachel. Something I also do to resist the techno pull is that I keep houseplants in my office space to have something that requires my attention away from technology.
Yes! I have recently had to resurrect an old flip phone, and its comical how many times a day I turn to it like I used to my old smart phone. There is absolutely nothing for me to do on it – no apps, no email, no pictures – so every time I flip it open out of some kind of weird muscle memory compulsion I have to laugh at myself 🙂 ok, ok – sometimes I feel sorry for myself. But mostly laughter.
One thing that is difficult is a lot of people get upset if you don’t answer the phone or respond to a text right away. There is this pressure to be always available and if your not, you can even start to feel disconnected. It has it’s advantages in emergency situations, but for the most part, we really don’t need to be available 24/7. It is a mental challenge to force yourself to disconnect and just experience what is around you.
I fully agree with you and I am a major offender. Technology and the ability to be “fully connected” serves as a major impediment to my connecting with God. The more I’m plugged in thej less I am able to engage in reflection, receive direction, and practice patience.