I’m an old fashioned kind of person. Speaking of which, I’m in the midst of a hardcore down-scale in my tech consumption. In a confirmation to my already anti-smart phone leanings, I happened to leave my phone at church after small group one night. I was without it the following day and it was one of the most focused, intentional, and productive days for me. So I think I’m going to kiss blue light, internet browsers, video streaming, email syncing, and a LOT of texting good-bye. The texting is going to be the hardest part, as much of my family contacts me via text, and a lot of my business is done via text- for whatever reason people prefer that to calls and emails. So, for now, I’m keeping the texting, but REEEEEEALLY reigning in my usage, and discipline in not answering it hasn’t been an issue. I set up a “dock” station, and just treat my phone like a landline, and pop it in my back pack, (I haven’t carried a purse since I had children) not my pocket. It’s really opened my eyes to how much the people around me are on their phones. I make it a point to be active in conversation, and eye contact and it’s amazing what that degree of engagement, just on my part, does for the friendships in my life; it’s like I’ve been able to give them permission to “unplug” from their phones for the brief times we spend together, just talking and enjoying each other’s company. There’s freedom in it folks, but you have to recognize the addiction and admit it before you can break it. I’ve heard a lot of excuses for keeping the phone close. And… frankly, they’re all lame. For the holidays, I’m implementing a “phone basket” policy. I’ll collect the phones during the children’s waking hours, and have them on silent, and then they can be checked when the kids go to nap and bed. I have a couple reasons for this.
1st- I remember family gatherings 13 years ago. We talked, played cards, board games, and retold family history and stories, that all of the older generations know by heart. The issue is, 13 years later, I’ve got 4 children who don’t know the old stories, and never met 1/2 the grandparents; they need those traditions spoken into them to build familial identity and unity. It’s their heritage, a lot of which outdates me and my husband. And if it doesn’t get passed on because relatives are busy scrolling through alternative news and social media sites, that is a travesty of generational proportions.
2nd- kids are hugely responsive to facial expressions, faces in general. Eye contact is nourishing to them. You can’t truly bond with someone and never look them in the eyes. As we don’t have limitless time with our family members, every moment we do have needs to be intentional and leveraged for building and strenghing trust and relationship. And phones are the single biggest distraction from true relational building.
3rd- It’s my gift to people; I aim to make my house a haven from the world, free from worldly anxieties, influences, and issues. So for the holidays, I’m cutting off the pipelines that supply literally endless streams of informational bombardment, and worldly influence. Put the phone down. Talk to each other. Discuss original and personal thought, not just regurgitation of what you see online. Share your heart with people. Sing some carols. Tell family stories. Laugh! Enjoy the PEOPLE around you and let go of the dependence on your phone. I wager you don’t even realize how compulsively you check it…just to see what’s new… From 4 minutes ago…or 5 minutes ago…now 5.5 minutes ago… You get my point.
My challenge to you, should you choose to accept it, is to treat your phone like a PHONE. An old school, land line, stuck to the wall phone. I’m not even saying turn it off. But stop allowing the false urgency of emails, texts, and social media updates to rule your mind and your time. Make eye contact with your family members, and talk to them from your heart, rather than your Instagram feed. Chances are, if your loved ones aren’t on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or the whole host of “alternatives” they don’t care about the updates you’re reading to them anyway. Let it go, at least for the holidays.